LIT 4334: The Golden Age of Children's Literature

Children’s Literature Bibliography

Children’s Literature Bibliography

Having trouble finding sources?  Have you looked here? (linked in the blogroll on the right hand column too!)

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Thoughts on Final Paper: The Desexualization and Sanitized Innocence of Disney Princesses

 Disney Princess

Early in the semester, I found a strong connection to the fairy tales we read that have been remade as a Disney classic. Originally, my argument followed in suit with many scholars that have argued that Walt Disney perpetuated a chauvinistic and patriarchal ideal that featured women who ultimately were at the mercy of the men in their life. This has been evident in these films through the lack of a maternal figure, the only adult women are typically evil and violent, the father figure always transfers control to the husband at the end of the film, and it is always Prince Charming that rescues the princess from a near death experience. As a woman, I obviously find this problematic because it instills into the minds of young girls everywhere that our happiness is dependent on a man. While I do not consider myself an outright feminist, I would imagine many other women would find this notion not only discriminatory but also a continuation of many current ideologies that women are nothing without the help from a man. After proposing my initial thoughts of this, I quickly realized that many people have also found these truths to be evident and there was no clear original argument that I was making, so I have since changed the focus of my paper.

Rather than necessarily chastising Disney, I decided to figure out and understand why he chose this way to market a majority of his corporation. When I looked back on the original fairy tales of Snow White, Rapunzel, the Little Mermaid, and Beauty and the Beast I noticed incredible amounts of sex and violence that were heavily interspersed throughout the entirety of the story, some of which certainly did not seem suitable for children. Then as I began re-watching the Disney movies regarding these stories, I noticed that while Disney may have harped on the patriarchal dominance of a man, he also desexualized and took out a lot of the violence that shrouded the original tales, which made them more accessible for children. In the original Rapunzel, she is not only described as hoisting up the prince to the tower with her long hair for presumably sexual encounters, the story also features pregnancy out of wedlock, which is hardly the story I would want my child to read. Ironically, these parts of the story did not seem to make the Disney movie Tangled. Furthermore, Disney took out a lot of the violence that is featured in the original stories of Snow White, Ariel, and Belle and instead, he created a more romantic story line in order to cast a cloak of innocence on the movies to make them more affable for children. Through further research it can be adequately argued and demonstrated that while Disney may not be revered in the Women’s Studies department in Ustler Hall, his ability to make subversive tales into a more child friendly story have certainly prevailed and allowed him to remain as the leading force in children’s entertainment today.


Grammar Post: Shitty First Drafts

I am hoping that at this point, you all are working on (at least) your first draft of your papers.  We have addressed some of the frustrations about writing in earlier posts, so for this week, I am going to post instead one of my favorite pieces of writing by Anne LaMott titled “Shitty First Drafts” from her book on writing, Bird by Bird.  I think there is something reassuring about knowing that even people who write for a living, and who have been writing for decades, still feel anxiety and frustration while they are writing.  Whenever I get really stuck or frustrated with my own writing, I find re-reading this brief excerpt really helps.


Shitty First Drafts

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Grammar Post: Medium of Publication

After reading your annotated bibliographies, I wanted to take a few minutes to discuss the fairly new MLA requirement of listing the medium of publication for each source.

According to the Purdue OWL site, you need the following information when citing electronic sources:

Basic Style for Citations of Electronic Sources (Including Online Databases)

Here are some common features you should try and find before citing electronic sources in MLA style. Not every Web page will provide all of the following information. However, collect as much of the following information as possible both for your citations and for your research notes:

  • Author and/or editor names (if available)
  • Article name in quotation marks (if applicable)
  • Title of the Website, project, or book in italics. (Remember that some Print publications have Web publications with slightly different names. They may, for example, include the additional information or otherwise modified information, like domain names [e.g. .com or .net].)
  • Any version numbers available, including revisions, posting dates, volumes, or issue numbers.
  • Publisher information, including the publisher name and publishing date.
  • Take note of any page numbers (if available).
  • Medium of publication.
  • Date you accessed the material.
  • URL (if required, or for your own personal reference; MLA does not require a URL).

It is very important that you cite the medium of publication correctly.

