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Form VI English: Literary Childhoods
Spring, 2014
Dr. Kidd
Coraline research essay assignment sheet
Date Due: Thursday, 4/3
Length: more than one single-spaced page, but fewer than four
Special Requirements: You must have at least three quotations from at least two sources other than Coraline in your essay; those quotations should be cited and formatted properly

Go here to download the critical articles

For the purposes of this essay, you should assume that the articles about Coraline listed below along with our text Children’s Literature: A Very Short Introduction by Kimberly Reynolds will be enough research to provide you the framework and ideas needed.

Coraline by Neil Gaiman
Coraline (film) by Henry Selick
Children’s Literature: A Very Short Introduction by Kimberly Reynolds

“Neil Gaiman’s Irony, Liminal Fantasies, and Fairy Tale Adaptations” by Sándor Klapesik
stable url:

“Devils, Demons, Familiars, Friends: Toward a Semiotics of Literary Cats” by Maria Nikolajeva
stable url:

“An Eye for an I: Neil Gaiman's Coraline and Questions of Identity” by David Rudd (Literature Resources from Gale) (copy of article in email)

“The Other Mother: Neil Gaiman’s Postfeminist Fairytales” by Elizabeth Parsons, Naarah Sawers, and Kate McInally
(Literature Resources from Gale) (copy of article in email)

“‘Something Very Old and Very Slow’: Coraline, Uncanniness, and Narrative Form” by Richard Gooding
(Literature Resources from Gale) (copy of article in email)

Use the sources above as best you can (you should definitely involve some properly-cited critical articles) to answer one of the following questions:

1. How does Coraline reveal truths about the psychological difficulties involved in how a young person grows up?

2. Both Coraline and Hamlet, eponymous heroes of each work, struggle with an almost impossible family situation. Write an essay in which you compare these two works and assert something important about their themes.

3. Compare and contrast the film and the novel Coraline. Assert something important about their themes and how the two works explore those differently.

4. How does Coraline, by drawing on a variety of other narrative sources and symbols in literature, enact what Sándor Klapesik calls “transformative hypertextuality”?

5. What is the role of food in Coraline? Assert something important about the novel’s themes with respect to how it uses food as a part of theme and symbols.

6. Read the following passages:
“C. S. Lewis was often asked why he, an Oxford scholar and lay theologian, wrote The Chronicles of Narnia.
Once, he responded by writing: "I thought I saw how stories of this kind could steal past certain inhibitions which had paralyzed much of my own religion in childhood. Why did one find it so hard to feel as one was told one ought to feel about God or about the sufferings of Christ? I thought the chief reason was that one was told one ought to. An obligation to feel can freeze feelings. And reverence itself did harm. The whole subject was associated with lowered voices, almost as if it were something medical.
But supposing that by casting all these things into an imaginary world, stripping them of their stained-glass and Sunday School associations, One could make them for the first time appear in their real potency? Could one not thus steal past those watchful dragons? I thought one could."
- from

“Fairy tales are more than true: not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.” – G. K. Chesterton
(epigraph to Neil Gaiman’s Coraline)

Write an essay in which you use these two quotations as a way to argue for a theory of how children’s literature should work or should not work. Make Neil Gaiman’s Coraline your main example, but you can use some other sources, too.

7. Is Neil Gaiman’s Coraline a feminist text? Postfeminist? Sexist? Write an essay in which you examine how Coraline portrays and explores gender.

8. How would you compare/contrast L. Frank Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and Neil Gaiman’s Coraline?

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