ENGH 202: Texts and Contexts

ENGH 202-K02: Children's Literature: Golden Ages
(Spring 2020)

04:30 PM to 05:45 PM TR

Mason Korea G210

Section Information for Spring 2020

This course includes some of the most popular and critically-admired works from the “Golden Age” of Anglo-American children’s literature, the late 19th and early 20th century. It also examines another “Golden Age”: the ideal of childhood itself.

People tend to have strong feelings about childhood.  To get critical distance, we will look at the genre of children’s literature historically, starting in 18th century England, and attempt some cross-cultural comparison between Anglo-American and Korean children’s books.  Because I know much less about Korean children’s literature than I do about Anglo-American children’s literature, I will rely on Korean students to bring in examples to class.

Children’s literature is not possible without a certain kind of adult: those who want to improve their children’s future by shaping their characters, who believe books can help them do this, and who can afford to buy many, many books.  It was when a great number of such adults appeared in England in the 1740s that children’s literature first appeared as a commercially viable genre. 

The different contexts we will study are unified by a recurring paradox.  The child often stands for Nature, for the ideal of living free from all social constraints, and children’s literature praises this ideal.  At the same time, because families and societies care about their values and their future, children’s literature at its core is a socializing project, one that directs strong ideological messages at children.

The course is structured to achieve the following Mason Core goals:

  • Reading for comprehension, detail and nuance.
  • Identifying the specific literary qualities of language as employed in the texts we read.
  • Analyzing the ways specific literary devices contribute to the meaning of a text.
  • Identifying and evaluating the contribution of the social, political, historical and cultural contexts in which a literary text is produced.
  • Evaluating a critical argument in others’ writing as well as your own.

Course Information from the University Catalog

Credits: 3

Studies literary texts within the framework of culture. Examines texts within such categories as history, gender, sexuality, religion, race, class, and nation. Notes: Builds on reading and writing skills taught in ENGH 101. May be repeated within the term.
Mason Core: Literature
Recommended Prerequisite: 3 credits of 100-level English.
Schedule Type: Lecture

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