There is perhaps no more vexing, fraught, and neglected concept in the study of children’s literature than aesthetics. No doubt the neglect of a serious, theoretical inquiry into the aesthetics of children’s literature stems from our contemporary understandings of the discipline of children’s literature itself. The study of children’s literature has, historically, been the work of librarians and educators of children. Children’s literature came to be seen as an appropriate site of purely literary study only after the rise and fall of mid-twentieth century New Critical and formalist modes of criticism, a state of affairs made possible by the inchoate canon-busting/expanding cultural studies movements of the late 1960s and 1970s. Thus, the discipline of children’s literature was shaped in a theoretical milieu suspicious of objective claims of aesthetic value, suspicious even of the unproblematic category of “literature” itself. Occupying itself, therefore, with ideological criticism, the discipline has largely—but not …

This essay may be found on page 5 of the printed volume.

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