LIT 4334: The Golden Age of Children's Literature

Critical Text Analysis of Little Red Riding Hood

Maria Tartar’s edited version of The Classic Fairy Tales sparked a new interest in me of the story of Little Red Riding Hood, and the symbolism portrayed in that tale. According to Tartar, the act of Red Riding Hood getting into the bed with wolf was a metaphor for the act of losing one’s virginity. The problem with this interpretation, as pointed out by the Introduction, is that some variations have Little Red getting in the bed and some have her figure out the wolf’s tricks before she does.

Little Red Riding Hood Illustration

Little Red Riding Hood Illustration

This detail is crucial because it would signify, if the metaphor was constant across variations, that some Little Reds lost their virginity while others still protected it. If this is the case, why did some girls outwit the wolf quickly enough and keep their innocence?

According to Tartar, this was entirely a matter of choice on the part of the girl. She believes that no girl could possibly be dumb enough to believe a hairy wolf was her grandmother; therefore, it was her repressed or unspoken desire to get into bed with the wolf. This would mean that the authors who had their characters get into the bed were suggesting that each willing lost her innocence to the wolf.

Little Red Riding Hood and the Wolf

Little Red Riding Hood and the Wolf

This is a strong statement on female sexuality, and a statement on how women are actively involved in the quest for sex and not merely victims sought out by men. From what I’ve read about society during the time period that most of these stories were written, this is a very risky message to send to little girls who were raised to act as objects and to be owned by their husbands. It was a progressive mind set that gave the idea that women sought out sex in similar ways as men.

This is a relatively hard topic to discuss in a children’s book, so my more simple belief is that Little Red outwitting the wolf is more of a coming of age mark that does not necessarily have to do with the act of sex, but the act of recognizing the pursuit of man. It is the age when girls start to recognize that boys are pursuing them, which comes at different ages for all girls just like it comes at a different time for Little Red in each variation. It is a time when girls lose their innocence because they begin to recognize their femininity. It is the act of women realizing the lengths men will go to get women into bed, but learning how to trick or outmaneuver them in this quest. The act of sex can still be inferred from this interpretation, but sex is not the only act that could mark the loss of innocence in the story.

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Hey ya’ll I’m Kaley Nesvacil and I am from Lakeland, FL which is in between Tampa and Orlando. I am a fourth year English major with a Professional Teaching minor. I am graduating in December and I plan on either becoming an elementary teacher or starting an English school at a church in Jaco, Costa Rica.

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I decided to take The Golden Age of Children’s Literature because I wanted to learn about books that I could possibly be using in my curriculum during the future. Being that I want to teach elementary school I thought it would be a good idea to familiarize myself with classic children’s books. I also am taking this class to meet my graduation requirements. But at least I am able to take a fun class to fulfill that need! I hope to gain knowledge in what is acceptable for children to read today. I want my students and future children to be able to enjoy reading with a book that stands the tests of time. 

The book I look forward to reading the most is actually the one we are reading this week. I love fairy tales like The Beauty and the Beast, Snow White, and Cinderella; reading different versions of the stories is fascinating. Reading it so far has been fun  because the stories are completely different from the sugar-coated Disney tales and it has been very refreshing!  I must say the part of the syllabus I am not looking forward to is reading some of the critical articles. I am not much of a non-fiction reader so the notion of having to read a non-fiction article each week is not very exciting to me. But I am hoping to learn something from it.

When I think of children’s literature I think of books like Cat in the Hat, Junie B. Jones, Clifford the Big Red Dog, and The Boxcar Children or books that I was interested in as a child. But thinking back on those short stories and small novels, I have realized that they are full of adventure and fun things but many times give a moral lesson at the end. The character always evolves at the end of the novel and learns something about life. When I think of the term “children’s literature” I think of books for children that inspire imagination but also good judgement and small life lessons. As for “golden age” I believe this refers to the time period when many of the famous stories we have read were written and published. I think it was the apex of children’s literature, the time when the “classics” were read by children all over Western civilization.


