Fictionalising Childhood

Course Dates: 11/05/22 - 29/06/22
Time: 18:00 - 20:00
Location: Online
This course will introduce and examine a range of fictional texts in an exploration of representations of childhood and pertinent themes like journeys, home, and identity. Reading books from the First Golden Age (Victorian to Early Twentieth Century), including Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland to contemporary works (Harry Potter), we will consider how literary narratives respond to cultural debates that construct childhood identity as a site of innocence.
This course will be delivered online. See the ‘What is the course about?’ section in course details for more information.
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Full fee £159.00 Senior fee £159.00 Concession £97.00

This course has now started

Course Code: HLT211

Started Wed, eve, 11 May - 29 Jun '22

Duration: 8 sessions (over 8 weeks)

Please note: We offer a wide variety of financial support to make courses affordable. Just visit our online Help Center for more information on a range of topics including fees, online learning and FAQs.

What is the course about?

This online literature course will allow us to think about children’s fiction beyond nostalgic notions of childhood and will address key themes and issues, such as social class, gender, fantasy, journeys, ecology, nationhood, narrator and character. We will also examine ways in which literary texts engage with and often debate Romantic ideals of childhood innocence which were perpetuated in Victorian fiction and beyond. A range of books will be considered as we travel from the first Golden Age and conclude with more recent works. Rather than perceiving childhood to be a coherent and inherent time, we will explore the cultural conditioning of such a pivotal phase in an individual’s consciousness.

We will also investigate ways these texts do not necessarily passively reflect and reproduce idealised childhood but, on the contrary, may well intervene and actively subvert them. We will also determine ways in which children’s texts can be analysed in a similar manner as any adult literature, so shifting reader perceptions beyond nostalgia and simplicity.

This is a live online course. You will need:
- Internet connection. The classes work best with Chrome.
- A computer with microphone and camera is best (e.g. a PC/laptop/iMac/MacBook), or a tablet/iPad/smart phone/iPhone if you don't have a computer.
- Earphones/headphones/speakers.
We will contact you with joining instructions before your course starts.

What will we cover?

During this course, a selection of classic and contemporary children’s fiction will be read. During these online classes, we will discuss the literary texts by focussing upon elements like themes, characters, setting, narrator, endings, journeys, paratext, censorship, etc. We will determine to what extent we consider each novel to be successful in its function as a fictional work. Some themes we will explore include the importance of the imagination and creativity in childhood and children’s fiction, boundaries between familiar and unfamiliar worlds, the narrative voice, the concept of home, the quest or journey, friendship, maturation, and the importance of landscapes.

Reading and discussion will be focussed upon the following texts: Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There; Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden; Ursula Le Guin, A Wizard of Earthsea; J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.

What will I achieve?
By the end of this course you should be able to...

-Have an understanding of the significance of children’s literature and issues of childhood through an introduction to a range of literary texts and critical reading.
-Have a comprehension of sociohistorical issues by examining fiction within its moment of production
-Gain an understanding of major themes raised within these works, including the concept of childhood itself.
-Attain an overall sense of the role and significance of children’s fiction across genres and times, including a knowledge of the ways in which it has interacted with broader cultural trends in Western culture, including Enlightenment, Romantic, and Victorian constructions of childhood.
-Become a critical rather than passive reader of children’s fiction.

What level is the course and do I need any particular skills?

While an interest in or even passion for literature (including children’s fiction) is desirable, no previous skills are required for this course. You will have a willingness to do preparatory reading before each class, to listen and respond respectably to others, and to participate in class discussions.

How will I be taught, and will there be any work outside the class?

This class will be held over eight weeks. Each session will be divided into an interactive short lecture with power point, as well as large and small group workshop and discussion focussing on the text in more detail. Class preparation in advance is required by reading the set texts and any supplementary critical reading provided for that week.

Are there any other costs? Is there anything I need to bring?

Please purchase or borrow the following books. I have recommended publisher editions below, but if you already have a different copy that is fine. Just be sure you acquire an unabridged version.

Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden – (Wordsworth Classics, 2018 or Collins Classics, 2017)

Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland; and Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There – recommended that you buy Martin Gardner (ed.), The Annotated Alice (Penguin, 2001) because both Alice books are contained in this edition and there are some helpful notes.

Ursula LeGuin, A Wizard of Earthsea (Puffin, 2016).

J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (Bloomsbury, 2014).

Additional critical material will be provided by the tutor.

When I've finished, what course can I do next?

Look for other Fiction courses at under history, culture & writing/literature/fiction.

Fiona McCulloch

Fiona McCulloch is a Literature academic, specialising in Children’s Literature, Young Adult Fiction, Scottish Literature, Contemporary British Fiction, Women’s Writing, Victorian Literature, Twentieth-Century Literature, Cosmopolitanism, Posthumanism, and Ecocriticism. She was Lynn Wood Neag Distinguished Visiting Professor of British Literature at the University of Connecticut in 2015. As well as publishing several peer-reviewed journal articles, her books include Contemporary British Children’s Fiction and Cosmopolitanism (2017), Cosmopolitanism in Contemporary British Fiction: Imagined Identities (2012), Children’s Literature in Context (2011), and The Fictional Role of Childhood in Victorian and Early Twentieth-Century Children’s Literature (2004). She also writes poetry and is published in Northwords, Mechanics Institute Review Online, Lumpen, and Dreich (forthcoming).

Please note: We reserve the right to change our tutors from those advertised. This happens rarely, but if it does, we are unable to refund fees due to this. Our tutors may have different teaching styles; however we guarantee a consistent quality of teaching in all our courses.