Reading and Writing About Literature (ENGL 100, Section 006)

Why Fairy Tales Still Matter

September 2019, MWF 14:00-15:00

What, exactly, is a fairy tale? Why do some remain popular even two or three hundred years after they were first published? And why do modern writers so often return to the form, sometimes to rewrite old tales and sometimes to compose brand-new ones? In this course, we will address these questions by reading and discussing a variety of classic tales by the Brothers Grimm, Charles Perrault, and Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont as well as modern versions of those tales by Emma Donoghue and Francesca Lia Block, among others.  In lectures and discussions we’ll consider how fairy tales have been adapted to meet the needs of distinct historical periods, and how different critical approaches to the same text can yield entirely different—even competing—interpretations.

Children’s and Young Adult Literature (ENGL 242, Section 001)

Wisdom, Nonsense, and True Lies: An Introduction to Children’s and Young Adult Literature

September 2019, MWF 12:00-13:00

“I imagine every one will judge it reasonable, that… children, when little, should look upon their parents as their lords, their absolute governors, and as such stand in awe of them; and that when they come to riper years, they should look on them as their best, as their only sure friends, and as such love and reverence them….”   

(John Locke, Some Thoughts Concerning Education, 1693) 

 In an enormously popular and influential treatise that eventually became something of a handbook for parents and educators, the philosopher John Locke presents an idealized view of the path from childhood to maturity. Some Thoughts Concerning Education was published just as a distinct body of writing for the young was beginning to emerge in England, and Locke argued the books children read played an important role in their development. But Locke was also a bachelor who had little first-hand experience of children, and he failed to anticipate the many ways in which writing for the young would reflect the complicated and often fraught relations between children and their elders. This course will survey the major forms of writing for younger readers from the 18th to the early 21st century. In our readings and discussions of British, American, and Canadian children’s and young adult literature, we will examine how changing understandings of childhood and adolescence are reflected in the literary genres that adults developed to socialize and regulate the conduct of the young. By the end of the course, students will have developed an understanding of the features of children’s literature that distinguish it from other fields of literary studies. 


Restoration and Eighteenth-Century Literature ENGL 351 (Section 001)

Children in Time: Reading, Education, and the Making of Modern Childhood in Eighteenth-Century England

September 2019, MWF 10:00-11:00

Willem Wissing and John Vandervaart, Master Montagu Drake (1689)

Willem Wissing and John Vandervaart, Master Montagu Drake(1689)

Joseph Wright, The Wood Children (1789)








The century that separates the portraits of Montagu Drake and the Wood children saw many changes in how children were understood and treated. By the end of the eighteenth century, for example, almost no one took seriously any more John Locke’s belief that children should be prepared for the demands of adult life through cold baths, hard beds, and leaky shoes; and, as Lawrence Stone notes, parental practices of giving more than one child the same name and recycling the names of dead children had more or less died out. In this course, we will examine how seventeenth- and eighteenth-century beliefs about childhood influenced writing for and about children and adolescents. We will consider such matters as parent-child relations, the models of education proposed by John Locke and Jean Jacques Rousseau, the rise of literature for young readers, and the commodification of childhood. Throughout the course, we will place particular emphasis on the connections between the educational theory of the time and children’s reading.

Children’s Literature (ENGL 392, Section 004)

Posthuman Bodies, Cybernetic Selves: Recent Responses to Technology in Writing for Young Adults

January 2020, MWF 2:00-3:00

What happens when young adult literature, which has traditionally guided adolescent readers through the task of identity formation, confronts technologies that trouble long-standing assumptions about what it means to be a self—or even a human? We will explore this question by examining recent novels, many of them dystopias, in which artificial intelligences can lay claim to selfhood and human subjects are mechanically and computationally altered in ways that call into question the very idea of human nature.

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