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Introductory Blog Post: Cody Smith

Hey everyone! My name is Cody Smith and I am from Tampa, Florida. I graduated from Robinson High School in the IB program and obtained my IB diploma. I am currently studying for an English major (which I recently changed from Criminology) and soon a Spanish minor as a sophomore in regard to my year, but as a junior in regard to my credit hours. I plan to become a teacher of English, either as a high school teacher (which I also plan to attempt to reform our system of education) or a professor. If I achieve that goal, I also plan on writing on the side in hopes to publishing my poetry and/or narrative works. I still haven’t decided which graduate school I want to attend, but a few more years to think about it will help me narrow the decision. On a more personal note, I love music, movies, books, and writing. I love attending music festivals and concerts and make a note to read all of the best books and watch all of the best movies ever year.

I am taking this course primarily for two reasons: to take a class 3000 level or higher to adhere to my critical tracking and to learn more about a largely underrated section of literature. Since I haven not taken an English course since fall of Freshman year, I feel as though my writing and reading skills have gotten rusty. This class involves plenty of writing and reading, which I hope will aid me in bolstering my skill as a writer and ease me into my old reading habits and improve upon my concentration level as I read. I am interested in learning more about Alice and Wonderland, Peter Pan, and Pinocchio, the former of which I read in the past and loved.

My idea of “Children’s Literature” entails a text’s ability to not only entertain children but to also teach them about life, whether the story involves a moral lesson or a warning disguised as a conflict. In addition, I believe children’s literature should aim to entertain adults and perhaps reinforce what they already know about life (or even enlighten them about an idea they may not have considered). If I had to pick a favorite Children’s book, I would probably pick Alice in Wonderland for its nonsensical plot line and themes. I have yet to take a class about children’s literature, but I am still very excited to read all the books and learn more about the subject matter. For me the term “Golden Age” hearkens back to an idea where all media and thought represent an apex of quality and innovation, which possesses much greater influence over every subsequent time period up until another golden age. I wonder, though, what exactly contributes to a golden age, particularly the time period surrounding it and the lives of the authors.

Here’s a picture of me from Freshman year, still looks a lot like me:


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Hi, I’m NOT Peter Pan, But I AM Aaron Peter P.

Hello there,

I’m Aaron of course; Aaron Peter P.; Aaron Pirkkala; but they all mean close to the same thing: just Me. You may not know Me (and I’m only just now sort of figuring out myself as well), but I will tell you only remotely as to what I have so far discovered:

I am a writer at heart. I adore writing as an escape to all the world’s worries and woes, allowing my quirky imagination to run its daily exercise (though, in doing so, I myself haven’t exercised in forever).

Anyways, so I love to write–not the biggest of surprises, as we are all in a children’s literature class, which takes me to my next point…

I’m not an avid reader. The only time in my life when reading was prevalent and routine was in 5th grade, due to a competition that my 5th grade teacher held for the class–and this fellow classmate of mine who loved and loved to read and read all day was taking all the glory (and stubborn Me cannot suffice to being outsmarted and outnumbered [competition was based on the conglomerate of pages read] by someone in my age-group, my grade-level, and in my class). So I battled her for many nights and days on end. Words began to slip upon words, sentences began tripping on other sentences–sometimes skipping to lines and lines below, and pages would somehow leave splinters upon my tongue. But I didn’t care, and in the end… I think I won? Or we both came close–I’m not sure. But I use this example in order for you to understand that: I am both stubborn and hard headed, for I will read only when forced to (even if I am being forced to read voluntarily for a class-held competition).

Don’t be mistaken though, for I do enjoy reading… once again. Only recently upon my attendance to UF, due to the English courses that I’ve been taking, I have regained a once acquainted love for reading–for my Beginning Fiction Writing teacher last semester many times said to me, “It is a shame you do not read! You have so much potential. You write very well!” And with that, I promised him to read to my best potential. By taking the Golden Age to Children’s Literature, I’m going to be forced to read lots and lots: stories that remind me of the childhood days–though, in my childhood I never took the time to read them. Stories of fantasy and far-off adventures that provide humanity with an escape from humanity, and provide children with increasingly cherished childhoods (And I’m quite the child myself).

