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A good children’s book stays with you for life. Study the key critical and business contexts of children’s literature and prepare for a lifelong career as a writer, teacher, publisher or scholar.
- Our flexible blended learning allows you to study online with intensive on-campus study in Cambridge in September
- Gain insight into the booming global children’s literature market
- Get connected with our extensive publishing industry links
Our MA Children’s Literature will introduce you to the key issues in the field of children’s books, from current critical debates to changing fashions in the publishing industry.
You can explore the two major traditions in children’s literature, mimetic (realist) and the literature of the fantastic, while also gaining wider perspectives on critical theory and research methodologies.
Your studies will embrace the all-important subject of the growing children’s literature market, including its changing nature, the role of translation and the impact of adaptation.
All of your modules will be delivered through blended learning. Each will begin with a period of guided reading, with your personal studies supported by online fora, discussions, tutorials and other resources on our Learning Management System. You will also attend one week of on-site, intensive teaching for each module. This will include lectures, seminars, workshops, student presentations and student-led discussions. For the rest of your studies, including your major project, you will continue to receive weekly tutorial support in essay writing via email or Skype.
All your studies will be supported by a teaching team comprising experts in the field of children’s literature, including Professor Eugene Giddens (co-author of Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass: A Publishing History).
You will also have the chance to attend both internal and external events, such as talks by guest speakers and national conferences.
Our MA Children’s Literature is developed with working professionals in mind. If you are a teacher, librarian, publisher or scholar and want to specialise in working with children’s literature, this course will help to enhance your professional and intellectual development. There are also many other fields that require the combination of market awareness, critical / analytical understanding and research skills that you will develop.
MODULES & ASSESSMENT
Critical Theory: Children’s LiteratureThis module will allow you to engage deeply with children’s literature through various ways of reading that have been applied to the wider canon, and through specific modes of interrogation used to understand fiction and non-fiction for young people. You will discover a substantial breadth of approaches, allowing you to refine your critical voice and gain knowledge of theoretical schools that permeate the wider discipline. You will be expected to generate critically nuanced interpretations that take account of how different methodologies might come to different conclusions. We will consider children’s texts primarily as literary or historical documents and not as merely pedagogic tools. As such, you will be asked to read ‘as adults’ while inflecting such readings through a solid knowledge of major theoretical approaches to both adult and children’s texts. In addition to critical reading, you will also be set fiction texts to read for group learning, and will be expected to bring to the residential period an additional body of personal research reading in the field. We will practice applied theory, requiring a detailed knowledge of both text and criticism. Your assessment will consist of a 1000-word book review that considers a critical text from the reading list, or another with the module tutor’s approval (30%) and a 4000-word essay that considers at least two children’s texts in the light of literary theory (70%).
Publishing and ‚Selling’ Children’s BooksOn this module you will explore aspects of developing and distributing children’s literature, and consider key trends and changes in this market. You will also consider Jacqueline Rose’s theories of children as the absent market, including its implications and the recent challenges to it. You will begin with by evaluating the industry, including key publishing skills such as the commissioning and marketing of new titles, supported with a brief history of the trade in children’s literature in the UK through to the age of globalisation. You will then explore internationalisation of the market to incorporate wider cultural contexts, and discuss the implications and considerations, both theoretical and practical, of working with children as a market. You will then be introduced to key contemporary considerations for publishers, including the vital, symbiotic role of bookshops, schools and libraries in influencing the shape of the market, providing a gateway for publishers and writers, and developing and maintaining children’s literacy. Following this, we will look at the interplay between television, film and media and the market, with critical issues such as the influence of visual media and the digitisation of the industry being introduced, bringing us back to the publishing skills discussed earlier in the module. You will then consider how these skills are being adapted to the digital medium, with a particular focus on marketing and brand management through alternative mediums such as social media. The delivery of these topics will supplement your theoretical discussion with practical instruction and application. Your assessment will consist of the development and presentation of a Children’s Book Commissioning Proposal (2000 words + presentation) and the creation of a marketing campaign plan for the book, including both physical and digital media elements (4,000 words).
Children’s Literature and the Mimetic TraditionOn this module you will consider children’s literature in the realist tradition in depth, as well as developing an understanding of the functions of mimesis and fantasy within the wider body of texts for young people. You will study mimetic theory from Plato to the present, including the importance of the ‚real’ in representing the past, contemporaneity, and identity. You will focus on literature from the earliest didactic and religious instructional texts to the present. Our readings will span chapbooks and more ephemeral literature, including magazines for mixed family audiences, alongside canonical texts. Topics for consideration might include: the city and the country, war, the family, schooling and education, work, crossover fiction, race, gender, and sexuality. In addition to critical reading, fiction will be set for the group learning, and you are expected to bring to the residential period an additional body of personal research reading in the field. We will practice applied theory, requiring a detailed knowledge of both text and criticism. Your assessment will consist of one 1500-word book review that considers a critical text from the reading list, or another with module tutor’s approval (30%), and one 3500-word essay that reads at least two children’s texts in the light of realism/mimetic theory (70%).
Fantastic FictionThis module will allow you to explore the intensely creative and experimental work of children’s fantasy writers, and the techniques and ideas that have emerged in this form. Starting with an introduction to the range of fantastical traditions that have developed across the world, you will discuss similarities and differences and consider the pressures that the globalisation of the market has brought to bear. You will then be introduced to a range of critical traditions and apply each of them to a body of texts (predominantly literature but with some original television, film and material from other platforms). You will examine child-centred approaches to the fantastic that discuss the nature of the market, the shifting expectations of both child protagonist and child reader, and concerns that have arisen periodically over the „threat” of the fantastic to the child’s well-being. You will apply Marxist, Feminist, Post-colonialist and Queer readings, among others, to a range of texts and consider themes that have emerged over the past one hundred and fifty years that create a sense of coherent concerns running through children’s fantastical fiction. In addition to critical reading, fiction will be set for your preparatory reading, and you are expected to bring to the residential period an additional body of personal research reading in the field. You will also accumulate a substantial body of primary source material, which will be reflected in your assessment. This will consist of an annotated critical bibliography, reflecting a reading diary of fiction and non-fiction (1,500 words), and a negotiated research essay on any aspect of children’s fantastical fiction (3500 words).
Special Topic in Creative Writing/English LiteratureThis module will give you the opportunity to study a particular topic or genre taught by a practising writer with current or recent work in this area. The texts will include those written for adults and children or young adults that share the focus. You might study a particular subgenre such as historical fantasy or weird fiction, or a particular topic such as the apocalypse or time travel. The module will include close reading of the texts, instruction and discussion on how to write in the particular genre, and workshopping of your writing. You will be assessed by means of a final 4,500-word portfolio of creative writing appropriate to the special topic and a critical commentary of 2,000 words. Please note all students wishing to enrol in this module must submit a short writing sample to get approval from the module leader.
Major ProjectThis module will support you in the preparation and submission of a Masters dissertation, allowing you to explore in-depth a particular topic that reflects your academic interest.