‘Theory of Children’s Literature’ Reading List

MA Reading Lists

and Course Descriptions

Prospective applicants please note: do see for further information on how and why to apply to the M(Res.) in Children’s Literature at the University of Reading the CIRCL web-page on how to apply.

‘Theory of Children’s Literature’ Reading List

The Theory module is the most ‘open’ course on the M(Res.) in Reading: the tutor and students set the reading together, sometimes week-by-week, sometimes several weeks at a time, depending on the preference of the class concerned.
There is no set curriculum, as the course is based on the students’ questions, problems, interests, and ideas. Please note therefore that there is no specific reading you can do to ‘prepare’ for this course of the MA beforehand. If you want to do something, then just read as much (children’s) literature criticism in general as you wish but nobody will be expected to ‘know’ about this necessarily, and we will not be using it on the course in predictable ways! The course aims to cover questions such as: What is ‘children’s literature’? What is the criticism of children’s literature? What kinds of criticism are there and on what assumptions are they based? On the way, students might encounter ideas about: Feminist criticism, Marxist criticism, Psychoanalytic criticism, Queer Theory, Deconstruction, Formalism, Structuralism, Post-structuralism, Post-modernism, Liberal Humanism, Childist Criticism, Cultural Studies.

However, these labels are not used in class: the point of this course is emphatically to THINK and DISCUSS. As such, this course is not a ‘cookbook’ approach to Theory, but an open forum for thinking about how and why – or how and why not – to be (children’s literature) critics. Each student will end up with their own answers to the questions, or with some answers, or with no answers. Please look too at our Other Interesting Sites page, which includes links to major (literary) theory sites!

(C) indicates texts which have often been chosen as a focus for class discussion,
while (D) indicates that selections from this text are available on the University’s “Talis Aspire” online reading list system.

(C)(D)        Althusser, Louis, Althusser: A Critical Reader, ed. Gregory Elliott (Blackwell, Oxford, 1994).

Aries, Philippe, Centuries of Childhood (Penguin, Harmondsworth, 1973/ There are also more recent new editions).

Aristotle, The Poetics of Aristotle, trans. and commentary Stephen Halliwell (Univ. of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill, NC, 1987/ There are several other editions, including a Penguin Classics).

(D)        Barker, Martin, Comics: Power, Ideology, and the Critics (Manchester Univ. Press, Manchester, 1989).

(D)        Bettelheim, Bruno, The Uses of Enchantment (Knopf, New York, 1976).

(C)(D)    Bruner, Jerome, Actual Minds, Possible Worlds (Harvard Univ. Press, Cambridge, Mass., 1986).

Burman, Erica, Deconstructing Developmental Psychology (Routledge, London, 1994).

Butler, Judith, Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity (Routledge, London, 1990).

(D)        Derrida, Jacques, Of Grammatology, trans. Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak (Johns Hopkins Univ. Press, Baltimore, 1976).

(C)(D)    Felman, Shoshana (ed.), Literature and Psychoanalysis: The Question of Reading Otherwise (Johns Hopkins Univ. Press, Baltimore, 1982).

(C)(D)    Foster, Shirley and Judy Simons, What Katy Read (Macmillan, London, 1995)

(C)        Freud, Sigmund, Introductory Lectures on Psycho-Analysis, trans. James Strachey (The Penguin Freud Library, 1, ed. James Strachey and Angela Richards)(Penguin, Harmondsworth, 1991). 2002: Vintage (Hogarth Press) issued a new paperback edition of the complete works of Freud! Do check the volume numbers however: these differ from the Penguin edition.

(C)        Freud, Sigmund, On Sexuality, trans. James Strachey, comp. and ed. Angela Richards (The Penguin Freud Library, 7)(Penguin, Harmondsworth, 1991). 2002: Vintage (Hogarth Press) issued a new paperback edition of the complete works of Freud! Do check the volume numbers however: these differ from the Penguin edition.

(C)(D)    Hunt, Peter, Criticism, Theory, and Children’s Literature (Basil Blackwell, Oxford, 1991/ Now out of print).

James, Allison, Chris Jenks, and Alan Prout, Theorizing Childhood (Polity Press, London, 1997).

James, Allison, and Alan Prout, Constructing and Reconstructing Childhood: Contemporary Issues in the Sociological Study of Childhood (The Falmer Press, London, 2nd ed. 1997).

Jenks, Chris, Childhood (Routledge, London, 1996).

(C)        Lodge, David (ed.), Modern Criticism and Theory (Longman, London, 1988. There are also now more recent, updated, editions. This is an anthology that can be used for easy access to essays by, for instance, Wolfgang Iser on ‘A Phenomenological Approach to Reading’, Roland Barthes on ‘The Death of the Author’, and *Michel Foucault on ‘What is an Author?’).

(C)(D)    Miller, J. Hillis, ‘Bleak House’, in: Steven Connor (ed.), Charles Dickens, Longman Critical Readers (Longman, London, 1996).

(C)(D)    Rose, Jacqueline, The Case of Peter Pan or: The Impossibility of Children’s Fiction(Macmillan Press, London, 1984, repr. 1994/ Now out of print).

Rousseau, Jean-Jacques, Emile, trans. Barbara Foxley (J. M. Dent and Sons, London, repr. 1950).

Rustin, Margaret, and Michael Rustin, Narratives of Love and Loss: Studies in Modern Children’s Fiction (Verso, London, 1987/ Now out of print).

Sedgwick, Eve Kosofsky, Tendencies (Duke Univ. Press, Durham, 1993).

(C)        Showalter, Elaine (ed.), The New Feminist Criticism (Virago, London 1986/ now out of print).

(C)(D)    Tucker, Nicholas, The Child and the Book: A Psychological and Literary Exploration(Cambridge Univ. Press, first publ. 1981, Canto edition, Cambridge, 1990/ Now out of print).

(D)        Walkerdine, Valerie, Schoolgirl Fictions (Verso, London, 1991/ Now out of print).

(C)(D)    Wall, Barbara, The Narrator’s Voice: The Dilemma of Children’s Fiction (Macmillan, London. 1991/ Now out of print).

(D)        Winnicott, Donald, The Piggle: An Account of the Psychoanalytic Treatment of a Little Girl, ed. Ishak Ramzy (The Hogarth Press and the Institute of Psycho-Analysis, London, 1978/ Now out of print).