Department of English | Illinois State University

Dr. Roberta Seelinger Trites

Acting Dean, College of Arts and Sciences
Professor of English
Campus Box 4100
Illinois State University
Normal IL 61790-4100

PHONE: (309) 438-5669

Syllabus ENG 471, Spring 1997

Critical Theories in Children's Literature

Course objective: The purpose of this course is to prepare professionals in the field of children's and adolescent literature to participate in the discourse community by training them in the use of bibliography, research methods, and critical theories pertinent to children's literature. This course assumes that the student is familiar with the following children's and adolescent novels: Little Women, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Peter Pan, Secret Garden, Charlotte's Web, Children of Green Knowe, and Annie John.

Required texts:
Adams & Searle, Critical Theory Since 1965
Egoff, Only Connect, 3rd edition
Nodelman, Pleasures of Children's Lit, 2nd ed.
Sadler, Teaching Children's Literature
Stephens, Language and Ideology in Ch. Fiction
Zipes, Fairy-Tales and the Art of Subversion
Critical readings on reserve at Milner

Recommended texts:
Griswold, Audacious Kids
Nodelman, Words About Pictures
Rose, The Case of Peter Pan
Zipes, Don't Bet on the Prince

Course requirements:

                    Reference book bibliography exercise         10%  
                    Discussion questions & class participation   20%
                    Book review                                  15%
                    Syllabus                                     15%
                    Final project                                40%


You need to know that I am a stickler for things like deadlines and grammar. If you don't know how to punctuate, buy a grammar handbook and READ IT. If you don't know all the nuances of MLA style documentation, buy an MLA handbook and ditto. This is a graduate seminar on professional development; I expect you to write with respect for the conventions of responsible literary scholarship. And if you think you're going to need an extension on your assignments, come talk to me, but you'd better have a tremendously good reason. Unexplained late papers will lose 10 points per day.

Moreover, because this is a seminar in professional development, I expect you to prepare for each class diligently. In other words, I expect you to have read every assignment before every class. If you can't participate in discussions because you haven't read the assignment, I may appear to be polite about it in class, but I will be far less understanding when I am assigning your final grade.

Course requirements

Reference book bibliography

I would like an annotated bibliography from each of you with the following information: author/editor, title, publication info, call number, and brief description of how the reference book works for the following categories:

* Five types of indexes that list info on children's lit, including Children's Literature Abstracts.

* Seven different reference bibliographies (that is, volumes that are solely bibliographies) on how to find children's books of various types.

* Three encyclopedias that list information about children's authors and/or children's books.

Because I don't intend this to be "busy work" but a legitimate way for you to familiarize yourself with the available sources on children's literature, you may divide the work among yourselves and share your results. Two caveats: your answers must be handwritten in your own handwriting. And you must follow MLA bibliography style. This assignment is due on January 28.

Discussion questions

Every week, please prepare four to five discussion questions that reflect some thought about the reading for that week by noon on Tuesday. (Submitting this via e-mail is quite fine; you may also drop them off in my box or in the envelope on my door.) I expect these questions to generate intelligent discussion, so write accordingly.

Book analysis

Please write a professional book review about one of the books on the sign-up sheet that will be available on my office door. These books are to reflect YOUR opinions, not a culmination of other people's opinions. In other words, after a brief description of the book's content, discuss the strengths and weaknesses of the book. I hope for this exercise to prepare you in the fine art of writing professional book reviews of scholarly books. This assignment is due February 18.


I will ask each of you to prepare a sample syllabus for English 170 as it is taught at ISU unless you already teach the course, in which case I will ask you to prepare a syllabus for a course on children's lit that you have not yet taught. This assignment is due April 22.

Final project

You may pick any children's or adolescent literature critical project that would be individually rewarding as the culminating experience for this class. Any of the following would be appropriate: a thesis or dissertation proposal, a chapter in your thesis or dissertation, preparing a conference paper for submission, revising an article for submission, or writing a 15 page paper on the topic of your choice. This assignment is due April 29.

ENG 471 Reading Schedule

A&S = Adams and Searle, Literary Criticism Since 1865
OC = Egoff, Only Connect, 3rd edition
TCL = Sadler, Teaching Children's Literature
Don't Bet = Don't Bet on the Prince
R = article on reserve at Milner Library's Reserve Desk

January 14: Introduction
Beverly Lyon Clark, "Kiddie Lit in Academe" (R)
Jill May, "What Content Should be Taught . . . " (R)

January 21: Structuralism
Levi-Strauss, "Structural Study of the Myth" (A&S 809)
Benveniste, "The Nature of the Linguistic Sign" (A&S 725)
Benveniste, "Subjectivity in Language" (A&S 728)
Luthi, "Fairytale as Art Form" (R)
Clausen, "Home and Away in Children's Fiction" (R)
Introduction and either Chapter 8 or 11 (whichever interests you more) in Griswold, Audacious Kids (R)

