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Julia Mickenberg

Associate ProfessorPh. D., University of Minnesota

Julia Mickenberg



Julia Mickenberg has been teaching in the American Studies department at UT since 2001. She holds a Ph.D. in American Studies from the University of Minnesota and an A.B. in American Civilization from Brown University. Her current book project; "The New Woman Tries on Red: Russia in the American Feminist Imagination, 1905-1945," has been supported by an NEH fellowship and a Humanities Research Award. She has also held fellowships from the Spencer Foundation and the Smithsonian Institution. Her first book, Learning from the Left, won several awards.

Research Interests

Children's literature/childhood studies, history of the American left, women's history, mid-twentieth-century cultural politics

Courses taught:


Undergraduate: AMS 310, Introduction to American Studies; AMS 356, Main Currents in American Culture; AMS 370 You Say You Want a Revolution? Society, Culture, and Politics in the 1960s; AMS 370 Exiles, Expatriates, and Political Pilgrims; AMS 370 Women Radicals and Reformers; AMS 370 Children's Literature and American Culture; AMS 370 The Cold War and American Childhood; TC 302 College and Controversy;

Graduate: AMS 390, Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Childhood and Youth; AMS 390 Modernism, Feminism, and Radicalism; AMS 390 Cold War Culture; AMS 390 Cultures of American Radicalism; AMS 390: The Popular Front; AMS 386 American Cultural History, 1865-present; AMS 398T Pedagogy in American Studies


WGS 340 • Children's Lit And Amer Cul

46050 • Fall 2015
Meets TTH 330pm-500pm BUR 436A
(also listed as AMS 370)

Flag(s): Writing, Independent Inquiry



This course will trace the history of American childhood through children’s literature. Using selected texts from the colonial era to the present, we will use children's texts as lenses for understanding American culture and American cultural history more generally. Understanding how childhood and children’s literature have changed over time tells us a great deal about the ways in which the broader culture and society have evolved. It is easy to take children’s literature for granted: we’ve all read it, and, indeed, we all read it as kids. What could be simpler, more obvious, or less worthy of critical examination? This class will ask students to think critically about children's literature and to think about how these texts are informed by and also contribute to a broader cultural context.




1. Participation (25%): Includes: attendance, active and informed participation in class discussions, two presentations, in-class writing and short (one page) out of class assignments

2. Two 4-5 page papers (20% each)

3. One 8-10 page research paper (35%)



Possible Texts

Ann Scott MacLeod, American Childhood: Essays on Children’s Literature of the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries

Steve Mintz, Huck’s Raft: A History of American Childhood

Louisa May Alcott, Little Women(Norton Critical Edition)

Dr. Seuss, The Sneetches and Other Stories

Doris Gates, Blue Willow

Maurice Sendak, Where the Wild Things Are

Louise Fitzhugh, Harriet the Spy

Alice Childress, A Hero Ain’t Nothin’ But a Sandwich

Jean Luen Yang, American Born Chinese


Additional packet of readings

WGS 393 • Childhood Studies

47497 • Spring 2013
Meets T 200pm-500pm BUR 436B
(also listed as AMS 390)

What does it mean to study culture through the lens of childhood? This course will focus on scholarship of a historical and/or literary bent, but also delve into sociology, politics, media studies, psychology, visual culture, performance studies, material culture, and other fields.  Drawing on a range of recent scholarship but also giving some attention to the development of this relatively young field, we consider such issues as the metaphorical configuration of the United States as an “infant nation” and the implications of this both for children and for nation-building; the late 19th and early twentieth centuries as the “age of the child”; psychoanalysis and children’s literature; the image of the child in visual culture; race, gender, and sexuality as experienced and constructed through children and childhood; the cultural implications of children’s clothing and material culture; modernism and the rise of the picture book for children; the history of American summer camps; Walt Disney, childrearing, and American national identity; and the politics of childhood. Students will write short response papers and blackboard postings, lead one discussion, present on one supplemental text and write a short review of it and write a final paper on a topic of their choosing 


Participation (class discussion, response papers, blackboard postings): 25%

Leading discussion: 10%

Presentation and review of supplemental text: 15%

Final paper: 50%

Possible Texts

Kenneth Kidd Freud in Oz: At the Intersections of Psychoanalysis and Children’s Literature

Nicholas Sammond, Babes in Tomorrowland: Walt Disney and the Making of the American Child, 1930-1960

Nathalie op de Beeck, Suspended Animation: Children’s Picture Books and the Fairy Tale of Modernity

Robin Bernstein, Racial Innocence: Performing Childhood and Race from Uncle Tom’s Cabin to the New Negro Movement

Daniel Thomas Cook, The Commodification of Childhood

Katherine Capshaw-Smith, Children’s Literature of the Harlem Renaissance

Caroline Levander, Cradle of Liberty: Race, the Child, and National Belonging from Thomas Jefferson to W.E.B. DuBois

Margaret Higonnet, Pictures of Innocence: This History and Crisis of Ideal Childhood

Anne Arnett Ferguson, Bad Boys: Public Schools in the Making of Black Masculinity

Sarah Chinn, Inventing Modern Adolescence

Kathryn Bond Stockton, The Queer Child, or Growing Sideways in the Twentieth Century



The New Woman Tries on Red: Russia in the American Feminist Imagination, 1905-1945. Under contract with University of Chicago Press.

Leaning from the Left: Children's Literature, the Cold War, and Radical Politics in the United States (Oxford U.P., 2006).

Tales for Little Rebels: A Collection of Radical Children's Literature, edited with Philip Nel (New York U.P., 2008).

The Oxford Handbook of Children's Literature. Edited with Lynne Vallone. (Oxford U.P., 2011).

Peer-Reviewed Articles

"Suffragettes and Soviets: American Feminists and the Specter of Revolutionary Russia." Journal of American History 100 (March 2014), 1021-51

“Radical Children’s Literature Now!” (co-authored with Philip Nel). Children’s Literature Association Quarterly, forthcoming, fall 2011.

“The New Generation and the New Russia: Modern Childhood as Collective Fantasy.” American Quarterly 62:1 (March 2010): 103-134.

“Nursing Radicalism: Some Lessons from a Postwar Girls’ Series.” American Literary History 19:2 (summer 2007), 491-520.

“Of Funnybones, Steam Shovels, and Railroads to Freedom: Juvenile Publishing, Progressive Education, and the Politicization of Childhood, 1919-1935,” Children’s Literature Association Quarterly 28:3 (Fall 2003), 144-57.

“Civil Rights, History and the Left: Inventing the Juvenile Black Biography.” MELUS (Multi Ethnic Literature of the United States) 27:2 (Summer 2002), 65-93.

“Communist in a Coonskin Cap? Meridel Le Sueur’s Books for Children and the Reformulation of America’s Cold War Frontier Narrative.” The Lion and the Unicorn 21 (1997), 59-85.

“Left at Home in Iowa: ‘Progressive Regionalists’ and the WPA Guide to 1930s Iowa.” Annals of Iowa 56 (Summer 1997) 233-56. *Honorable Mention, Throne-Aldrich Award for best Annals article of 1997.

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