Children's Literature MA

Postgraduate ( full-time, part-time)



Course duration and delivery: this course starts in May and runs until the following May (1 year full-time, 2 years part-time). It is delivered by blended learning, meaning much of your study time will be spent online and in preparatory reading, with an intensive week of on-campus attendance for each module.

Please note that if you require a visa to study in the UK you will need to obtain a short term study visa in order to complete the residential element. For more information please visit our immigration pages.

Residential dates for 2020: w/c 7 & 14 September 2020


A good children’s book stays with you for life. Study the key critical and business contexts of children’s literature and prepare for a lifelong career as a writer, teacher, publisher or scholar.

Full description


Our MA Children’s Literature is developed with working professionals in mind. If you are a teacher, librarian, publisher or scholar and want to specialise in working with children’s literature, this course will help to enhance your professional and intellectual development. There are also many other fields that require the combination of market awareness, critical / analytical understanding and research skills that you will develop.

Once you graduate, you might also be interested in taking a research degree, such as our MPhil / PhD in English Literature, Creative Writing or Publishing.

Modules & assessment

Core modules

  • Critical Theory: Children's Literature
    This module will allow you to engage deeply with children’s literature through various ways of reading that have been applied to the wider canon, and through specific modes of interrogation used to understand fiction and non-fiction for young people. You will discover a substantial breadth of approaches, allowing you to refine your critical voice and gain knowledge of theoretical schools that permeate the wider discipline. You will be expected to generate critically nuanced interpretations that take account of how different methodologies might come to different conclusions. We will consider children’s texts primarily as literary or historical documents and not as merely pedagogic tools. As such, you will be asked to read ‘as adults’ while inflecting such readings through a solid knowledge of major theoretical approaches to both adult and children’s texts. In addition to critical reading, you will also be set fiction texts to read for group learning, and will be expected to bring to the residential period an additional body of personal research reading in the field. We will practice applied theory, requiring a detailed knowledge of both text and criticism. Your assessment will consist of a 1000-word book review that considers a critical text from the reading list, or another with the module tutor’s approval (30%) and a 4000-word essay that considers at least two children’s texts in the light of literary theory (70%).
  • Publishing and 'Selling' Children's Books
    On this module you will explore aspects of developing and distributing children’s literature, and consider key trends and changes in this market. You will also consider Jacqueline Rose’s theories of children as the absent market, including its implications and the recent challenges to it. You will begin with by evaluating the industry, including key publishing skills such as the commissioning and marketing of new titles, supported with a brief history of the trade in children’s literature in the UK through to the age of globalisation. You will then explore internationalisation of the market to incorporate wider cultural contexts, and discuss the implications and considerations, both theoretical and practical, of working with children as a market. You will then be introduced to key contemporary considerations for publishers, including the vital, symbiotic role of bookshops, schools and libraries in influencing the shape of the market, providing a gateway for publishers and writers, and developing and maintaining children’s literacy. Following this, we will look at the interplay between television, film and media and the market, with critical issues such as the influence of visual media and the digitisation of the industry being introduced, bringing us back to the publishing skills discussed earlier in the module. You will then consider how these skills are being adapted to the digital medium, with a particular focus on marketing and brand management through alternative mediums such as social media. The delivery of these topics will supplement your theoretical discussion with practical instruction and application. Your assessment will consist of the development and presentation of a Children’s Book Commissioning Proposal (2000 words + presentation) and the creation of a marketing campaign plan for the book, including both physical and digital media elements (4,000 words).

Optional modules

  • Children's Literature and the Mimetic Tradition
    On this module you will consider children’s literature in the realist tradition in depth, as well as developing an understanding of the functions of mimesis and fantasy within the wider body of texts for young people. You will study mimetic theory from Plato to the present, including the importance of the 'real' in representing the past, contemporaneity, and identity. You will focus on literature from the earliest didactic and religious instructional texts to the present. Our readings will span chapbooks and more ephemeral literature, including magazines for mixed family audiences, alongside canonical texts. Topics for consideration might include: the city and the country, war, the family, schooling and education, work, crossover fiction, race, gender, and sexuality. In addition to critical reading, fiction will be set for the group learning, and you are expected to bring to the residential period an additional body of personal research reading in the field. We will practice applied theory, requiring a detailed knowledge of both text and criticism. Your assessment will consist of one 1500-word book review that considers a critical text from the reading list, or another with module tutor’s approval (30%), and one 3500-word essay that reads at least two children’s texts in the light of realism/mimetic theory (70%).
  • Fantastic Fiction
    This module will allow you to explore the intensely creative and experimental work of children’s fantasy writers, and the techniques and ideas that have emerged in this form. Starting with an introduction to the range of fantastical traditions that have developed across the world, you will discuss similarities and differences and consider the pressures that the globalisation of the market has brought to bear. You will then be introduced to a range of critical traditions and apply each of them to a body of texts (predominantly literature but with some original television, film and material from other platforms). You will examine child-centred approaches to the fantastic that discuss the nature of the market, the shifting expectations of both child protagonist and child reader, and concerns that have arisen periodically over the "threat" of the fantastic to the child's well-being. You will apply Marxist, Feminist, Post-colonialist and Queer readings, among others, to a range of texts and consider themes that have emerged over the past one hundred and fifty years that create a sense of coherent concerns running through children’s fantastical fiction. In addition to critical reading, fiction will be set for your preparatory reading, and you are expected to bring to the residential period an additional body of personal research reading in the field. You will also accumulate a substantial body of primary source material, which will be reflected in your assessment. This will consist of an annotated critical bibliography, reflecting a reading diary of fiction and non-fiction (1,500 words), and a negotiated research essay on any aspect of children’s fantastical fiction (3500 words).
  • Special Topic in Creative Writing/English Literature
    This module will give you the opportunity to study a particular topic or genre taught by a practising writer with current or recent work in this area. The texts will include those written for adults and children or young adults that share the focus. You might study a particular subgenre such as historical fantasy or weird fiction, or a particular topic such as the apocalypse or time travel. The module will include close reading of the texts, instruction and discussion on how to write in the particular genre, and workshopping of your writing. You will be assessed by means of a final 4,500-word portfolio of creative writing appropriate to the special topic and a critical commentary of 2,000 words. Please note all students wishing to enrol in this module must submit a short writing sample to get approval from the module leader.
  • Major Project
    This module will support you in the preparation and submission of a Masters dissertation, allowing you to explore in-depth a particular topic that reflects your academic interest.


Modules are subject to change and availability.

You will show your progress on the course through a variety of methods relevant to each individual module. These will include presentations, book reviews, essays, and a reading portfolio that can be shared with other students using our online learning environment.

Where you'll study

Your department and faculty

At the School of Humanities and Social Sciences, we believe in thinking critically about the past, present and future to challenge perceptions and better understand communities and people.

With expertise from gender issues to literary analysis to exploring how the past has shaped our modern world, all our staff members are active researchers. This is reflected in our teaching, allowing us to support our students with the latest theories and practices, as well as essential employability advice.

Where can I study?

Lord Ashcroft Building on our Cambridge campus

Our campus is close to the centre of Cambridge, often described as the perfect student city.

Explore our Cambridge campus

Fees & funding

Course fees

UK & EU students starting 2020/21 (per year)


UK & EU students starting 2020/21 (part-time, per year)


International students starting 2020/21 (per year)


International students starting 2020/21 (part-time, per year)


Important fee notes

The part-time course fee assumes that you're studying at half the rate of a full-time student (50% intensity). Course fees will be different if you study over a longer period. All fees are for guidance purposes only.

Entry requirements

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Improving your English language skills

If you don't meet our English language requirements, we offer a range of courses which could help you achieve the level required for entry onto a degree course.

We also provide our own English Language Proficiency Test (ELPT) in the UK and overseas. To find out if we are planning to hold an ELPT in your country, contact our country managers.

English language requirements

If English is not your first language, you'll need to make sure you meet our English language requirements for postgraduate courses.

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