L390 2095 ANDREW MILLER
Children’s Literature

Lecture:
10:10a-11:00a MF (70) 3 CR.

Discussion sections:
2096 – 9:05a- 9:55a W (35)
2097 – 10:10a-11:00a W (35)

As newly human creatures, odd, small, and for a long time speechless, children have persistently, naggingly pressed writers to investigate the nature of human. How exactly do humans differ from animals? From things? What is more unsettling, a speaking pig or a speaking object (like a toy)? Why? Is there particularly human about the way “we” grow and develop? Is everything that looks like a human truly a human? How can we know? How can all the creatures we call human be human when they come in so many colors and shapes and sizes? Why is literature for children so often about marriage, violence and death?

In addressing these questions—both simple and fundamental—we are likely to begin with some writing by philosophers who have found children of special interest: Plato, Augustine, Wittgenstein, Cavell. But most of our time (don’t worry!) will be spent reading literature for young children and watching some films. The course will probably be organized thematically, with sections on children and animals; children and toys; children violence and death; children, sexuality, and marriage; and children and comedy. I’m determined to have us watch at least one of the Toy Story movies (and study their terrific soundtracks) and would like to have us watch Beauty and the Beast (the Cocteau version, but maybe Disney as well); we’re also likely to read some of the following: Peter Pan, The Velveteen Rabbit, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Little House on the Prairie, Charlotte’s Web, The Birchbark House, Alice in Wonderland, poems by Edward Lear, Christina Rosetti, and William Blake, along with a good number of fairy tales. Students will be asked to write two papers and exams and to take regular quizzes. Of course the class will only be successful for you if you attend lecture and participate vigorously in discussion We will meet twice a week for lecture and once for discussion; movies will be screened (but not often) in the evening.

This is not a course about teaching literature to children; but it is a course in why children’s literature is so powerful and why, therefore, we do teach it to children.