Penn Arts & Sciences Logo

Modern Children’s Literature: The Cat in the Sorting Hat

ENGL 210.301
TR 10:30-12

This is not your great-great-gran’s Bildungsroman. There will be no orphans here. No. Wait. There will absolutely be orphans here, including one from Kansas who bests a wizard, and another from a cupboard under the stairs who is a wizard. In this course, we will study the evolution and convolution of Children's Literature from the 19th to 21st centuries: books written not just about children but, more importantly for them, asking many of the same questions we ask when looking at children themselves. What are they saying to us (Text)? What are they really saying to us (Subtext)? How are they taking on that critical challenge: finding their place in the world (Context)? We will read, analyze, even psychoanalyze the beloved, the famous, and the just plain odd, in order to best understand why these books are not just fabric of our youth, but of critical importance to our lives. Of critical importance. Period. 

We will read across decades and genres, from picture books to YA and graphic novels, to essays on polemic and passions and the uncanny, including such voices as Lewis Carroll, Dr. Seuss, Angie Thomas, Bruno Bettelheim, E.B. White, Judith Butler, Gene Luen Yang, and, of course, J.K. Rowling. Assignments will include several short essays, a presentation on your literary passion, and a final project of either critical analysis of your term study or a creative representation of where that study has taken you. Regular participation in class discussions is crucial. If all good little scholars are eager and industrious, there will be literary cookies. If not, there might be wolves…


fulfills requirements
Sector 6: 20th Century Literature of the Standard Major