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Of Witches and Wardrobes: Three Paradoxes of Children's Literature


Admission requirements

No additional admission requirements


Virtually all children’s literature is based on the same rhetorical paradox: while targeting a youthful audience it springs from an adult imagination that needs to deploy particular communicative strategies to bridge or, as the case may be, smooth over the potential age gap. To this end authors often make use of focalization and/or narration by a youthful or non-human protagonist. A second paradox concerns the fact that children’s stories, while presented as entertainment, usually have a didactic design on their young audience which has to remain more or less implicit if it is to be successful. Finally – and here, a third paradox presents itself – children’s literature has proved notoriously difficult to define as a genre; a problem that is attested by varying marketing strategies, and that has only become more evident with the emergence of more recent genres such as young adult and crossover literature.
This course seeks to explore the above paradoxes through a historical and theoretical approach, combining children’s books from different parts of the world written from the 19th century to the present (including comics and graphic novels) with a selection of readings in genre theory, narratology, and rhetoric.

Course objectives

This course aims
A. to offer students a historical and theoretical introduction to some central debates in the field of children’s literature, and
B. to provide them with the analytical skills necessary to test their own readings in children’s literature against the critical issues raised.


Timetable on the website

Mode of instruction


Course Load

The total workload for this course is 280 hours, to be distributed as follows: – Course attendance 14 × 3 hours a week = 42 – Course preparation (guided reading assignments, presentations, participation in Blackboard discussions) ca. 160 – Preparation graded assignments (midterm paper, final paper) ca. 78

Assessment method

A. Guided reading assignments, participation in classroom and Blackboard discussions, oral presentation
B. Midterm paper (30%)
C. Final paper (70%)
Please note that participation in the assignments listed under A., which will not be graded, is requisite. Failure to fulfil this requirement will result in the deduction of one point from the final grade.
Should the weighted average of the midterm paper and the final paper yield an insufficient grade, then the student will be offered an opportunity for revising the final paper.


Blackboard will be used to provide students with an overview of current affairs, as well as specific information about (components of) the course.

Reading list

  • A selection of theoretical readings will be made available via Blackboard – Titles to be purchased individually: to be announced.


Enrollement trough uSis is mandatory. If you have any questions, please contact the departmental office, tel. 071 5272144 or mail:

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs NVT

Contact details

Media Studies student administration, P.N. van Eyckhof 4, room 102C. Tel. 071 5272144;

Coordinator of studies: Mr. J. Donkers, MA, P.N. van Eyckhof 3, room 1.01b.