Thursday, March 07, 2013

Children's Literature: Between the Covers

These lectures on Children's literature attempt to tell a story of the history of books written specificity for children. "Children's" books are seen as a relatively recent innovation, starting only a few hundred years ago. Prior to that, children were just expected to read adult books (if they read at all.) Much of the early works tended to be religious and didactic in nature.

After this point, however, the professor's biases come in to play, making it hard to discern what the true path of children's writing was. The focus is very British-centric. (I guess that is appropriate since she does teach in the UK.) Very little attention is given to writing in America, and almost none to anywhere else in the world. (It would have been nice to see how it evolved in non-English speaking countries.) Also, she tends to bring emphasis to works that meet certain criteria that she is interested. This makes it tough to tell whether she is describing a dominant form of writing in a period, or just some obscure story that happens to deal with subject matter contrary to the prevailing standard.

There are a few lectures in this course that discuss the evolution of "teen" literature as a separate form from adult and children's literature. Like the children's discussion, it can be difficult to separate "history" from "agenda".

The closing remarks do hit on some important points. Many young readers are turned off literature by the way it is taught in school. They don't aren't interested in seeing some grand principle or social trend in the story. They just want a good read. Alas, this course falls victim to the "looking too much in to things" category and doesn't provide enough on the "good reads."

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