Modernism and Childhood (Q3267)

15 credits, Level 5

Autumn teaching

This module will examine the role of childhood in British and American literary modernism, as well as the role of modernity in childhood, with an emphasis on US culture. Many modernist authors were fascinated by childhood and wrote books intended for children; meanwhile, scientific and pedagogical theories of childhood – prescriptive, descriptive, and everything in between – proliferated, revealing the degree to which childhood has always been subject to historical and cultural contingencies.

We will explore ideas like cuteness, innocence, play, and learning as they were constructed in the early twentieth century, and the roles that they played in the overlap between modernism and children’s literature. We will touch on some canonical children’s literature (Winnie-the-Pooh, A Child’s Garden of Verses) and some canonical modernist literature (Harmonium, Tender Buttons), as well as some literature that fits neither category very comfortably. We will also devote significant portions of the module to understanding psychoanalysis, both as a critical tool and as a set of powerful primary texts of modern childhood.


100%: Seminar


100%: Coursework (Essay)

Contact hours and workload

This module is 150 hours of work. This breaks down into 24 hours of contact time and 126 hours of independent study.

This module is running in the academic year 2018/19. We also plan to offer it in future academic years. It may become unavailable due to staff availability, student demand or updates to our curriculum. We’ll make sure to let our applicants know of such changes to modules at the earliest opportunity.


This module is offered on the following courses: