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Study Opportunities

There are various opportunities to study children’s literature at Cambridge.

Within the BA

Children and Literature is a paper offered in Part II of the BA in Education . A large proportion of Education students in their final year choose this challenging but highly rewarding course.

Masters

Mphil students Critical Approaches to Children’s Literature is a specialist Master’s course leading to an MPhil in Education (full-time) or MEd in Education (part-time). This unique course combines theoretical approaches to children’s literature with empirical research. It attracts students from a wide range of different backgrounds, all with a keen interest children’s literature. Some have returned, enriched and newly equipped, to their previous professions; others have gone on into children’s book or educational publishing, library studies, teacher training, and doctoral research.

Students on this course are eligible for the Jacqueline Wilson Award, awarded annually for an outstanding Masters thesis in children’s literature.

Visit the Faculty pages for more details on the course, or contact Professor Maria Nikolajeva [mn351@cam.ac.uk].Culture and texts.

PhD

The centre is home to a growing number of PhD students. Many have progressed through the MPhil PhD student reading picturebookin Critical Approaches to Children’s Literature (an excellent grounding for doctoral research), but the centre welcomes applications from any prospective doctoral students with appropriate qualifications and research interests. Current PhD students have been successful in securing ESRC and AHRC scholarships; for more information about potential sources of funding, see the Cambridge Board of Graduate Studies.

The centre provides a superb environment for PhD research: In addition to the wealth of resources provided by the Cambridge Libraries and top-class supervision, there is a highly active scholarly community and a stimulating programme of seminars. Regular group meetings with doctoral students and visiting scholars provide opportunities for sharing work, debating key and current issues in children’s literature – and celebrating successes.

Visit the Faculty pages for more details on the PhD Programme or contact Professor Maria Nikolajeva [mn351@cam.ac.uk].

Previous students say...

"Once upon a time, I was in my room in Athens, reading children's stories and more specifically, picturebooks. Then, I made a big step forward that I will never regret; I started my PhD journey in children's literature at the Cambridge Faculty of Education. This course gave me the opportunity not only to get to know more books and authors, but also to share my love for literature with distinguished scholars. I never felt alone in my thesis world, as my calendar was full of exciting events. Book clubs, inspiring talks, themed conferences (who would not love to participate in an Alice in Wonderland conference?), nominations for prestigious awards such as the Astrid Lindgren Memorial, PhD seminars, hours of wandering in the great children's book collection of the Homerton College library. Now that I have completed my thesis, I feel more than ready to embark on new journeys, as the Faculty and the people I met there have equipped me with valuable knowledge and sweet memories to live happily ever after." Lina Iordanaki (PhD)

"This is probably the most exciting time to be doing a PhD in Children's Literature at the University of Cambridge. You will be supervised by people whose names appear on the covers of most academic books you’ll borrow from the library, and you will end up meeting many other experts now and then at conferences or when they come to visit. Thanks to the newly created Cambridge/Homerton Research and Teaching Centre for Children's Literature, you will be a part of an international pole of English-speaking research in children’s literature.

But it is also a small and friendly community where everyone knows everyone, shares academic interests, books, informal chats, and cheese and wine at the end of research seminars. Because the discipline is still relatively young and the supervisors completely open to new ideas, you will be truly able to use your imagination, tackle big issues in current theories, and even formulate new ones – in other words, your thesis won’t have to be on uses of the semi-colon in an obscure sixteenth-century self-published novella (unless you really want it to be).

Regular meetings with other PhD students are organised, in which you will be encouraged to share your research and think creatively about the many outstanding questions in children’s literature criticism. Meanwhile, the graduate community at the Faculty of Education is one of the biggest, most dynamic in Cambridge, frequently organising conferences, lunch seminars and trips to other universities, not mentioning parties. From both an academic and a social point of view, it is an amazingly rewarding graduate course." Clementine Beauvais (BA, Masters, PhD)

"The Masters programme was fascinating, challenging, and thoroughly enjoyable. I felt fully supported throughout and I was really proud of what I managed to achieve during the year." Emma Reay (Masters)

"I found the MPhil in Critical Approaches to Children's Literature to be a highly rewarding course, both academically and personally. Through the seminars, I learned a great deal about areas as diverse as cognitive poetics, animation and posthumanism, and greatly enjoyed the stimulating debates we had. I could tailor the three assignments to my own research interests (disability in children's literature), and my knowledge of literary theoretical frameworks and empirical research methods needed for these were developed well during our route and research methods sessions. The detailed feedback on my written work together with in-depth discussions during supervisions were instrumental in the development of my writing and thinking. I thoroughly enjoyed being a part of the very welcoming children's literature community at Cambridge, including attending various book and writing groups, and the Cambridge/Homerton Research and Teaching Centre for Children's Literature led to opportunities such as attending seminars by eminent visiting scholars and presenting a paper based on my second assignment at the 3rd Cambridge Symposium on Cognitive Poetics. I am excited to be back at the Faculty of Education starting my PhD in children's literature, and I am sure that I will continue to draw on the experiences of my Master's year throughout my doctoral study. Anna Purkiss (Masters)

"The children's lit classes were always interesting and fun, and I benefited so much from all our discussions! What I liked most about the modules was the variety of topics, periods, approaches, critics and texts we covered. Children's literature offers so many possibilities for research! It was great to receive such a broad overview of the field and also to venture into new 'territories', such as picturebooks and poetry, which I had not dealt with academically before. The Research Methods sessions were beneficial for me because we could exchange experiences and thoughts with people from other Education routes, and we could take from the sessions what would be useful for our own projects. Thinking back on all assignments this year, I have to say that my favourite essay was essay 2, the empirical project – although I was almost "scared" of it in the beginning! Coming from a literary studies background, I had never carried out an empirical project and I had never worked with children before. But the topic/book I chose and the sophisticated and surprising responses the children gave during the interviews easily made this my favourite assignment. There were so many opportunities to go to talks/conferences! Professor Maria Tatar came in December to speak on 'Memory, Miniaturization, and the Transformative Energy of Fairy Tales' – it was a great experience to listen to her talk, especially after studying her books for essay 1! And finally, attending the Disney Formal at Trinity Hall: dressed up as Disney characters, we enjoyed a Disney-themed three-course-meal, with a build-your-own-Olaf for dessert! What a night!" Lisa Kazianka (Masters) You can see her blog post with photos about her experience of the Masters course here.

"I joined the Cambridge-Homerton Centre for Children's Literature as an MPhil student in 2012 after completing my undergraduate and postgraduate education in English Literature from India, my home country. Coming from a place where a comprehensive academic study of Children's Literature had yet to take off, I was eagerly looking forward to my new experience at one of the world's finest institutions. And what an experience it has been! From being introduced to a range of genres and sub-genres, themes, issues and methodologies specific to the field, to carrying out a large scale project on fantasy literature (my chosen genre of expertise), the MPhil programme provided me with the best of everything. The seminars were thought-provoking, the assignments inventive, the resources extraordinarily unending, and the supervisions skillful and productive. My fondest memory however remains that of working within an environment of care, joy, creativity and interdisciplinarity. I will never forget that the world's foremost authorities in the discipline are also some of the humblest people I have ever met. It is my good fortune that I could return to the Centre to pursue my PhD, and I hope that just as this place gave me so much, I too one day can reciprocate its many rewards and gifts." Siddharth Pandey (Masters)

"I loved my time on my masters, and it's undeniably been useful in my job. I work in children's publishing, in publicity. I'm currently the Children's Publicist at Faber Books, having spent the last year and a half as Junior Press Officer at Walker Books. In that time I've attended literary festivals, managed campaigns, organised launches and run book tours. I've been the publicist for Shirley Hughes, Anthony Browne and Allan Ahlberg among others, and my job is different every day - as you can see from my photo! On top of that my masters qualification offers other opportunities; my background means I review children's books for three magazines and I also chair children's book events at literary festivals. I'm now moving on the next exciting step, but my previous manager has told me before that it was my masters that clinched me the first job." Hannah Love (Masters)

“Doing the course "Critical Approaches to Children’s Literature" was a truly rewarding and challenging experience for me. Discussions in a surprisingly informal atmosphere at weekly sessions were always though-provoking and inspiring. What I found most exciting about writing essays was that it involved a lot of independence and free space for you own choice on what and how to write, of course not without top-notch supervisor’s guidance. The course provided me with wonderful background for my further career." Aliona Yarovaya (Masters)

“At "Critical Approaches to Children’s Literature" you not only learn to work with children’s fiction and picturebooks professionally, but also gain such crucial skills as working independently, managing your time effectively and, above all, being a responsible team player in the tight children’s literature community.” Helen Jameson (Masters)

Quotation from AA Milne