Professor Karen Coats


College position:

Director of the Centre for Research in Children's Literature

Professor Karen Coats
Professor Karen Coats

Karen Coats is the co-editor of five essay collections and author of three books on literature for young readers, the most recent being The Bloomsbury Introduction to Children’s and Young Adult Literature, which offers a comprehensive introduction to the history, forms, genres, and theoretical concerns of youth literature. She has also written over 40 journal articles and book chapters on diverse subjects ranging from psychoanalytic theory to alphabet books to cognitive poetics to the development of the neoliberal subject in American children’s books to visual conceptual metaphors.

Her work on children’s poetry has been translated into Chinese and Russian, and she has given invited keynote lectures in Sweden, Thailand, Russia, Taiwan, and China as well as here at Cambridge and in the US. Prior to her appointment at Cambridge, she taught at Illinois State University for over twenty years, where she directed or served on the dissertation committees of some thirty doctoral students who now hold academic posts around the world. She is the recipient of a Howard Foundation Fellowship, and has been a research fellow at two Seminars in Christian Scholarship at Calvin College. She holds a PhD in Human Sciences from George Washington University. 

Research Interests

Karen has broad interests in children’s and young adult literature. She has published on the relationship between Lacanian psychoanalytic theory and youth literature, Gothic children’s literature, multiliteracies in the developing reader, identity in YA literature, children’s poetry, metaphor theory, gender schemas in picturebooks, diversity in youth literature, and visual conceptual metaphors. 

Teaching And Professional Interests

Karen teaches in the MPhil/MEd Critical Approaches to Children’s Literature as well as in two Tripos papers in the Faculty of Education. She coordinates the Research Methods Strand for the MEd and PGCE-M students, and supervises MPhil, MEd, PGCE-M, and PhD students. 

Links to online publications, articles or other work

Coats, K. (2020) “Diverse Identity in Anxious Times: Young Adult Literature and Contemporary Culture.” Transforming Young Adult Services, 2nd edition. Edited by Anthony Bernier, ALA Neal-Scheman, pp. 17-26.

Coats, K. (2018) “Lacanian Psychoanalytic Criticism.”  A Companion to Literary Theory. Edited by David H. Richter, Wiley Blackwell, pp. 385-95.

Coats, K. (2018) “Gender in Picturebooks.” The Routledge Companion to Picturebooks. Edited by Bettina Kummerling-Meibauer, Routledge, pp. 119-27.

Coats, K. (2017) “A Primer of Possibilities: Cognitive Poetics and Children’s Poetry” The Aesthetics of Children’s Poetry, Edited by Katherine Wakely-Mulroney and Louise Joy, Routledge, pp. 182-95.

Coats, K. (2017) “The Gothic in American Children’s Literature,” The Cambridge Companion to Gothic Literature, edited by Jeffery A. Weinstock, Cambridge UP, pp. 171-83.

Coats, K. (2017) “Teaching the Conflicts: Diverse Responses to Diverse Children's Books.” The Edinburgh Companion to Children's Literature, edited by Clementine Beauvais and Maria Nikolajeva, Edinburgh UP, pp.13-28.

Coats, K. (2017) The Bloomsbury Introduction to Children’s and Young Adult Literature. Bloomsbury Academic.

Fraustino, L. R. and Coats, K. (2016) Mothers in Children’s and Young Adult Literature: From the Eighteenth Century to Postfeminism. University Press of Mississippi. (Winner of the ChLA Edited Book Award)

Coats, K. (2016) “Between Fashion and Faith: Religious Identity as a Cultural Minority Position in Young Adult Literature.” Cultural Minorities in Children’s Literature and Verbal Culture. Eds. X. A. Neira Cruz and G. T. Sandsmark. Vidgis Finnbogadottir Institute of Foreign Language-University of Santiago de Compostela, pp. 57-64. 

Coats, K. (2016) “Cultural-Historical Activity Theory and the Expansive Cycle of Mothering while Black.” Co-authored with Lauren Causey. Mothers in Children’s and Young Adult Literature: From the Eighteenth Century to Postfeminism.  Ed. Lisa Rowe Fraustino and Karen Coats. University of Mississippi P, pp. 113-132.

Coats, K. and Sands, F. N. (2016) "Growing Up Frankenstein: Adaptations for Young Readers." The Cambridge Companion to Frankenstein. Ed. Andrew Smith.  Cambridge UP, pp. 241-55.

Coats, K. (2016) “The End?: Approaches to Closure in Early Readers.” The Early Reader in Children’s Literature and Culture: Theorizing Books for Beginning Readers. Ed. Jennifer M. Miskec and Annette Wannamaker. Routledge, pp. 57-70.

Coats, K. (2014) “The Possibilities of Becoming: Process Relational Theology in the Works of David Almond” in David Almond: A Casebook, ed. by Rosemary Ross Johnston, Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 67-83.

Coats, K. (2013) Children’s Literature and the Developing Reader. Bridgepoint Education.

Wolf, S. A., Coats, K., Enciso, P. and Jenkins, C. A. (2011) Handbook of Research on Children’s and Young Adult Literature. Routledge.