Module and Programme Catalogue

Search site

Find information on

2022/23 Undergraduate Module Catalogue

ENGL2209 Where the Wild Things Are: Animals in Children’s Literature

20 creditsClass Size: 30

School of English

Module manager: Dr Richard De Ritter

Taught: Semester 2 (Jan to Jun) View Timetable

Year running 2022/23

Module replaces

ENGL32122 Where the Wild Things Are: Animals in Children's Literature

This module is not approved as a discovery module

Module summary

From its emergence as a commercially and culturally recognisable genre of writing in the mid-eighteenth century to its popularity in the present day, children’s literature has repeatedly featured representations of animal life. From Sarah Trimmer’s family of talking robins to the sufferings of Anna Sewell’s Black Beauty, for centuries writers have drawn upon a perceived affinity between children and animals. Frequently, animals provide a convenient stand-in for humans: writing about them offers a means of naturalising social, national, and racial hierarchies. But placing animals at the centre of children’s literature can also blur the natural and cultural boundaries that are thought to divide the human and the non-human.In this module we will investigate the motivations for, and the implications of, this persistent turn to the non-human. We will explore the various guises that animals take in children’s literature, and consider the ethical and cognitive challenges involved in writing about them. To gain a critical perspective on these issues, we will refer to a range of critical and theoretical contexts, including eighteenth-century philosophy, nineteenth-century science, and contemporary animal studies. We will also chart how children’s literature has evolved over the last two and a half centuries, and consider how those generic developments reflect an enduring interest in the ways that we think about non-human animals and ourselves.


This objectives of this module are:
• To provide students with an understanding of the historical development of children’s literature as a genre, from the eighteenth century to the present;
• To introduce students to the field of Animal Studies and to enable them to bring the critical perspectives it offers to the study of literature;
• To introduce students to the ideological and ethical dimensions of writing for children;
• To explore how children’s literature has used the figure of ‘the animal’ to comment on ideas of racial, gender, and species difference.

Learning outcomes
By the end of the module, students will:
1. Be able to display an awareness of the generic evolution of children’s literature;
2. Have gained a critical vocabulary for discussing the literary representation of non-human animals;
3. Be able to make informed judgements about the aesthetic and ethical implications of the depiction of non-human animals;
4. Be able to express complex arguments in the form of a scholarly essay;
5. Have developed research skills, including the retrieval of information, the organisation of material and the evaluation of its importance.

Skills outcomes
Textual analysis; research skills; interdisciplinary thinking


At the start of the module, students will be introduced to two key critical contexts: children’s literature as an area of academic study and the field of animal studies. This will be achieved through lectures and selected secondary reading which will be discussed in seminars.
The module will proceed by examining texts under the following four headings:
• Origins (exploring eighteenth-century children’s literature alongside the philosophical writings of figures such as Descartes and Locke);
• Race and Empire;
• Companionship and Cruelty;
• Commodification and Extinction.
A lecture will be dedicated to introducing each theme in relation to the set texts on the module. Key ideas will be developed further through selected secondary reading and seminar discussion. In most cases, each theme will bring together texts from different historical periods.
Students will also be asked to work in pairs to provide short, unassessed presentations on selected texts (the details of this will be worked out in the first week of the semester).

Teaching methods

Delivery typeNumberLength hoursStudent hours
Private study hours185.00
Total Contact hours15.00
Total hours (100hr per 10 credits)200.00

Private study

Students will prepare for seminars by reading a range of primary and secondary texts. Their reading will be guided by detailed seminar preparation, which will be posted on Minerva in advance of each class.
Students’ preparatory reading will also form part of the preparation they undertake for the unassessed presentations. Planning for the presentation will also require students to communicate effectively with one another outside of seminars.
For each assignment, the students will be provided with a set of essay questions but also encouraged to formulate their own essay title/question (supported by the module convenor). They will also be required to make use of the module reading list to engage in independent research.

Opportunities for Formative Feedback

Students will receive verbal feedback on their contributions to seminar discussions and on their informal, unassessed presentations. Additionally, consultation time will be made available during which students can discuss, and receive verbal feedback on, their plans for their assignments. Written feedback will be provided on both assignments, with the option of having a one-to-one meeting with the tutor when essays are returned.

Methods of assessment

Assessment typeNotes% of formal assessment
Essay1500 Words33.30
Essay2500 Words66.70
Total percentage (Assessment Coursework)100.00

Normally resits will be assessed by the same methodology as the first attempt, unless otherwise stated

Reading list

The reading list is available from the Library website

Last updated: 29/04/2022 15:24:12


Browse Other Catalogues

Errors, omissions, failed links etc should be notified to the Catalogue Team.PROD

© Copyright Leeds 2019