Literature Seminars: Childhood and Books: Literature For and About Young People

What distinguishes the period we call childhood from other stages of life?  How have works of literature shaped our understanding of what children are like?  What does the experience of reading books offer to children themselves?  Might books offer children windows into a wider world, reveal that there are other people like themselves, introduce them to lives different from their own, and/or inculcate ideas that restrict or close down their views?

This seminar will explore these questions by considering select works of literature both for children and about them.  We will read several classic works of children’s literature, including J. M. Barrie’s Peter Pan and E. B. White’s Charlotte’s Web, as well as more recent favorites such as J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.  We will investigate the intertwined histories of modern conceptions of childhood and of the children’s book trade, reading poems about childhood by Wordsworth and Blake and visiting the Beinecke to view early works of children’s literature.  We will also sample memoirs of childhood, such as Richard Wright’s Black Boy and Pauli Murray’s Proud Shoes.  Throughout, we will attend to how the meaning of childhood is shaped by categories of race, gender, and socioeconomic class.  We will meet on one or more occasions with children from New Haven Public Schools to learn more about their creative responses to what they read.

Students who wish to enroll in this seminar should participate in online preregistration, which opens at 9:00 a.m. on Wednesday, December 6, 2017 and closes promptly at 5:00 p.m. on Wednesday, January 10, 2018.

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TTh 1:00pm-2:15pm
WR, Hu