As a general rule, if you have gone to the library, walked into the stacks and physically picked up a book, journal or newspaper, you will cite the medium of publication as Print. To cite a source, you must have held the actual hard copy in your hand during your research process.

However, if you have searched the library database, located an e-book, online journal article or website, you will cite the medium of publication as Web. Even if the library has a hard copy of the book, if you did not hold that copy in your hand, it is a web source.

Here is where it gets a little tricky.

If you are consulting a printed copy of an online article (say, a PDF of an essay provided to you through our Sakai site), you must cite the medium of publication as Web.  The same goes for an article from a journal that is published in print, but that you accessed online via PDF.  If you are accessing a publication that appears both online and in print (like The New York Times or Time magazine), you must cite the medium of publication in the form you accessed it: if you read the article online, it is a web source.  If you went to the newsstand, purchased the paper or magazine and are working from the hard copy of the text, it is a print source.

I noticed that a number of you were correctly citing articles located through a database, correctly noting that you had found the source through EBSCO or LexisNexis, then listing it as a print source.  This is incorrect!  Also, a couple of you listed journal articles as print publications, even though that journal had switched to publishing exclusively online.

It is possible that you will have other mediums of publication, like film, interview, lecture, conference presentation, or digital files (like those PDFs of articles).  Purdue OWL has a full page of how to cite these other formats, and you should consult this site (or another MLA style handbook) when putting together your work cited page.

The rationale behind this distinction is, there can be differences and discrepancies between print and web versions of a story: a web version might be corrected after the print version has been published, may include more up-to-date information, or may have contained unsubstantiated material that was then removed for the print version.  Quotes may be added, updated or deleted based on space available in a print format.  It is important that any future scholars who might look at your Work Cited list (as many of you are doing for your own research) be able to locate the correct version of the text you cite, or at least account for any discrepancies between your quotes and what may appear online or in print.

If you ever have questions about what the correct medium should be, or how to cite a source correctly, first consult your MLA guide.  If you are still confused, you might seek out help from the librarians on the 3rd floor of Library West (or through the convenient Chat with a Librarian feature on the library website) or at the University Writing Program.  Or, come by office hours!

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Grammar Post: Paragraph Cohesion/Quote Sandwich

The easiest way for me to think about incorporating quotes into my own writing is to imagine each paragraph as a sandwich.  It is kind of a goofy image, but it is an easy one to help you remember all the key elements that you need to include in a good paragraph.


Depending on the type of essay, you get to make your own fancy sandwiches and they can be any kind that you want, but they usually have the same basic elements that contribute to good writing.  There are a lot of fun, stylistic ways to adapt the basics to your particular topic, audience and preference. Read the rest of this entry »

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Paper Thoughts: Imitation vs. Invention in Contemporary Children’s Books

For my final paper, I will be investigating the role of the classic aesthetic in contemporary children’s books. Over the past two to three years there has been a trend that has developed in the children’s book market. There has been a calling back on the classic, specifically the Golden Age classic. However, the trend has had two veins of creativity. On one side, we have what I would call an imitation of the classic while on the other side we have sparks of invention taking place that allude to the classic.

The imitation side of this trend is manifested with a plethora of “authorized sequels” such as Peter Pan in Scarlet, Return to the Hundred Acre Woods, and The Further Tale of Peter Rabbit.

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Specifically in these authorized sequels, there is no invention taking place, meaning these authors are not creating new stories which recall the classic aethestic. Instead they are slipping back into the past, attempting to recreate the specific style, tone and feel of books that are recognized as classics. In 2009, NPR published an article looking at the authorized Winnie the Pooh sequel. It started out with the sentence: “It used to be that all good things would come to an end, but these days, at least in the world of books and movies, there is always ‘the sequel’.” It went on to discuss the new novel, and in writing the article they contacted children’s literature professor, Phil Nel. His opinion on the book was very telling and plays into what I believe is at the heart of the imitation vs. invention distinction at the heart of the classical style trend:

But Philip Nel, a professor of children’s literature at Kansas State University, says based on what he could glean from the first chapter, they may have played it too safe.
“It’s almost like reading someone else’s memory of A.A. Milne and E.H. Shepard,” says Nel. “It’s a pleasant memory, but why wouldn’t you read the original? It’s not like they’ve disappeared.”
The result, says Nel, is a book that feels like an imitation: “They’ve got the characters down. Pooh is ruled by [his] tummy. Piglet is timid. Eeyore tends to be sarcastic and depressed.”

