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SEL8685 : Children's Literature and Black Britain

  • Offered for Year: 2021/22
  • Module Leader(s): Professor Karen Sands-O'Connor
  • Owning School: English Lit, Language & Linguistics
  • Teaching Location: Newcastle City Campus
Semester 1 Credit Value: 20
ECTS Credits: 10.0


The history of children's literature in Britain is intimately connected with Black British history. Although children's books and a Black British community existed prior to the 18th century, both gained prominence in the public consciousness in the late 18th century, as (on the one hand) John Newbery and other publishers began producing books specifically for children, and (on the other hand) the battle over the abolition of slavery began to increase momentum. In this module, we will explore the history of children's literature about, by, and for Black Britons, beginning with the early abolitionist literature and continuing to contemporary times. In so doing, we will consider issues of representation, voice and agency; and examine how this history differs from other national discourses on diverse representation (particularly the American context), and from adult literature by, for, and about Black Britons. By using different methodologies and theoretical approaches, we will aim to place children's literature about Black Britons into a wider historical and cultural context; trace elements of historical depictions of Black Britons (positive and negative) in more modern children's literature; and understand and further scholarship on the unique aspects of this literature.

Outline Of Syllabus

This module will introduce students to some of the key scholarship on children's literature and Black Britain, offering theoretical and historical perspectives on the field. Students will have the opportunity to explore a range of texts for children, from the historical to the contemporary, and to consider different approaches to the field through a series of scholarly 'case studies' introduced by SELLL scholars. The focus of the module will evolve from year to year in line with staff specialisms and new work in the field.

Students will be encouraged to consider how their own disciplinary and personal perspectives might shape their approach to the subject, and the module will offer them the opportunity to develop key professional skills.

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Structured Guided LearningLecture materials72:0014:00N/A
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion164:3064:30N/A
Guided Independent StudyDirected research and reading148:0048:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching111:0011:00N/A
Structured Guided LearningStructured non-synchronous discussion111:3016:30Discussion boards
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesWorkshops13:003:00Peer review of essay drafts
Guided Independent StudyStudent-led group activity71:007:00student led group work through preparatory seminar tasks
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesDrop-in/surgery81:008:00N/A
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study74:0028:00N/A
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

In terms of scheduled learning and teaching activities, the lectures will provide necessary background and context as well as introduction of theoretical and critical ideas; small group teaching will allow students to practice working with the ideas presented in new texts and contexts. Similarly, student-led group activities and peer review will give them the opportunity to present and discuss their ideas on the subject. Readings, assessments, and independent study will help concretize material and concepts introduced in class.

Assessment Methods

The format of resits will be determined by the Board of Examiners

Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Essay1A803000 words for MA
Reflective log1A10summative reflection on course participation; 500 words for MAs
Report1M10Oral report in seminar based on critical course material.
Formative Assessments
Description Semester When Set Comment
Reflective log1Mweekly discussion board posts
Written exercise1Mpeer review of essay drafts
Research proposal1MN/A
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

The oral report will give students the opportunity to analyse and evaluate critical approaches to course material.

The summative reflection will require students to consider their contribution to their own and others' learning over the course of the module; it will take into account the weekly discussion board posts and their interaction with peers and the course instructor throughout the module.

The final 3000 word essay will build on the material presented in the course. The long form essay encourages students to pursue the intricacies of the topics/texts investigated on the module, and to develop arguments and forms of independent critical thinking appropriate at MA level.

Reading Lists