Defining Children's Literature

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Defining Children's Literature

  1. 1. ELE 616 Research in Children’s Literature Fall 2012 Defining Children’s Literature
  2. 2. What is Children’s Literature?• Literature written for children?• Literature written by children?• Literature read by children, no matter who it was written for? 2
  3. 3. C. S. Lewis• I am almost inclined to set it up as a canon that a children’s story that is enjoyed only by children is a bad children’s story. The good ones last.• Those of us who are blamed when old for reading childish books were blamed when children for reading books too old for us. No reader worth his salt trots along in obedience to a time-table. – Lewis, C. S. (1952). “On Three Ways of Writing for Children.” Of Other Worlds: Essays and Stories. Ed. Walter Hooper. San Diego, CA: Harcourt, 2002. 22-34. – Quoted by David Beagley in Discovering Childrens Literature: A Personal Journey 3
  4. 4. What IS children’s literature?• This is the nub of the Fascination [with children’s literature] – What makes one book a children’s book and another an adult book? When I read the one, must I read as a child while the other must be seen only in adult terms? • Beagley, Discovering Childrens Literature: A Personal Journey 4
  5. 5. Another view of children’s lit • It doesn’t exist! – “I firmly believe there is no such thing as children’s literature,” Early writes. “Children’s literature exists as an idea in the adult mind about the ways one speaks to children, about how we adults configure childhood. Children’s literature celebrates the imagination we think is necessary for us to engage childhood as adults. It is a way for adults, in short, to distinguish children from adults.” • Quoted by Liam Otten in “More mainstream than ever, childrens literature remains hard to define, poorly understood and frequently underestimated.”Gerald Early: What Is ChildrensLiterature? Belles Lettres, Vol. III, no. 3[Original article no longer online] 5
  6. 6. A didactic definition?• A blogger writes: – After many years of wrestling with this definition, I came across one trait that might actually apply to every children’s book … and is virtually antithetical to adult literature. It is something my wife (who studies Victorian children’s literature) learned while working with children’s literature scholar June Cummins. Are you ready? • children’s literature assumes a teachable audience • Toward a Definition of Children’s Literature Posted 07.6.2011 by Jonathan Auxier 6
  7. 7. A “safe” definition?• Laura Laffrado: – It is probably most useful to define children’s literature broadly, as literature that doesnt exclude children, family literature, literature for a number of generations. • Teaching American Childrens Literature in The Heath Anthology of American Literature Newsletter Number XII, Fall 1995 7
  8. 8. No matter, people study it!• Jacqueline Banerjee: – Hard as it is to define, children’s literature is now recognized as an important field of study, both in itself and for the insights it yields into literature as a whole — as well as into the family life, society and thinking of any given period, and the minds of the many major authors influenced by it. • What is Children’s Literature? 8
  9. 9. The End

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