Thus while you have these texts which attempt to actually imitate the classic and continue to keep an already written story alive, you have other authors that have been heavily inspired, have done their research on this period, but are creating inventive, unique and new worlds that recall the classic in style, tone and feel instead of imitating those three things. Some books that could be used as examples of this inventive vein in the trend are: Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes, The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place, The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of her Own Making, and Splendors & Glooms.

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Let’s take Peter Nimble as our example to investigate here what this inventive strain is doing. Merely in its title we have the name Peter which may automatically bring to mind Peter Pan, and we start to impose his characteristics onto Peter Nimble. The cover art is interesting to look at as well. The cityscape recalls London (similar to these covers of Peter Pan, click here , here , here , here and here), with the clock tower and the smoke stacks that set it in a Industrial Revolution period. We realize from the cover that Peter is blind and he must also be a thief, so perhaps we start to think about Oliver Twist. Lastly the juxtaposition of the cityscape and the fantastical background remind me a bit of Arthur Rackham who often juxtaposed the mundane with the magical. This novel also utilizes the second person address for its narrative, which is a bit of a staple with Golden Age authors, as we’ve seen with Barrie and Carroll. Lastly, as you read the text you begin to pick up on so many allusions that the author, Jonathan Auxier, melds together with his story to bring it to life, allusions include Peter Pan, Alice in Wonderland, The Wizard of Oz, the figure of the knight, Don Quixote, the figure of the pirate but one that is midway between the realistic and stylized, Oliver Twist, and the biblical story of Moses.

Lastly, with these ideas of the distinction between imitation and invention, I will also be looking at the role that nostalgia plays in all of this. Specifically it’s been really interesting to find Svetlana Boym’s definition of the idea of nostalgia. She actually breaks it up into two forms, one called restorative nostalgia and the other reflective nostalgia. These two distinctions actually work perfectly with the imitation vs invention idea that I’m developing for this classical trend. Restorative nostalgia attempts to reach back in time and restore the past in the present, which is what the imitation, “authorized sequels” are doing. On the other hand, reflective nostalgia looks back on the past, but realizes that it is impossible to really recreate the past and in doing so it is critical of this longing and is interested in the “contradictions of modernity” (Boym xviii). Thus this reflective nostalgia correlates rather well with the inventive side, because these authors are indeed looking back, but they are not attempting to restore something that is past, but instead create something new that fuses together a past aesthetic with a modern sensibility.


Boym, Svetlana. The Future of Nostalgia. New York: Basic, 2001.

Neary, Lynn. “Pooh Faithful Return To The Hundred Acre Wood.” NPR. NPR, 02 Oct. 2009. Web. < return-to-the-hundred-acre-wood >.

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Grammar Post: Take Your Time

This is the third in a series of posts aimed at helping you through the process of writing your research papers. Read the first on creating an argument here. Read the second on using good research well here.   I have already addressed forming your arguments and using good research well in previous posts. This post will be focused on easing some of your drafting anxieties.

Tip #3. Research papers take time

A number of you have expressed anxiety about how you aren’t clear on your argument yet or you are still struggling to make all the pieces fit together.  This is TOTALLY normal and to be expected.  At this point in the process, you are likely trying to refine your own argument, pick out primary texts, locate secondary texts, read those sources and incorporate them into you argument, while choosing which parts of those sources should be included in your paper and how to balance them with your own ideas and the information from your primary texts.  Whew.  Here are a couple of tips for you to cope with some of this juggling act. Read the rest of this entry »

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Grammar Post: Use Good Research Well

This is the second in a series of posts aimed at helping you with your research papers. Read the first on creating an argument here.   This post is more directly pointed at research, which you should be working hard at, in preparation for your annotated bibliographies, due April 2.

