Place is an essential part of literature for children. But although we may think of place as simply the setting in which the story occurs, place is always something that is socially constructed: the product of human beings' interactions, practices, and decisions that reflect the composition of various environments.

 

This course uses multidisciplinary theory and criticism from the academic subfields of children’s geographies and children’s literature to examine the ways different authors, illustrators, and literary characters participate in the representative constructions of place and space for children. We explore primary works’ formal structure, narrative content, and historical context, in the process dismantling the common belief that children’s literature and culture are “simple.” By considering the aesthetic, historical, cultural, and geographical implications of these texts for children, this course argues that place helps form our ideological conceptions of childhood.

 

A few of the questions we consider: 

 

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

  • What is a "progressive sense of place"? How does place in writing for children refuse to be static?

  • How do imagined and embodied places differ?

  • What role do illustrations play in creating place?

  • How do categories like race, class, and gender influence the construction and perception of place?

 

Assigned books (other primary texts available online): 

Matt de la Peña and Christian Robinson, Last Stop on Market Street

Neil Gaiman, Coraline

Katherine Paterson, Bridge to Terabithia

Louis Sachar, Sideways Stories from Wayside School

Rebecca Stead, When You Reach Me

Tim Tingle, How I Became a Ghost

Jacqueline Woodson, The House You Pass on the Way

Childhood's Places

(Honors Children's Lit)

The communal space of the public bus in Last Stop on Market Street.