English 415, Spring 2002

Special Topic Seminar:

The Idea of the Child in 19th-century British and American Literature



This course will consider the meaning of the child in a variety of fictional texts.  While children have been characters in novels for as long as there have been novels, much nineteenth-century fiction focuses on the child--even in literature for adults--in ways that seem new and thought-provoking.  We’ll start with the Romantic idealization of the child in such writers as Blake, Wordsworth, and Coleridge, and go on to explore the ramifications of casting the child as "other" -- innocent and happy? or perhaps sexualized and demonized? -- in a variety of nineteenth-century novels from both sides of the Atlantic. Tropes from the innocent exploited "worker" (as in Oliver Twist) to the angelic dying child (as in Uncle Tom's Cabin and The Old Curiosity Shop) will be explored and examined alongside critical and theoretical works on childhood and literature.




Texts (available from the UR Bookstore):

Mary Shelley, Frankenstein (1818, 1832)

Charles Dickens, Oliver Twist (1838)

Emily Brontë, Wuthering Heights (1847)

George Eliot, The Mill on the Floss (1861)

Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865),  Through the Looking Glass (1871)

Louisa May Alcott, Little Women (1869)

Mark Twain, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884)

Henry James, The Turn of the Screw (1898)

Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden (1911)

Additional readings on reserve or handed out in class, as announced


Semester Schedule


Course Requirements