Children’s Literature & Coming of Age (ENG 392)

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In this genre-studies-centered course, students will explore the works of twentieth-century canonical Children’s Literature, including novels by C.S. Lewis, Astrid Lindgren, and Beverly Cleary, while also studying the elements of the traditional bildungsroman, or coming of age novel, as found in the works of contemporary transnational writers such as Sherman Alexie and Kazuo Ishiguro. We will probe into the nature of childhood as it is constructed in fictional narrative and pay special attention to the ways in which our authors create themes that both bolster and critique dominant ideologies of the time (imperialism, global capitalism) and consider in context developments within twentieth-and-twenty-first-century cultural discourse that inform the counter-cultural challenges inscribed by coming-of-age fiction.

Pursuing advanced training in literary studies skills, students will also read secondary criticism and literary theory, including scholarship on the bildungsroman by Mikhail Bakhtin. They will also develop their own short, individual research proposals and annotated bibliographies and complete supplemental group and individual research projects and oral presentations over the course of the semester. Signing up for one sub-topic within the study of Children’s Literature, students will move forward with additional texts while developing their own lines of inquiry within these given topics. They will thus have opportunities to look for connections and bridge work between their own research interests. Critical literacy skills like maximizing breath of coverage through directed reading, applications across texts through time, and the development of research and oral communication techniques will be vital.