The Gothic in Children's Literature: Haunting the Borders, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

The Gothic in Children's Literature

Haunting the Borders, 1st Edition

Edited by Anna Jackson, Roderick McGillis, Karen Coats


256 pages

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From creepy picture books to Harry Potter, Lemony Snicket, the Spiderwick Chronicles, and countless vampire series for young adult readers, fear has become a dominant mode of entertainment for young readers. The last two decades have seen an enormous growth in the critical study of two very different genres, the Gothic and children’s literature.

The Gothic, concerned with the perverse and the forbidden, with adult sexuality and religious or metaphysical doubts and heresies, seems to represent everything that children’s literature, as a genre, was designed to keep out. Indeed, this does seem to be very much the way that children’s literature was marketed in the late eighteenth century, at exactly the same time that the Gothic was really taking off, written by the same women novelists who were responsible for the promotion of a safe and segregated children’s literature.

This collection examines the early intersection of the Gothic and children’s literature and the contemporary manifestations of the gothic impulse, revealing that Gothic elements can, in fact, be traced in children’s literature for as long as children have been reading.


The prevalence of Gothic themes in literature for young readers is the impetus for this collection, which fills a void in children's literature criticism. This timely collection presents a variety of perspectives and discusses a variety of texts, and so is a valuable addition to the literature. Recommended. -- P. J. Kurtz, Minot State University, Choice

Table of Contents

Introduction 1. The Haunted Nursery: 1764-1830 2. Cyberspace and the Gothic Novel 3. Frightening and Funny: Humor in Children’s Gothic Fiction 4. Between Horror, Humor, and Hope: Neil Gaiman and the Psychic Work of the Gothic 5. On the Gothic Beach: A New Zealand Reading of House and Landscape in Margaret Mahy’s 'The Tricksters' 6. High Winds and Broken Bridges: The Gothic and the West Indies in Twentieth Century British Fiction for Children 7. The Scary Tale Looks for a Family: Gary Crew’s 'Gothic Hospital' and Sonya Hartnett’s 'The Devil Latch' 8. Haunting the Borders of Sword and Sorcery: Garth Nix’s 'The Seventh Tower' 9. Uncanny Ghosts, Canny Children 10. Hermione in the Bathroom: Menarche, the Grotesque, and Female Development in 'Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone' 11. Fantastic Books: The Gothic Architecture of Children’s Books 12. The Night Side of Nature: Gothic Spaces, Fearful Times

About the Editors

Anna Jackson is Lecturer in English at Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand.

Roderick McGillis is Professor of English at the University of Calgary. He is author of Nimble Reader: Literary Theory and Children’s Literature, winner of the 1997 IRSCL Award for Distinguished research. His other books include A Little Princess: Gender and Empire (Twayne, 1996) and We Was Some Kind of Man: Masculinity in the B Western (Wilfrid Laurier University Press, forthcoming). He was one of six Senior Editors for the Encyclopedia of Children’s Literature, forthcoming from Oxford University Press.

Karen Coats is Associate Professor of English at Illinois State University. She is author of Looking Glasses and Neverlands: Lacan, Desire, and Subjectivity in Children’s Literature (University of Iowa Press, 2004), which was selected as a Choice Outstanding Academic Title of 2004.

About the Series

Children's Literature and Culture

Founding Editor and Series Editor 1994-2011: Jack Zipes

Series Editor, 2011-2018: Philip Nel


Founded by Jack Zipes in 1994, Children's Literature and Culture is the longest-running series devoted to the study of children’s literature and culture from a national and international perspective. Dedicated to promoting original research in children’s literature and children’s culture, in 2011 the series expanded its focus to include childhood studies, and it seeks to explore the legal, historical, and philosophical conditions of different childhoods. An advocate for scholarship from around the globe, the series recognizes innovation and encourages interdisciplinarity. Children's Literature and Culture offers cutting-edge, upper-level scholarly studies and edited collections considering topics such as gender, race, picturebooks, childhood, nation, religion, technology, and many others. Titles are characterized by dynamic interventions into established subjects and innovative studies on emerging topics.

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
LITERARY CRITICISM / Children's Literature