Centre for Research in Young People's Texts and Cultures

Studying Children's Literature at the University of Winnipeg

Courses

Why study children's literature?

Courses in children's literature can be a valuable part of many different programs of study. Teachers and students of education will learn much about literature that can provide a basis for classroom practices and activites. Students of literature and culture will be interested in learning about the constraints and characteristics of writing designed specifically for an audience of children.

For students of history, studying children's literature offers useful insights into particular ideas about children - and their implications for the present. Considering the ideological content of children's literature provides another perspective for students of developmental psychology and sociology on knowledge about childhood. Students of the visual arts might be specifically interested in courses involving picture books.

And, perhaps, you'd just like to figure out exactly why you read that one book again and again as a child...

About Studying Children's Literature at the University of Winnipeg

The University of Winnipeg's Department of English has been offering undergraduate courses in young people's texts and cultures for over 30 years, attracting many teachers in training and other interested students from the fields of English studies, History, and Developmental Studies, among others. The English Department includes a number of instructors who include interests in various aspects of young people's texts and cultures among their specializations.

Close to 20% of upper-level courses offered by the department focus on young people's texts and cultures in some form. Thus, while there is no specialist degree offered in the field at this point—rather one must take courses in the field as part of a more general English degree—the value placed on studying young people's texts and cultures is at the centre of the culture and concerns of the University of Winnipeg's Department of English.

Department of English
Young People's Texts and Cultures Fact Sheet (PDF)
English Department Fact Sheet (PDF)
English Department Calendar (PDF)

2016-2017:

* indicates prerequisite beyond first-year studies required. Please see English Calendar for further details.

FIELD OF CHILDREN'S LITERATURE

ENGL-2003/6-001 (FW)

6 credit hours

2016-2017:

Tosenberger

M 2:30 - 5:15

An introduction to the study of children’s literature, this course explores the characteristics of this form of literature, unusually named for its readers rather than its producers. We study various strategies for reading young people’s texts: cultural assumptions about children and childhood; trends in educational theory and practice; the economics and political contexts of the production, consumption and marketing of texts for young people; and popular culture and media for young people. Texts from a range of genres, such as poetry, picture books, novels, blogs, and films, are considered.

PICTURE BOOKS FOR CHILDREN*

ENGL-2113/6-001 (FW)

6 credit hours

2016-2017:

Hamer

W 2:30 - 5:15

In this course, we will explore the evolution of the contemporary picture book as a popular genre for children. We will survey historical and contemporary trends in content and design, influential and ground-breaking picture book texts, as well as the role of picture books in theories of early childhood education and literacy learning. We will also address the adaptation of popular children’s picture books to television, film, digital games, and toys. We will apply a number of critical approaches for the analysis of picture books from the areas of literary theory, children’s literature criticism, semiotics, visual studies, communication and media studies, and art history criticism. We will discuss how theories related to visual art, performance, graphic novels, and film may be used to examine the complex relationship between words and pictures in picture books. We will have the opportunity to have hands-on experiences with a large range of picture books throughout the course with more focused study of specific authors, texts and analytical approaches through essays, critical written responses, and group presentations.

FAIRY TALES AND CULTURE*

ENGL-2114/6-001 (FW)

6 credit hours

2016-2017:

Tosenberger

Th 2:30 - 5:15

This course examines fairy tales from their origins in myth and folklore to their uses in contemporary culture. Students explore the major themes and characteristics of traditional tales, such as those collected by Charles Perrault and the Grimms and written by Hans Christian Andersen and Oscar Wilde. They then consider the function of fairy tales in contemporary society (in, for example, the social texts of weddings and proms) and study narratives influenced by fairy tales, particularly narratives directed to audiences of young people.

CANADIAN CHILDREN'S LITERATURE*

ENGL-3119/3-245 (F)

3 credit hours

2016:

Wolf

Tu 5:00 – 8:00

In this course, we take up a number of Canadian children’s texts (YA novels, juvenile fiction, and picture books) that focus on issues such as identity, belonging, nationhood, and sovereignty. We enhance our close readings of the primary texts by examining pertinent political and historical contexts and using critical concepts from current feminist, postcolonial, materialist, and cultural and childhood studies theories.

PRACTICUM IN LITERACY, LANGUAGE AND LITERATURE*

ENGL-3120/6-001 (FW)

6 credit hours

2016-2017:

Hamer

Tu 2:30 – 5:15

This course blends the theory and practice of community service and experiential learning, helping students initiate and complete volunteer placements within existing literacy, literary, cultural, peace, justice and human rights organizations and projects. It promotes creative, collaborative working relationships, sustaining interests in community-university partnerships and lifelong learning. Weekly seminars assist students as they identify areas of engagement and learning goals, design the terms of their commitment and accountability, and provide opportunities for reflection, assessment, and the sharing of developing expertise. Students are required to contribute at least three hours a week beyond class time, or the equivalent, to the placement during Winter Term (some placements begin earlier). Students arrange volunteer work placements with organizations that support literature, literacy, and language development in Manitoba. In 2016-2017, practicum students will participate in a collaborative group project in partnership with the University of Winnipeg library. Please see the course outline and/or contact the instructor for details regarding required course texts, group projects, and assignments.

