Jane J Lee
Themes and topics offering special approaches to literature.
Defining the Child: Education and Children’s Literature in Nineteenth-Century England
The issue of how to define a child, and how to educate one, rapidly became widespread questions from the eighteenth through to the nineteenth century as mass education became more of a possibility, and the Victorians inherited, then appropriated, the Romantic interest in innocence and spirituality invested in their conception of childhood. This course will explore the ways in which literature for children developed in nineteenth-century England intersectionally with social movements, articulations of morality, definitions of growth and personhood, approaches to didacticism, evolving ideas of religion, science, and technology, as well as institutional developments in and theoretical approaches to education. As such, we will read our works with historical contexts and social questions in mind, while also asking what, precisely, these texts teach, in order to consider how and why specific notions attached to children may have emerged, and even persisted.
Our course readings will begin with some historical background as well as important criticism addressing the theorization of the modern child, including pieces on Romantic education and Continental attitudes towards children. We will also be reading about the emergence of children’s literature as a genre, focusing on its proliferation in the mid- to late-nineteenth century, and the shifts which occur in its content, address, and aims throughout. In addition to the books listed below, we will also be looking at poetry by Christina Rossetti, Edward Lear, and others.
Required Texts: Kingsley, Charles. The Water Babies: A Fairy-Tale for a Land Baby. 1863. (Broadview: 978-1551117737) Carroll, Lewis. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. 1865. (Penguin: 978-0141439761) Stevenson, Robert Louis. Treasure Island. 1883. (Broadview: 978-1551114095) Burnett, Frances Hodgson. A Little Princess. 1905. (Penguin: 978-0142437018) Sewell, Anna. Black Beauty. 1877. (Penguin: 978-0143106470) Course Reader, available at Ave Copy (4141 University Way)
Student learning goals
General method of instruction
Because this course is designed to be a detailed examination of a context-specific genre, familiarity with nineteenth-century literature, history, and/or culture, and experience with close reading, are strongly recommended.
Class assignments and grading
Requirements include a sizable reading load, research presentation, 2-3 short papers, and a final paper at 8-12 pages. Significant and engaged participation is a required component for successful evaluation.