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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Blocks or Pokemon?

For class the other day, we read the article “Commodified Enchantment: Children and Consumer Capitalism” by Beryl Langer.  In it, she argued that capitalism’s appropriation of the “sacred child” was a direct contradiction with commercialism’s intrusion into the domain of childhood. In arguing this case, she also brought up the argument that today’s toys, which all stem from a TV show or a movie (and therefore already have a story affixed to them and are often part of a set which requires you to buy most or all of the set before it becomes useful), limit creativity.

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Today’s Toys: Each sold separately.

At least more so than the toys of the Baby Boomers (blocks, G.I. Joe, Tonka toys).  The reason for this (they argue) is that for many of today’s toys, there are only one or two configurations for them, while you can do tons of cool stuff with blocks.

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Like put them in a pile.

My question is, is there any validity to these claims?  There is certainly some validity to the argument that you have to buy most or all of a set before the toy achieves full functionality.  In Pokemon, for example, the driving force is that you, “Gotta catch ’em all.”  Well, if you play the video games, then you will know that in order to “Catch ’em all” you have to buy at least two video games from each “Generation (Gen)” of video games. In the first Gen, there were three games: Red, Yellow, and Blue. In each game, there were about ten Pokemon which were unavailable (Bellsprout and his evolutions, for instance, were unavailable in Red version). In order to get it, you had to have a friend or sibling who owned a Blue (or Yellow) version, plus an additional Game Boy, plus at least one link cable. The consumerism is most definitely there.

But does this limit creativity? I have seen teams of Pokemon (in Pokemon you make a “team” of six pokemon in order to battle other “teams”) which appeared really poorly constructed, but which actually showed remarkably elaborate strategy. People take the games and are extremely creative in building their teams.  However, it can still be argued that they are still being creative within the confines of a set of rules, and therefore are not being actively creative, they are just taking advantage of someone else’s creation.

But aren’t children with blocks doing exactly the same thing? They are taking someone else’s creation and piling them up and perhaps creating remarkably elaborate castles and creating intricate stories of princes and princesses and dragons, but they are still doing so within the confines of the rules of the blocks. Perhaps the rules are simpler, and allow for more physical interpretations, but doesn’t Pokemon do basically the same thing? Sure, it has a storyline, and the end result is always basically the same, but within that storyline, you can do a TON of different stuff.

But how does it affect creativity on a grand scale? One could certainly argue that we see the result of the children who played with blocks. They are adults now, and they have been creating things for quite some time now, including…Pokemon? So Pokemon was just a creation by a person who played with blocks. It is the very embodiment of creativity.  Shouldn’t creativity spawn more creativity? And if a creative endeavor doesn’t spawn more creativity, then why create it in the first place?

In the end, creativity will still survive, and humans will be creating things for the rest of time.

Now, have a picture of Bellsprout with Nicolas Cage’s face.  (credit for the image here.)

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Hey look! Pokemon spawned creativity!

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MLA Formatting Help: Links

A couple of quick links to help you all with your MLA formatting for your final papers.

Purdue OWL

A sample paper (For those students who asked about how to incorporate images/illustrations into their paper, this sample paper shows how to add illustrations via an appendix)

A sample work cited

Basic rules for setting up a Work Cited Page

MLA

Frequently asked questions about MLA format

Finally, a list of formatting elements that you should double-check when you set up your document and again when you proofread your document:

Word Processor Formatting:

 BACK UP YOUR FILES AS YOU WORK

Everything is double spaced

 Space between paragraphs is normal (Paragraph -> Spacing between paragraphs -> After = 0)

 1 inch margins

 Left justified (not fully justified, which makes the spacing look strange)

 Font: Times New Roman, 12 point

Header: last name and page number in right corner (not in body of text)

 Heading includes full name, date, professor’s name, and class/section

 Title follows heading, centered. (no separate title page required)

 All paragraphs indented 1/2 inch (Standard tab, usually done automatically)

 Save document as .doc, .docx  or .PDF for submission

 File name has last name in it

Quotations/Citations

 All quotes, paraphrases and summaries have an in-text citation with author name and page number. Author’s name can appear in the text or in parenthetical citation.

