Children’s Literature: The Impossibility of Children’s Literature, or, the Legacy of Jacqueline Rose

Mo 2:00PM - 4:50PM / 512 Cathedral of Learning / CRN 29698

This course will explore central debates in children’s literature studies since the 1980s, focusing on the continuing influence of feminist theorist Jacqueline Rose’s The Case of Peter Pan, or, The Impossibility of Children’s Literature. Rose’s intervention profoundly changed the course of children’s literature studies, and debates about its central thesis remain at the heart of the field today. That thesis states that children’s literature is always an ideological creation of adults, that child readers and audiences are unknowable, and that attempts to know those readers are simply assertions of adult power. These questions, which are posed in children’s literature studies with particular clarity, are relevant to a broader set of questions in the humanities and social sciences about incommensurability, the politics of difference, the nature of language, and the contributions of psychoanalysis, feminist theory, and poststructuralism to questions about cultural politics and social identity. We will read Rose and her influential critics and followers, including Perry Nodelman, Karin Lesnik-Oberstein, Marah Gubar, and Robin Bernstein. We will interrogate  the usefulness of categories like “agency” for understanding the relationship between publishers and audiences. We will read relevant feminist, psychoanalytic, postcolonial, literary, and anthropological theory to better situate these questions about childhood and their stakes in the humanities and aligned social sciences. And we will read sociologists, anthropologists, historians, and others who propose in sensitive and complex ways to answer affirmatively the question “can adults learn about and from children?” Students in this course will come away with a thorough introduction to central debates and questions in contemporary children’s literature studies, they will cultivate familiarity with a wide range of social and cultural theories of language and identity, and they will develop their critical and analytical skills in substantial independent research projects.  

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Tyler Bickford

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Course Category

Category D: Designated Courses

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