FILMS FOR YOUNG PEOPLE: AFFECTING REPRESENTATIONS*

ENGL-3169/3-001 (F)

3 credit hours

2016:

Snell

F 1:30 – 5:15

This course explores narrative films for young people, arguably the principal form through which contemporary North American young people encounter narrative. As well as looking at the history of the Hollywood system, particularly in the way in which it has tended to privilege a sentimentalized and profoundly raced, sexed, gendered, and classed representation of the child and childhood, we also look at the films for and about young people produced by international and independent filmmakers and those films produced by young people. To anchor our analyses in this short, half-year course, this year we focus on "Affecting Representations," drawing on notions of affect to examine how the aesthetic, the ethical, and the political play across the cinematically rendered bodies of children and adolescents in films from Canada, the U.S., the UK, South Africa, and France. What kinds of feelings or emotions does the figure of the child or adolescent produce in films by, for, and about young people? What are the implications for how we understand young people and the future they are made to symbolize? Attention is paid to developing strategies and a vocabulary for reading film, as well as the filmic forms and genres typically privileged in young people’s films: e.g. animation, allegory, horror, comedy, and the musical.

THE CHILDREN'S MUSEUM: CROSS-DISCIPLINARY APPROACHES TO YOUNG AUDIENCES AND PARTICIPATORY CULTURES*

ENGL-4160/3-001 (F)

3 credit hours

2016:

Hamer

M 6:00 - 9:00

The children’s museum has evolved internationally since the early twentieth century as a non-profit public institution focused on informal family-oriented education, and interactive play environments. These museum sites often combine the curatorial practices of art galleries with the participatory environments of science-oriented museums. Children’s museums are significant cultural sites for the intersections of educational, entertainment, and policy discourses of modern and post-modern childhoods. The proposed course will explore existing critical studies of children’s museums including theoretical and methodological approaches from the fields of Cultural Studies particularly Audience Studies, Museum and Curatorial Studies, and New Literacies Studies. Key topics include: theories of the participatory museum; the history of young people in museum studies; the role of entertainment, and pedagogy in children’s museum exhibitions; issues of identity politics (i.e. gender, race, sexuality, socio-economic class, ability and mobility), nationalism, civic engagement and museum cultures. Critical readings will aim to expand beyond the Canadian and North American context with research case studies from the UK and Japan among other contexts. There will be opportunities to evaluate and potentially work with local museums as part of the course curriculum.

ADVANCED STUDIES IN YOUNG PEOPLE'S TEXTS AND CULTURES: Children, Affect, and Postcolonialism*

ENGL-4160/3-001 (W)

3 credit hours

2017:

Snell

Tu 10:00 – 12:45

This course offers a focused study of an area of young people’s texts and cultures, such as narrative fiction and film, digital or material culture. This year the course considers the ways in which the circulation of the figure of “the child” signals its status as a screen onto which is projected the desires and fantasies of an increasingly neoliberal world order. Drawing on affect theory, an interdisciplinary body of work interested in considering the entanglement of the aesthetic, the ethical, and the political as these “play across” the thoughts and actions of bodies, we examine precisely the kind of affect that the child figure produces. “Postcolonialism,” a body of critical work that engages colonialism and its legacies, supplements our examination of this figure through the lens of affect theory. The texts we use to anchor our analyses throughout the course variously re-inscribe and/or challenge the postcolonial trafficking in images of romanticized and sentimentalized childhood. One half of the course uses texts designed for and marketed to children as particularly salient examples of affectively charged child figures, while the other draws on texts about children. This course should be of interest to students interested in affect theory and/or postcolonial theory in addition to students of children’s literary and cultural studies.

TOPICS IN CULTURES OF CHILDHOOD: The Children's Museum: Cross-disciplinary Approaches to Young Audiences and Participatory Cultures*

GENGL-7160/3-001 (F)

3 credit hours

2016:

Hamer

M 6:00 - 9:00

The children’s museum has evolved internationally since the early twentieth century as a non-profit public institution focused on informal family-oriented education, and interactive play environments. These museum sites often combine the curatorial practices of art galleries with the participatory environments of science-oriented museums. Children’s museums are significant cultural sites for the intersections of educational, entertainment, and policy discourses of modern and post-modern childhoods. The proposed course will explore existing critical studies of children’s museums including theoretical and methodological approaches from the fields of Cultural Studies particularly Audience Studies, Museum and Curatorial Studies, and New Literacies Studies. Key topics include: theories of the participatory museum; the history of young people in museum studies; the role of entertainment, and pedagogy in children’s museum exhibitions; issues of identity politics (i.e. gender, race, sexuality, socio-economic class, ability and mobility), nationalism, civic engagement and museum cultures. Critical readings will aim to expand beyond the Canadian and North American context with research case studies from the UK and Japan among other contexts. There will be opportunities to evaluate and potentially work with local museums as part of the course curriculum.