 All quotes appear in quotation marks,

 All quotes longer than 4 lines appear as indented block quotes

 All quotes/paraphrases are from sources that appear in the work cited page

Works cited page

 Begins on a new page (insert page break)

 Title: Works Cited appears in center of first line

 Double space

 All entries should be in alphabetical order

 All entries have hanging indent (all but first line is indented 1/2 inch)

 Titles of books, magazines, websites and other large works are italicized

 Titles of articles, web pages, and other short works are appear in quotes

 If author has more than one entry in your Works Cited, list entries in alphabetical order by title. Use 3 hyphens in place of the author’s name for second and subsequent entries.

 All sources that appear in the work cited list should appear in your paper

Visuals/Charts (if using)

 All visual elements are fully interated into the text

 All visuals/charts are clearly labeled (i.e. Figure 1) and labels are used in text to refer to image being discussed.

 All visual elements are appropriately cited in the Work Cited page

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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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Final Paper: Children’s Books for Adults?

For my final paper, I plan on examining how children’s literature is often written for two audiences: children and adults. In stories such as Alice in Wonderland, “Little Red Riding Hood,” and Pinocchio.

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ImageLewis Carroll’s Alice novels can definitely be enjoyed by both little kids and adults alike. The whimsical nature of the text and the fancy of Wonderland appeal to children – it is a brand new world filled with magic, imagination, and adventures. Little kids can relate to Alice as she explores the wonders and awes of the new world. At the same time, the novels, especially Alice through the Looking Glass, are written in a manner that is filled with logic, politics, and even drug references. In this sense, adults can appreciate the subtle humor and adult themes. This website explores the theme of logic in the story.

In addition to Alice in Wonderland, fairy tales also have two audiences. Most notably, the story of “Little Red Riding Hood” contains adult imagery and themes that are most definitely not appropriate for little children. Many versions of the story involve the notions of a girl losing her virginity and the idea of male predators. However, little children will most likely not pick up on these mature themes and only take away the simple moral of the story – don’t talk to strangers.

Pinocchio also contains both adult and children’s themes. Little boys and girls are enthralled by the many adventures of the poor puppet who never seems to have success. They both pity and root for Pinocchio at the same time. Collodi also incorporates a political agenda throughout the novel. As we discussed in class, Collodi strived to unite Italy as a nation. Through Pinocchio, he advertises the importance of public education, family, and a career. Adults reading the story to their children will pick up on these references and hopefully adopt new attitudes. Image

Overall, children’s literature authors often incorporate adult ideas in order to appeal to both children and adults alike. In doing so, adults find entertainment and pleasure when reading this stories to their kids or if they are feeling a sense of nostalgia to their own childhood. I hope to further explore these adult references for each piece of literature and possibly get personal feedback from adults as to why children’s books still appeal to them.  

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Thoughts on my paper

In my final paper, I plan to talk about sibling families. The Five Children and It and Peter Pan and Wendy are British Golden Age works that feature groups of siblings going on adventures, rather than a solitary protagonist. I will be including The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis in my discussion. I intend to show that, under the stress of separation and adventure, groups of siblings form a replacement nuclear family structure in the absence of their actual parents. The older siblings will act parental, while the younger siblings will defer to them for protection and love.

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I just finished rereading and marking up The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, which was the book that gave me the thesis idea in the first place. I am pretty pleased with the results:  it appears as if my argument is right on track. The children are traumatically separated from their parents because of the “air-raids” of WWII (1). Though Lewis doesn’t dwell on the separation, Peter and Susan (the older of the four) immediately start directing the family. Peter sets to work cheering them all up, while Susan starts mothering until the ever irritable Edmund snaps at her for “trying to talk like Mother” (2).  The two older siblings direct activities, discipline Edmund, and seek the help of the Professor when they first hear of Lucy’s trip through the wardrobe. Interestingly, when Lucy’s siblings initially don’t believe her stories about Narnia, she grows frustrated and says “…you can write to Mother or you can do anything you like,” yet on the next page Peter muses that if anything is wrong “ [The Professor] will write to Father” (42, 43). Both children choose the parent of the same gender when discussing authority.

