Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Modernism and Childhood

The schedule for my junior seminar "Modernism and Childhood" is below. Comments welcome.

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Modernism and Childhood

This course will examine the role of childhood in British and American literary modernism, as well as the role of modernity in childhood, with an emphasis on U.S. culture. Many modernist authors were fascinated by childhood and wrote books intended for children; meanwhile, scientific and pedagogical theories of childhood—prescriptive, descriptive, and everything in between—proliferated, revealing the degree to which childhood has always been subject to historical and cultural contingencies. In this course we will explore ideas like cuteness, innocence, play, and learning as they were constructed in the early twentieth century, and the roles that they played in the overlap between modernism and children’s literature. We will touch on some canonical children’s literature (Winnie-the-Pooh, A Child’s Garden of Verses) and some canonical modernist literature (Harmonium, Tender Buttons), as well as some literature that fits neither category very comfortably. We will also devote significant portions of the course to understanding psychoanalysis, both as a critical tool and as a set of powerful primary texts of modern childhood. Students will write two medium-length essays and complete a final exam.

Week 1

Tu 1/15 Introduction: What is modernism? What is a child?
William Carlos Williams, “The Red Wheelbarrow”
Gertrude Stein, “Susie Asado”

Th 1/17 “The Psychology of Modernism in Literature” (JAMA editorial, 1935) [CR]
Margaret Wise Brown, Goodnight Moon

Week 2

Tu 1/22 Childhood, 1900: pedagogy, medicine, art
Sally Shuttleworth, from The Mind of the Child [CR]
Maria Montessori, from The Montessori Method [CR]
Jonathan Crary, from Techniques of the Observer [CR]

Th 1/24 Psychoanalysis and developmental theory
Sigmund Freud, from Introductory Lectures on Psycho-Analysis

Week 3

Tu 1/29 Psychoanalysis continued
Sigmund Freud, The Wolf-Man

Th 1/31 Freud, The Wolf-Man continued
“The ‘Uncanny’” [CR]

Week 4

Tu 2/05 “Innocence” and challenges to innocence
Robert Louis Stevenson, from A Child’s Garden of Verses [CR]
Jacqueline Rose, from Peter Pan, or The Impossibility of Children’s Literature [CR]
Psychoanalysis exercise due: Choose one of the following concepts to explain, based on our reading of Freud: ego, id, castration complex, Oedipal complex, primal scene, uncanny. The goal is to summarize a concept as faithfully as you can, using Freud’s own words as evidence. 2-3 double-spaced pages; no more than 1000 words.

Th 2/07 “Innocence” continued: sexuality
Djuna Barnes, Ladies Almanack

Week 5

Tu 2/12 Barnes continued
Kathryn Bond Stockton, from The Queer Child: Growing Sideways in the Twentieth Century [CR]

Th 2/14 “Innocence” continued: race
Anne Anlin Cheng, from The Melancholy of Race [CR]
Zora Neale Hurston, from Their Eyes Were Watching God [CR]
James Weldon Johnson, from Autobiography of an Ex-Coloured Man [CR]
Frantz Fanon, from Black Skins, White Masks [CR]
Langston Hughes, Montage of a Dream Deferred

Week 6

Tu 2/19 Hughes, Montage continued
Pastiche exercise due: write a poem on any subject in the style of Langston Hughes.

Th 2/21 Cultivating the “innocent eye”
Hughes, poems for children
Marianne Moore, “Critics and Connoisseurs”; “Lines on a Visit of Anne Carroll Moore to Hudson Park Branch” [CR]

Week 7

Tu 2/26 Colonial allegories and the innocent eye
Paul De Man, “Literary History and Literary Modernity” from Blindness and Insight [CR]
L. Frank Baum, from The Wizard of Oz [CR]
Arthur Ransome, from Swallows and Amazons [CR]
William Carlos Williams, “Spring and All” [CR]

Th 2/28 Nonsense and sound-sense
Edward Lear, “The Owl and the Pussycat”; “The Quangle-Wangle’s Hat” [CR]
Ogden Nash, selected poems [CR]

Week 8

Tu 3/05 Nonsense and sound-sense continued
Wallace Stevens, poems from Harmonium, “The Poems of our Climate” [CR]
midterm essay due (5-6 pages)

Th 3/07 Learning to read
A. A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh and The House at Pooh Corner

3/09 - 3/24: SPRING RECESS

Week 9

Tu 3/26 Ezra Pound, from A B C of Reading; “In a Station of the Metro” [CR]; Canto II [CR]

Th 3/28 Cuteness
Gertrude Stein, “Objects” and “Food” from Tender Buttons
Pastiche exercise due: write a poem on any subject in the style of Gertrude Stein OR Ezra Pound.

Week 10

Tu 4/02 Cuteness continued
Stein continued
“Palilalia and Gertrude Stein” [CR]
Sianne Ngai, “The Cuteness of the Avant-Garde

Th 4/04
Stein, The World Is Round

Week 11

Tu 4/9 Cuteness and kitsch
T. S. Eliot, Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats; “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” [CR]
Clement Greenberg, “Avant-Garde and Kitsch” [CR]

Th 4/11 Playing I: Object relations
D. W. Winnicott, from Playing and Reality [CR]

Week 12

Tu 4/16 Margret and H. A. Rey, Curious George and Curious George Takes a Job
Michael Taussig, from Mimesis and Alterity [CR]

Th 4/18 Playing II: Language games
Lorine Niedecker, New Goose
selected nursery rhymes [CR]

Week 13

Tu 4/23 Niedecker continued
Ludwig Wittgenstein, from Philosophical Investigations [CR]

Th 4/25 Modernism and childhood: conclusions
Final essay due

Final exam date TBA

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