Slavic R5B Section 2: Childhood

TT 8-9:30, 103 Wheeler. Instructor: Zachary Johnson.

Units: 4

Instructor’s email:

All Reading & Composition courses must be taken for a letter grade in order to fulfill this requirement for the Bachelor’s Degree. This course satisfies the second half or the “B” portion of the Reading and Composition requirement.

First lies, first loves, first losses: Vladimir Nabokov tells us that childhood is about “first things,” and we know this is true from personal experience. But childhood is also about ending; and, arguably, as the great novelist Lev Tolstoy shows us, we only begin to speak about childhood once it has ended. We find the modern western conception of childhood outlined in the eighteenth-century philosophical writings of Jean Jacques Rousseau. Nineteenth-century novelists, such as Lev Tolstoy and Henry James, added psychological detail to the description of these formative years, positing the importance of childhood for the formation of adult identity and personality. Twentieth-century writers, drawing upon models both literary and psychological, have continued to explore this stage of human development, often inscribing the events of childhood into a larger historical narrative. In this course we will use the lens of childhood to consider the nature of memory, the working of powerful emotions like shame and love, the emergence of consciousness, and the role of conscience as a moral guide. We will trace these themes through a variety of genres—novel, autobiography, essay, and film—as we examine the constructs of human personality, social institutions, and history.

Course Goals and Requirements: The goal of this course is to develop and improve your ability to write clear, well-reasoned, and persuasive papers. Weekly readings, typically ranging in volume from 50-70 pages, will be selected with this goal in mind. Reading quizzes, which may or may not be announced, should be expected. Writing in this course will assume three main forms: (1) short, in class as well as take home, writing assignments; (2) weekly grammar exercises; (3) six papers, one of which will be a revision of a previously written paper. (Students will be expected to turn in all writing assignments on time. Extensions will only be granted with prior approval from the instructor.  Late papers will be graded down one letter grade per day.) As part of the participation and attendance grade each student will be required to make a short (5 min.) in-class presentation about that day’s reading assignment. The purpose of this presentation will be to pose a question (or set of questions) about the text that will lead to further discussion.

Required Texts:

Lev Tolstoy, Childhood, Boyhood, and Youth (1852) [Modern Library Classics, trans. Michael Scammell, 2002, 0375759441]

Vladimir Nabokov, Lolita (1955) [Vintage, 679723161]

John Maxwell Coetzee, Boyhood (1997) [Penguin, 014026566]

Film: Ivan’s Childhood, dir. Andrei Tarkovsky (1962)

Prerequisite: Successful completion of the “A” portion of the Reading & Composition requirement or its equivalent. Students may not enroll in nor attend R1B/R5B courses without completing this prerequisite.