Childhood's Places

Map of the United States in Samuel Griswold Goodrich's Peter Parley's Method of Telling about Geography to Children (1830).

Place is an essential part of literature for children, from the halls of Hogwarts, to the stolen prairies of Laura Ingalls Wilder's Kansas, to the far-away land where the Wild Things are. But although we may think of place simply as the existing location in which the story happens, place is something that is socially constructed: the product of human beings' interactions, practices, and decisions that reflect their environments. Throughout the semester, students in this upper-division course examined the ways authors, illustrators, and characters participate in the construction of place and space for children, in the process discovering that place helps form our ideological conceptions of childhood.

 

A few of the questions we considered: 

 

  • How are place and space different? How do they rely on one another for meaning?

  • What is a "progressive sense of place"? In what ways are places in writing for children progressive?

  • What does it mean to "jump scale," and how do some child characters--particularly minority characters--participate in that process?

  • What role do illustrations play in producing place?

  • Is the child flâneur possible?

  • Are the geographies of children's video games and movies demonstrably different than those in children's books?