And so it goes without saying (at least, repeating), that this class will not only force me to read pages and pages of lovely children’s fiction (and once again prevent me from my New Year’s resolution of adequate exercise), but will also aid in my passion for writing, as I intend to be a publishing author of, not only children’s novels, but of novels that everyone in all ranges of age, intelligence, and diversity, as well as all intensities of escape-envy- and story-hungry souls can consume time and time again; better said, to write a masterpiece such as that of Harry Potter, The Hunger Games, The Chronicles of Narnia, or The Lord of the Rings would be a career worth creating and a life worth living (within a world worth wondering).

So with that said, you probably know a lot more about me; though, I haven’t quite hit the climax. You see, I have many philosophies. Many many. All appropriate. And all of which I intend to distill throughout future novels that I write. For I fear that too many people live too seriously within the world. Too many people look at tomorrow with pessimism and insecurity and almost always neglect all the great and positive things that are going for them; overlooking what one does in fact have rather than what one lacks. In doing so, people themselves are the cause of many of their own troubles–much of their sadness resulting from their low-down look at the world and their current status as well as their pessimistic perception of what the future has–for them–in store.

Why am I telling you this?

To get to know a bit more about me… I am an optimistic. And one of the main reasons why I wish to be a writer in this lifetime and the next is to convey to others a life worth living within the life they are already living. Beauty almost always goes missed in the world, or will very blindly be treated as “ugly.” And what “ugly” does exist–exists only in the mind of the beholder; the mind of the creator who assumed such “ugliness.”

Anyways, now you know some more about Me–or Aaron Peter P. To sum it up:

  • I’m stubborn
  • I like to write
  • I’m not an avid reader
  • I am taking this class to grow as a reader and writer as well as to expand my imagination
  • One day I shall be a novelist
  • My dream is to construct classics
  • I live primarily for others
  • I have many essentially-positive philosophies in which I live by

Here are some links I treasure

Because the beauty of trees inspires both my imagination and thrill for adventure, here are amazing photographs of leaves and bark, with links to some very exquisite photographs of trees at the very bottom of the page:

Leaves and Bark

And here is a link worth exploring–in all its exoticism. Beautiful and breathtaking birds:

Exotic Birds

Picture time!

Me cleaning up trash on a Ft. Lauderdale beach

Me striking a very epic pose whilst cleaning up trash on a Ft. Lauderdale beach

And this is me attempting to be a Hipster

And this is me attempting to be a Hipster

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Rebekah’s Introduction

I am Rebekah Fitzsimmons and as you know, I am the instructor for this course.  I am a PhD candidate in the English department and I have been at UF for 5.5 years.  This is the first time I have taught Lit 4334, but I have taught many other classes, including ENC 1101, ENC 1102, AML 2070  and AML 2410.  I specialize in children’s literature, cultural studies and American literature.

I am originally from New England: I was born in Connecticut and went to high school in Pleasantville, NY (and no, it is nothing like the movie.)  For my undergrad, I attended Emory University in Atlanta, GA.  I majored in English and Creative Writing.  After I graduated, I worked for their Office of International Affairs as an event coordinator before applying to graduate school.

My masters thesis was on best seller lists and the “Harry Potter effect” in 2000, when the New York Times created a separate children’s literature best seller list because Harry Potter 1, 2, 3 and 4 were taking up too much space on the “real” best seller list.  My dissertation is (so far) about the ways in which experts in the publishing and child rearing industries have changed the definition of children’s literature in order to suit their own needs.  My aim is to graduate with a PhD in Children’s Literature in the spring of 2014, then go on to teach English and Children’s literature at the university level.

The major question on my mind while I designed the syllabus for the class was: “Who gets to decide which books become a classic?”  The Golden Age of Children’s literature is generally thought of as a time of immense production of literature aimed at children but many of the books that we consider to be children’s literature classics were written during this time.  I am curious to think though some questions about the canonization process, social hierarchies and various forms of expertise that allow an individual or an organization (like the American Library Association) to give awards, recommend texts and deem a book to be “a classic.”  Over the course of the semester, I hope we will question the meaning of that very word, “classic” and come to understand what people really mean when they use it to describe a work of children’s literature.