January 28: Semiotics
Reference book bibliographies due
De Saussure, "Course in General Linguistics" (A&S 646)
Peirce, "Letters to Lady Welby" (A&S 639)
Nodelman, Chapter 7, "Relationships of Pictures and Words" in Words About Pictures (R)
Arakelian, "Minnows Into Whales" (R)
Moebius, "Introduction to Picture Book Codes" (R)
Lewis, "The Constructedness of Texts" (OC 259)
Recommended: Nodelman, Words About Pictures

February 4: Deconstruction
Derrida, "Structure, Sign and Play" (A&S 83)
Foucault, "What is an Author" (A&S 138)
Estes and Lant, "Dismembering the Text" (R)
Chaston, "If I Ever Go Looking" (R)
Kertzer, "This Quiet Lady" (R)
Recommended: Derrida, "Diff­rance" (A&S 120)

February 11: Marxism
Althusser, "Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses" (A&S 239)
Benjamin, "Theses on the Philosophy of History" (A&S 680)
Stephens, Language and Ideology in Children's Fiction

February 18: Marxist Feminism
Book analyses due
Robinson, "Treason Our Text" (A&S 572)
Zipes, Fairy-Tales and the Art of Subversion"

February 25: Feminism
Cixous, "The Laugh of the Medusa" (A&S 309)
Jardine, "Gynesis" (A&S 560)
Paul, "Enigma Variations" (R)
Rollin, "Reproduction of Mothering in Charlotte's Web" (R)
Bottigheimer, "Fairy Tales and Children's Lit" (TCL 101)
Myers, "Little Girls Lost" (TCL 131)
Warner, "The Absent Mother" (OC 278)
Lieberman, "Some Day My Prince Will Come" (Don't Bet 185)
Gilbert & Gubar, "The Queen's Looking Glass" (Don't Bet 201)
Kolodny, "Dancing Through the Minefields" (A&S 499)

March 4: Narrative Theory
Kristeva, "Women's Time" (A&S 471)
Hatfield, "From Master to Brother" (R)
Trites, "Nesting" (R)
Wall, from The Narrator's Voice (reading TBA)

March 18: Psychoanalysis
Lacan, "The Mirror Stage" (A&S 734)
Frye, "The Critical Path" (A&S 252)
Rose, The Case of Peter Pan, pages 1-41
Natov, "Mothers and Daughters" (R)
McGillis, "Kicking La/Can" (R)
Cech, "Shadows in the Classroom" (TCL 80)

Thursday, March 20: EXTRA CLASS! Lois Lenski Children's Literature
Lecture by Louisa Smith, CVA 151, 7 p.m., and reception following

March 25: Multiculturalism
Said, "Secular Criticism" (A&S 605)
Johnson, "I See Me in the Book" (R)
Susina, "Tell Him About Vietnam" (R)
Phillips, "Mem Sahib" (R)
Moore & MacCann, "On 'Reading' Institutions" (R)
Stott, "Native American Narratives" (TCL 41)

April 1: Historicism
White, "The Historical Text as Literary Artifact" (A&S 395)
Myers, "Impeccable Governesses" (R)
Vallone, "Humble Spirit Under Correction" (R)
Smol, "Heroic Ideology and the Children's Beowulf" (R)
Jack, "Manuscript of Peter Pan" (R)

April 8: Reader Response
Fish, "Is There a Text in This Class" (A&S 525)
Hunt, "Defining Children's Literature" (OC 2)
Stahl, "The Imaginative Uses of Secrecy" (OC 39)
McGillis, "Secrets and Sequence" (R)
Chambers, "The Reader in the Book" (R)
Nodelman, "How Typical Children Read" (R)

April 22: Teaching children's literature; Guest lecturer Prof. Jan
Nodelman, The Pleasures of Children's Literature (Pay particular
attention to his essay "Teaching Children's Literature)
Vandergrift, "Development of Course Syllabi in Children's Lit"
(to be distributed)
Sadler, Part II, pages 144-85
Projects due

April 29: Syllabi due

Book Review Choices

Dixon, Catching Them Young (2 vols.)

Rollin, Cradle and All

Vallone, Disciplines of Virture

Bottigheimer, Grimms' Bad Girls & Bold Boys

Demers, Heaven Upon Earth

Cott, Pipers at the Gates of Dawn

Carpenter, Secret Gardens

Johnson, Telling Tales

Kuznets, When Toys Come Alive

Keyser, Whispers in the Dark


Heidi Green
Theresa Higus
Candy Jendro
Alexandria La Faye
Christie Lau
Michelle Martin
Kathy Moore
Vanessa Wayne


Vocabulary List

(This list is generated by the students based on their readings and is therefore expanded each week.)


































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