The University of Southampton

ENGL2027 Children’s Literature

Module Overview

Studying children’s literature involves questioning how fantasy and representations of childhood relate to cultural contexts and a specific target audience. Lewis Carroll, A. A. Milne and Kenneth Grahame have been influential in forming our notion of writing for children. To delve into the formative representations of childhood from the end of the nineteenth century to the mid-twentieth century is to shed light on the troubling shadows that haunt presentations of parenting and gender, and to unearth the cultural politics of childhood innocence.

Aims and Objectives

Module Aims

• familiarise you with some of the themes and ideas explored in a selection of literature for children from the nineteenth-century to present day, including works of some major writers in the field; • to enhance employability-related qualities and aptitudes – in particular reflexivity, a reasoned sense of self-worth and social vision; • extend your understanding of the development of a literature for children by providing a cultural-historic background; • consider the texts in the light of some literary theories; • progress further your understanding of debates about genre.

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

Having successfully completed this module, you will be able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of:

  • what characterises a literary work written for children;
  • key theories relevant to the genre;
  • forms and writing techniques demonstrated in the work selected;
  • the issues relating to children’s literature, such as representations of childhood, gender identity and theories of reading.
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • write critically, reflectively and accurately about a specific area of study;
  • participate, responsively and constructively, in small and large group discussions with your peers on specific topics;
  • use appropriately a range of secondary material.
Subject Specific Intellectual and Research Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • discuss, orally and in writing, issues relating to the form and content of the writing you have studied;
  • contextualise the selected work and consider critical responses to it;
  • relate the work on this module regarding identity and representations of childhood, for example, to themes addressed in the core at levels 1 and 2;
  • draw upon secondary sources to inform you argument.


In this module you will consider significant issues of form and content in a range of children’s writing. The end of the nineteenth century is one of the most influential periods of writing for children, as reflected in the texts of Lewis Caroll, A. A. Milne, E. Nesbitt and Kenneth Grahame. You will also have the opportunity to study at least one contemporary writer for children. You will be encouraged to use your knowledge gained from the core strands to support and develop your analysis of literary and theoretical issues. Typical issues you will examine in this module might include: representations of childhood and of parenting; gender and identity; the role of fantasy.

Special Features

• Background lectures are the means by which you are introduced to the work of selected writers, the political and theoretical contexts, and the key themes. • The seminars will be strongly student-centered, giving you the opportunity to pursue key themes raised in lectures in depth through preparation of specific issues and informed discussion with your peers. • The group will be given clear guidance and advice prior to beginning your assessed work in seminars, and there will be opportunities for you to make an individual appointment with the tutor to discuss the planning of your coursework. • The teaching, learning and assessment methods and the planned learning outcomes are closely integrated to support each other, and enable you to find a clear relationship between them and throughout the module.

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Teaching methods include • mini-lectures to introduce selected writers and key themes; • seminars to enable you to examine specific texts and topics in discussion with your peers; • individual meetings with the tutor to discuss assessment planning and essay feedback. Learning activities include • close reading and careful analysis of selected texts and themes; • engagement in seminar discussions as participator and listener; • preparation for and completion of two coursework essays.

Independent Study126
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

Butt, D., (ed.) (1992). Stories and Society: Children’s Literature in its Context. 

Hunt, P (1999). An Introduction to Children’s Literature. 

Stephens, J (1992). Language and Ideology in Children’s Literature. 

Hunt, P., (ed.) (1990). Children’s Literature: The Development of Criticism. 

Foster, S., and Simons, J. (1995). What Katy Read: Feminist Re-Readings of ‘Classic’ Stories for Girls. 


Assessment Strategy

Assessments designed to provide informal, on-module feedback • group guidance on the two coursework assignments; • opportunities for individual consultation by appointment with the tutor to discuss preparation for assessment and to review essay feedback.


MethodPercentage contribution
Essay  (2000 words) 50%
Essay  (2000 words) 50%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

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