When Edmund accidentally goes through the wardrobe and encounters the Witch, she seeks his cooperation by speaking kindly and giving him food, drink and warmth – by taking care of him. She ensures his cooperation by tempting him with enchanted food, but perhaps Edmund is seeking a mother.  Once the four children cross into Narnia together, Peter leads the family, while Susan is constantly looking out for their material needs. It is she who suggests they take the coats from the wardrobe because Narnia is in the throes of winter, who wonders about the safety and availability of food in multiple situations (51, 56, 62). This parental behavior is suddenly scared out of them when they discover Edmund has betrayed them – Peter no longer has any idea what to do, and Susan abandons her concern with the family’s needs. Once they are with Aslan, he takes over the parenting – each sibling has a private moment alone with Aslan, after which they emerge wiser.

However, their actions also seem to be influenced by stereotypical gender roles and primogeniture. When they first meet Aslan, Peter realizes he must lead the family to him because he’s the “eldest” (123). Aslan then takes him off alone to show him “the whole country below them… where you are to be King,” while the girls are left behind (125).

Replace Simba with Peter and you've got it.

Replace Simba with Peter and you’ve got it.

Peter is to be “High King over all the rest” because he is “first-born” (126). Part of Edmund’s evil is that he wants to be more powerful than his siblings, especially “Peter” (85). Aslan specifically says that he does not mean for Susan and Lucy to fight in the battle, despite Lucy’s protestations that she “could be brave enough” because, Aslan says, “battles are ugly when women fight (105). The girls often speak in terms of emotion and feelings, while Peter speaks in logic and “strategems,” which is a very antiquated stereotype of male and female thinking (73).

My issue now is to figure out how to include the issue of age and gender roles. I was initially going to discuss acting parental as a behavior older siblings can choose to adopt when they are upset by the absence of their parents, but now it seems I should be looking into how societal and cultural pressures might be encouraging that behavior. Perhaps Peter and Susan act like parents because they are feeling the pressures of their genders to care for the younger ones and act in a certain gender-specific way, and perhaps Peter is feeling the pressure of being first-born when he chooses to head the siblings. I think I’ll see if I can find some research on gender roles, parenting and sibling-led families (this was common when parents had died) in the time period and see if it helps to clarify my discussion. I also have to keep in mind that this novel was published a later than the other two books in my paper, so I have to look into two different sets of cultural norms.

 

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Gay Theory and The Wizard of Oz

In Clark’s essay, “The Case of American Fantasy,” she mentions the popular idea, in LGBT sub-culture, that Dorothy’s companions are potentially homosexual, or at least not the stereotypical heterosexual man. There is a sense that the lion is ‘born to be a sissy,’ expressing that he is an effeminate male figure. This is obvious, perhaps, from his sensitive claws, upon touching the tin man’s body.
Within the sphere of gay culture, there are numerous types of gay men, include the term ‘Bears’, which are composed of a group of muscular, many looking men, who often possess quite a lot of chest hair, but tend to be quite tender at heart. It is not far fetched to claim that, if one were to look at The Wizard of Oz under such a lens, that the cowardly lion might fit into such a category.
Certainly, the idea of the tin man and the scarecrow, both men desiring what the other apparently has no need for, might be considered a good pair. To desire a mind, one might say is quite masculine; whereas to desire a heart is more effeminate. One could imagine a new family, with the tin man and the scarecrow as the parents, with the lion as perhaps the protective older brother.
Having not studied Baum’s life, it is difficult to discern whether or not he, himself, could have intended such a portrayal, but, regardless of whether or not it was intended, the fact that this vision is shared by many, is powerful in and of itself. It expresses the potential for such a family to exist, and raises social awareness of this homosexuality, and the homosexual family, in a non-threatening and pleasing manner, which can raise hope of acceptance.
Regardless of Baum’s intentions, in terms of homosexuality, his message about masculinity is clear. You do not have to be a handsome prince, of flesh and striking features, charm, wit, and courage to save the heroine; for even a tin man, a lion, and a scarecrow are worthy heroes.

