Peter Hunt (literary critic)

Peter Hunt (literary critic)

Peter Hunt is a British Scholar who is the Senior Lecturer of English and Communications at the University of Wales, Cardiff. His books include works of criticism, novels, and stories for younger children. The course he runs at the University of Wales was the first to treat children's literature as an object of academic study in the UK. He has lectured on the subject worldwide, and has published several notable novels and books for children and adolescents. [Hunt, Peter. "The front pages of Children's Literature and An Introduction to Children's Literature"]


*"Children's Books: A Step Off The Map" (1985)
*"Literary Criticism: Criticism, Theory, and Children's Literature" (1991)
*"Literature for Children: Contemporary Criticism" (1992)
*"An Introduction to Children's Literature" (1994)
*"Understanding Children's Literature" (1999)
*"Alternative Worlds in Fantasy Fiction" (2001)
* (ed.) "Children's Literature: The Development of Criticism" (1990)
* (ed.) "Children's Literature: An Illustrated History" (1995)
* (ed.) "Children's Literature: An Anthology 1801-1902" (2000)
* (ed.) "Children's Literature: Critical Concepts" (Critical Concepts in Literary and Cultural Studies) (2006)

ome Major Works

*"Criticism, Theory, and Children's Literature" (1991) Cambridge: Basil Blackwell
**As Hunt says in his Introduction to Criticism, Theory, and Children's Literature, "The first chapter of this book examines the relationship between criticism, as it is becoming, and children's literature. The second examines the present state of children's literature in general. The third, in order to clarify what we are about, looks at definitions of 'children's literature'." [Hunt, Peter (1991). "Criticism, Theory, and Children's Literature", p. 2. ] For the second and third sections, Hunt finds himself in murky water. To find the 'present state of children's literature', he would need to attempt the impossible task of examining all books which might be members of the genre children's literature. As for defining the term, it is quite complicated and he does not really achieve success until subsequent books.

*"An Introduction to Children's Literature (1994)"
**An Introduction to Children's Literature begins in the Preface by asking essential questions about children's literature: "what is it, how is it used, how can we approach it, [and] how the study of it has developed." [Hunt, Peter (1994). An Introduction to Children's Literature. Oxford: Oxford University Press, p. vii.] Yet almost immediately Hunt finds himself struggling with the first question, noting that books 'written for' children are sometimes only understandable by adults, or are much more appreciated by adults (such as "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland"), while books 'read by' children could potentially include any book which exists (for "surely sometime, somewhere, all books have been read by one child or another?") Joined with this is the difficulty of defining 'children', although Hunt soon gives a satisfactory definition: " [Childhood| [C] hildhood] is the period of life which the immediate culture thinks of as being free of responsibility and susceptible to education." [Ibid. p. 5 ] Although Hunt never neatly answers the questions he posed in the Preface, he does make some progress when he discerns that "children's literature is obviously what people think it is," [ibid. p. 11] and is content to leave it at that while he flutters through time from the 1700s onward.

*"Children's Literature: An Illustrated History (1995 Editor)"
**A year after publishing An Introduction to Children's Literature, Hunt once again attempted to encapsulate the history of Children's Literature, this time as an Editor piecing together other authors' attitudes of books written for children since the 1700s. Once again, he discovered that there were three primary difficulties which made the History of Children's Literature unclear: 1) Many children's books have been read by children so many times that the book has literally been tattered to shreds throughout time. 2) Nobody quite knows what constitutes Children's Literature. 3) The concept of childhood has shifted throughout history ("It takes a considerable mental leap to remember that the innocent schoolgirl intrigues of Angela Brazil or Enid Blyton in the 1940s were designed for the same age group as the sexually active and angst-ridden teenagers of Judy Blume in the 1970s.") [Hunt, Peter (1995). "Children's Literature, An Illustrated History". Oxford: Oxford University Press, p. ix.] .

*"Alternative Worlds in Fantasy Fiction" (2001) London: Continuum
**In Alternative Worlds in Fantasy Fiction, Hunt (with Millicent Lenz) studies three modern fantasy authors: Ursula K. Le Guin, Terry Pratchett, and Philip Pullman. These authors, he argues, "have absorbed the past of fantasy, they move it on in new directions, and they are formidably intelligent." [Hunt, Peter (2001) "Alternative Worlds in Fantasy Fiction", p. 36. ] Here, Hunt insists that worthwhile fantasy (like Children's Literature) should be taken seriously, claiming that "it is useful to take the three most common (if not the most damning) of opinions - that fantasy is formulaic, childish, and escapist, to see if they can be sustained - remembering that the one thing that can rarely be said of fantasy is that it has nothing to do with reality." [ibid. p. 2] This book is actually a complete departure from Hunt's usual concern of defining children's literature, and possibly suggests a change in what subject matter he will choose to study in the future.


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