Yes we'll walk with a walk that is measured and slow,
And we'll go where the chalk-white arrows go,
For the children, they mark, and the children, they know
The place where the sidewalk ends.
— Shel Silverstein, from “Where The Sidewalk Ends”
The various phases of childhood, as remembered and as observed, have long inspired the literary imagination. When we become adults, we tend to think hierarchically about our own and others' childhoods, and take on authoritative roles relative to children. This is partially a social necessity, and partially a symptom of viewing childhood as phase that we have outgrown. It is also possible — particularly in literature featuring developed child characters — to see children as a distinct population with particular needs, desires, ideas, and dreams which are important to them and which could teach adults something too. In this course we will examine depictions of childhood and children created, largely, by and for adults. (Please note that our focus will NOT be children's literature or children's own writing.) We will consider how a diverse range of childhood experiences are represented in short stories, novels (including one graphic novel) and film and, in the process, discuss the retrospective importance of childhood for adults while respecting children’s perceptions of these experiences.
This is first and foremost a writing course, and you will have ample opportunity to practice and refine your writing throughout the semester. We will approach writing as a process, and see writing assignments through from the initial brainstorming stage to the final draft, with all the necessary steps in between. We will also explore a variety of strategies for reading and analyzing texts and developing arguments of intellectual depth that can be used throughout your academic careers and beyond. More specifically, you will develop your skill at close reading, comparative analysis, research, and articulating responses to the arguments presented in published literary criticism. You will also receive instruction in writing mechanics and style, and engage in substantive revision of each major paper.