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In Kelly Hager’s article, “Betsy and the Canon,” she explores the role of novels in the formation of the canon, and how the novels turn their audience into good readers. Hager uses the Betsy-Tacy series and Alcott’s Little Women as her primary examples, showing how various characters influence what books the protagonists read.  These characters, although fictional, have had a hand in the formation of the canon, through their selections of works for the protagonist.

These selections include such works as, Tales from ShakespeareDon QuixoteGulliver’s TravelsTom SawyerIvanhoeTwenty Thousand Leagues Under the SeaOliver TwistThe Grapes of WrathAnimal FarmPlutarch’s LivesPilgrim’s Progress, and other works by the likes of Ernest Hemingway, Charles Dickens, Thomas Hardy, and William Faulkner.

These works are deemed “acceptable” for young girls to read.  But what most of them have in common is that they were not necessarily written with children as the intended audience, and none of them speak to children as less intelligent than adults–none of them speak down to them.  Why, then, are they “acceptable” reading for young children? Shouldn’t children read books that are for children? Aren’t these all books for adults? The Grapes of Wrath, for instance, has several deaths, and ends with a woman breastfeeding a grown man, and Gulliver’s Travels deals with such subjects as public urination.  I could speak for months on the inappropriateness of William Shakespeare (among the least racy of his credits is the invention of the “your mom” joke).

My argument is that these books are appropriate for children specifically because they do not speak down to them.  They actually prepare children for reading and writing in the adult world, not to mention teaching them how to interact with other people.  The books do not treat children as if they are less intelligent that adults, but rather expect them to learn the reading skills required of an adult–looking up words in the dictionary, using context clues, and, in extreme cases, dealing with adult topics such as death and sex.

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The Canon and Child Rearing Today

Upon reading the article “Betsy and the Canon,” I found myself feeling slightly disconnected. While I had experienced the often loathsome summer reading assignments, and was assigned several enticing pieces of literature in the last half of high school, that I would argue are listed as canonical works; I don’t remember being encouraged to read certain novels over others, specifically because they were something suitable for a young girl my age. In elementary school, I recall the reading level system, where certain books were color coded based on difficulty, and each student was awarded points based on how many books he or she read and how challenging they were compared to his or her grade level. However, no teacher ever specifically said ‘read this, don’t read this; beware of trash’ or impressed the idea of the canon onto me until I was at least in middle school, if not beyond.

In the article, Kelly Hager emphasizes the point that we have been noticing upon looking at the fairy tales and these early works of Children’s Literature: that canonical literature for children serves the purpose of impressing proper behavior and shaping the intellect of a fine young woman or gentleman. Kelly Hager mentions reading books such as Little Women and Anne of Green Gables repeatedly, as well as the canonical lists mentioned within those novels, and her article seems to give one a sense that she expects that those reading her article have also read these series and avidly chased down these lists of canonical texts.

While I have read Little Women, most of the books that were mentioned in the article I had never heard of. The authors I am familiar with, but I admit that I have not read many of their works. What then, instructed me on proper behavior? Was it perhaps television shows such as “Sesame Street”? How are children, these days, being taught what is proper behavior? How are they being taught to discern between ‘trashy novels’ and literature of the canon? Is there even as great of an emphasis on one’s need to read such texts over another, outside of English classrooms?

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Grammar Post: Tips for Reading Difficult Materials

Reading material in college is likely to be much more difficult then reading assignments in high school.  You will often be confronted with readings that are dense, full of jargon or specialized information and difficult to understand.  These readings might be assigned by your instructor or you might come across them in your own research.

Don’t be afraid of these difficult texts!

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With a little practice and the tips below, you can master any writing, no matter how difficult.  Try each of these tips and varying combinations to discover which ones work best for you: remember; every student reads and learns differently so what works for your friends might not work for you.  Most importantly, be patient.  Give yourself a break: no one understands everything the first time around.  It may take you some time to discover what works best for you.

Tips: Read the rest of this entry »

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