Just as you all have goals for your writing, I am also working towards some very serious writing goals.  I have been working on an academic article about The Hunger Games for a year or so, and I am hoping to submit it for publication this year.  I am also working on the second chapter of my dissertation.  I am very much looking forward to this semester, as I hope you are too!

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Hi everyone!

My name is Abigail Davis but feel free to call me Abbie. I’m a second year English major and it’s safe to say that I am addicted to books, anywhere I stay for too long inevitably ends up with books stacked on every available surface, not to mention the floor! I’m from Lakeland, Florida where as a child I would go on backyard explorations and frequent trips to Disney. I’m not sure yet what I would like to do after I graduate but for now I’m enjoying trying different things and narrowing down my options.

My main reason for taking this class is that I hope to focus on Children’s literature while I am at UF and after taking Children’s Literature with Professor John Cech last semester I couldn’t wait to take more courses in that area. As a child some of my favorite books to read were Inkheart by Cornelia Funke and any fairy tales I could get my hands on really. I’m looking forward to studying The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and The Princess and the Goblin this semester, I love the Wizard of Oz movie and I’m interested to make that comparison. I’m hoping to improve my writing skills this semester, as well as my knowledge on the topic. The part of the syllabus that worries the most is the annotated bibliography and the final research paper, besides a senior thesis in high school I’ve never written a research paper so that fazes me a little.

When I think of ‘children’s literature” I generally think of books with brightly colored covers that entertain children, like the books I read as a child. Children’s literature is a fairly broad classification in my opinion. On one level you can have the classic Tom Sawyer, another could have the beloved picture book and yet another could have graphic novels like Maus. I think “Golden Age” refers to a time when children’s literature really flourished and was accepted in society, when people began to care about what their children were reading and that was reflected in the rich books that were published. I would like to know exactly what books can be considered in this age and how they earned the title of  the Golden Age of children’s literature.

Here is a link to a pretty interesting blog I’ve been following for awhile now, Once Upon A Blog. The author has some really cool insights on fairy tales in pop culture though you may have to dig around her site, she hasn’t posted anything new for awhile now. I thought this could be a cool site for anyone who’s interested to poke around on, especially since we’re reading The Classic Fairy Tales. Hope you all enjoy it and I’ll see you in class!

Abigail Davis

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Cristina Paneque Introductory Blog

My name is Cristina Paneque and I am a senior journalism major and English minor. I am originally from Miami and was the first member of my family born in the United States. I am graduating this May and plan on attending law school next fall. Aside from academics I am very active at the University of Florida. I am the treasurer of the Study Abroad Peer Advisors in the International Center, the social director of Phi Alpha Delta Pre-law Fraternity, on the Phi Alpha Delta Mock Trial team, and on three different dance teams at Salsa Caliente Dance Studios.

I took this course because all the other literature classes I’ve taken have focused on one geographical region, such as British literature, Latino and Chicano Literature, and Greek and Roman Mythology. In this class I hope to focus on literature for an age group but across several regions. The skills I am hoping to improve are my critical reading and evaluating skills.

The books I am most looking forward to reading are the stories in The Classic Fairy Tales because I am interested to see how these versions differ from the Disney ones, and also because the Disney stories were a huge part of my childhood. The part of the syllabus that most worries me is the reading quizzes, because there are no make-ups even for legitimate excuses. I hope to not have to miss class so I can get these points.

My idea of children’s literature is short stories that leave an impression on children’s behavior. Also, I imagine a large part of children’s literature as fantasy stories. My favorite fantasy children’s stories have always been Where The Wild Things Are and all of the Disney princess stories. I’ve never taken a class on children’s literature before, but I hope to learn more about the Golden Age, and what about this time period contributed to the production of today’s classics. I want to learn about how the economic and cultural circumstances in both Britain and America changed the content of children’s literature.



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