Special Topics Seminar, Spring 1998

English 422, Topics in Literary Themes

The Idea of the Child in 19th-Century English and American Novels

This course will start from the Romantic idealization of the child in such writers as Jean Jacques Rosseau, 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 to be discussed may include Mary Shelley's Frankenstein from early in the century, and a variety of "children's" and "adult" literature from mid- to late-century, including Wuthering Heights, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Little Women, Alice in Wonderland, The Turn of the Screw, and A Little Princess. Course requirements will include at least one oral presentation, some short written work, and a substantial research paper.

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  • Photo by Lewis Carroll (C. L. Dodgson); image source: "The Sepia Child" at http://home.hkstar.com/~neutre/sepia.html

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