Peter Hunt (literary critic)

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Peter Hunt (born 1945) is a British scholar who is Professor Emeritus in Children's Literature at Cardiff University.

Hunt's books include works of criticism, novels, and stories for younger children. The Children's Literature courses that he ran at Cardiff were the first to treat children's literature as a subject of academic study in the UK. He has lectured on the subject at over 120 universities in 20 countries, from Finland to New Zealand; the International Association for the Fantastic in the Arts presented him with its Distinguished Scholarship Award in 1995, and 2003 he won the International Brothers Grimm Award for services to children's literature from the International Institute for Children's Literature, Osaka.[1] He has edited or is editing the Oxford University Press World's Classics editions of Bevis, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, and The Wind in the Willows. His books have been translated into Arabic, Chinese, Danish, Persian, Greek, Japanese, Korean, and Portuguese.[citation needed]


  • Children's books: The Maps of Time (1983), A Step Off The Path (1985), Backtrack (1986), Going Up (1989), Sue and the Honey Machine (1989).
  • Literary Criticism: Criticism, Theory, and Children's Literature (1991)
  • Approaching Arthur Ransome (1992)
  • The Wind in the Willows: A Fragmented Arcadia (1994)
  • An Introduction to Children's Literature (1994)
  • Understanding Children's Literature (1999)
  • (with Millicent Lenz) Alternative Worlds in Fantasy Fiction (2001)
  • Children's Literature: a Blackwell Guide (2000)
  • (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)
  • (ed.) Literature for Children: Contemporary Criticism'
  • (ed.) International Companion Encyclopedia of Children's Literature (Second edition 2004)
  • (ed.) with Zipes et al. The Norton Anthology of Children's Literature (2005)

Major works[edit]

An Introduction to Children's Literature[edit]

An Introduction to Children's Literature (1994) 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."[2] 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: "[C]hildhood is the period of life which the immediate culture thinks of as being free of responsibility and susceptible to education."[3] 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,"[4] and is content to leave it at that while he flutters through time from the 18th century onward.

Children's Literature: An Illustrated History[edit]

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 18th century. 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.").[5]

Alternative Worlds in Fantasy Fiction[edit]

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."[6] 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."[7] 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.



  1. ^ International Institute for Children's Literature web page on Grimm Award
  2. ^ Hunt 1994, p. vii.
  3. ^ Hunt 1994, p. 5
  4. ^ Hunt 1994, p. 11
  5. ^ Hunt 1995, p. ix.
  6. ^ Hunt 2001, p. 36.
  7. ^ Hunt 2001 p. 2


  • Hunt, Peter. An Introduction to Children's Literature. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 1994.
  • Hunt, Peter (ed.). Children's Literature: An Illustrated History. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 1995.
  • Hunt, Peter with Millicent Lenz. Alternative Worlds in Fantasy Fiction. London: Continuum, 2001.