2. You must use good research well.

A key element of this paper is coming up with your own thesis (see #1), but you also need to show that you have done enough research and are informed enough on the topic to make your argument reliable: this is all about establishing your ethos as a writer.  Believe it or not, you all are now experts on Golden Age children’s literature, more than the average person on the street.  You belong to a community of experts and you want to demonstrate that you are in conversation with those experts.  As such, you should be looking for expert opinions to use in your paper.  If you are working primarily on the literature aspect, you should be looking at the peer-review journals that we talked about in the library.  For those of you who are focusing more on the cultural aspects, (marketing, media, bestsellers), there will be peer-reviewed journals that deal with these topics, but you may also be looking at different kinds of experts: the heads of marketing firms, newspaper/magazine editors, publishing industry insiders.  You should all be good at evaluating the sources and should be able to tell the difference between a reliable online source and one that would not be considered academic or trustworthy.  As always, avoid sites like Wikipedia,, or sparknotes.  If you choose to use less reliable sources (blogs, newspapers, magazines), you will need to take a moment to justify your choices in your paper, in order to shore up your ethos.

There are a couple of expert-level ways to incorporate research into your papers.  Read the rest of this entry »

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Grammar Post: Creating an Argument

All of you are now hard at work on your research for your final papers, and if the proposals and the conversations I have been having with you in office hours are any indication, I am really looking forward to see what you come up with.  The next couple of blog posts will be general advice on research.  I wanted to put some of my advice in a central location for you to look at, in case you are feeling stuck, overwhelmed, or lost.

Tip #1. You must have an argument

A research paper without an argument is like a Christmas tree without lights: not much to look at. Most of you have asked some really interesting questions in your proposals or outlined some interesting themes: now is the time to turn those ideas into an answer.  Your thesis should be assertive, clear and strong.  It should also be original and based on your own thoughts and ideas, though you will need to back up your thought process and concepts with the ideas of other experts. Your thesis should not include caveats like “I think,” or “it is kind of like this.”  Your thesis should not try to straddle both sides of an issue: “This is both strong and weak,” or “this book is and isn’t a classic.”  You should write your thesis as fact, and then spend the rest of the paper backing up that fact. As you continue through your paper, each time you have thoroughly demonstrated a point or explained a concept, you should be sure to pause and remind the reader how point 1 (or point 4), ultimately ties back to your overall argument.

In this class, you have already worked on two basic academic argument structures: a genre classification and a close-reading.   Academic essays have a few basic argument structures.  The first is a genre classification where you define the characteristics of a genre and then apply argue that a text (usually one that is classified in various genres) belongs in or out of the genre you have defined.  For instance, one could write an essay based on the thesis: “The Hunger Games belongs in the category of post-colonial dystopia due to its use of ABC” or “The Water-Babies should no longer be categorized as a children’s book because it does not meet criteria X, Y or Z.”

Another basic structure is a close reading, where the essay makes a claim for a certain literary device, symbol or motif being used for very specific effects.  For instance, a close reading essay might trace all the mentions of rings in The Princess and the Goblin and argue the ring stands for XYZ symbol.

Other common academic arguments can focus on author’s intent (Nesbit intends to critique the British forms of entertainment,  as evidenced by her use of XYZ), form (The Water-Babies is not a novel but a fairy tale and here are the places in the text that demonstrate the formal differences), or comparison (The Wizard of Oz and Peter Pan both imagine children transported to an imaginary land, but one does ABC while the other shows XYZ.).

There are obviously other kinds of arguments, but the important thing is to HAVE ONE!  A good rule of thumb: if you (or a friend/classmate) can not disagree with you, you are not making an argument.  Also, an argument is not a collection of “the following things from the  book are interesting/cool.”

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Grammar Post: Semi-Colons

1. A semicolon is used for connecting two independent clauses. Two independent clauses can be used as two complete sentences. To combine them together into one sentence, a semicolon should be used.

Example: Summer vacation is boring; I am always looking for something to do.

2. A semicolon is also used as a super comma. When you have a long series of items, you can separate them with commas. However, if you want to describe the items, you will have to use semicolons. Semicolons prevent confusion from occurring.

Example: She travels a lot for work.  In the last year, she has been to Berlin, Germany; Paris, France; London, England; Rome, Italy; Beijing, China; and Sidney, Australia.
Example: For the bake sale, Jimmy made a moist, chocolate cake; a rich, red velvet cake; crispy, chocolate chip cookies; tart lemon squares; fancy Madeline cookies; and a big pitcher of lemonade.

3. A semicolon is used with conjunctive adverbs. It is also used with transitional phrases.  Read the rest of this entry »

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