children and culture 560 syllabus

children and culture 560 syllabus - English 560 Children...

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English 560: Children and Culture Professor Courtney Weikle-Mills C0-Instructors: J.D. Wright and Tanya Reyes Undergraduate Teaching Fellow: Samantha Meese “Children are not only born, but made.”—Henry Jenkins “The politics of culture provide the conceptual space in which childhood is constructed, experienced, and struggled over . . . Only by questioning the specific cultural formations and contexts in which childhood is organized, learned, and lived can educators understand and challenge the ways in which cultural practices establish specific power relations that shape children’s experiences.”—Henry A. Giroux Class Meeting: Tuesday 3:00-4:50, Posvar Hall 1700 Recitation Sessions: Thursday 9:00-9:50 (J.D. Wright) 10:00-10:50 (J.D. Wright) 11:00-11:50 (Tanya Reyes) 12:00-12:50 (Tanya Reyes) Course Description: The debate about whether culture (“nurture”) or biology (“nature”) most influences a child’s personality has been a long-lasting human concern—from the 17 th -century Puritans who did not trust nature to shape their children’s godly souls to 21 st -century practices of “natural” mothering that see culture as anything but nurturing, preferring an uninterrupted primal bond between child and parent. Wherever one stands on the question, it is clear from these two examples that the very definition and connotations of childhood, culture, and nature have changed dramatically over time. In this course, we will see that childhood (even “natural” childhood) is no more a static and unchanging category than other categories of identity, such gender, race, class, and sexuality. Rather, representations of children and rituals/practices involving young people are undeniably shaped by the culture (and sub-cultures) in which one is living. Throughout history and around the world, children have been seen as little adults, degenerates, angels, flowers, cute and cuddly creatures, monsters, and machines—to name only a few common images! For this reason, many scholars of children’s literature believe that childhood itself is “culturally constructed,” meaning that images and stories that purport to represent children and childhood reflect deeply-rooted cultural anxieties, fears, desires, dreams, fantasies, and hopes. Children, in turn, negotiate these images when forging their own culture and identities. With this argument in mind, we will read a number of adult’s and children’s texts that imagine and represent children and children’s culture, thinking about how they
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understand childhood to be and why. It’s crucial to keep in mind that this is a literature and pop culture class; we will not be focusing primarily on what children are “actually like” (as in a psychology or child development class). Rather, we will be analyzing how authors and artists portray children and/or attempt to create and shape children in particular ways. Only then can we determine how these representations and prescriptions might relate to reality, and what effects (positive or negative) they might have. As you study the assigned images, fictions, and films, ask yourself: What image of
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