nl en

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 inevitable age gap. To this end, authors often make use of focalisation 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, depending on the cultural context, 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 cultural, historical, and theoretical approach, combining children’s and young adult 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 literary and cultural analytical theory. Critical attention is also paid to film adaptations.

Course objectives

This course aims to:

A) Offer students a historical and theoretical introduction to some central debates in the field of children’s and young adult literature;
B) Provide them with the analytical skills necessary to test their own readings against the critical issues raised.

On completion of this course students are able to:

  • Analyse children’s and young adult texts, making critical use of the approaches and theories offered;

  • Share their research orally, through presentations and classroom discussion, as well as in writing, through papers and contributions to online discussion;

  • Set up a research project independently, collect and assess critical sources, and offer peer feedback;

  • Reflect critically on their own position as readers and researchers.


The timetables are available through My Timetable.

Mode of instruction


Assessment method


A) Guided reading assignments, participation in classroom and Brightspace discussions, oral presentation;
B) Midterm paper;
C) Participation in concluding symposium involving presentation of topic final paper;
D) Final paper.

Research MA students will be required to submit an expanded final writing assignment, both in terms of size and bibliography


  • Midterm paper: 30%
  • 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.

Inspection and feedback

How and when a paper review will take place will be disclosed together with the publication of the paper results at the latest. If a student requests a review within 30 days after publication of the paper results, an paper review will have to be organised.

Reading list

A selection of theoretical readings will be made available via Brightspace.

Titles to be purchased individually: to be announced.


Enrollment trough uSis is mandatory. If you have any questions, please contact the departmental office, email:

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

not applicable


  • For substantive questions, contact the lecturer listed in the right information bar.

  • For questions about enrolment, admission, etc, contact the Education Administration Office: Arsenaal