Slavic 49AC: Children’s Literature

TuTh 2-3:30, Remote. Instructor: Anne Nesbet.

Units: 3

Satisfies American Cultures requirement.

Books written for children do not exist in a vacuum: they emerge from specific and complicated social and historical contexts, as do the children (and adults) who read these books. In recent years, the world of children’s books has been rocked by productive debates about the kinds of stories told and the identities of the voices telling those stories. Critics have pointed out that historically there has been a lack in the United States of books about underrepresented communities written by members of that community. Old classics are being critically reassessed and reevaluated, and new and innovative books are appearing. In this class, we will read a wide assortment of books written for children, with particular attention paid to books depicting the experiences of Native, Latinx and African American children in the United States. Children’s books are complicated objects that deserve to be taken seriously on a number of different levels, both as artistic texts and as documents of their time. We will therefore take a multi-pronged approach to our texts: we will read these books carefully and closely, using some of the formal tools developed for literary analysis by Slavic theorists (Mikhail Bakhtin, Vladimir Propp, Viktor Shklovsky, Boris Eikhenbaum, Tzvetan Todorov), and we will consider more contemporary analyses and critiques of these works (by scholars such as Dr. Rudine Sims Bishop, Dr. Debbie Reese [Nambe Pueblo], Dr. Ebony Elizabeth Thomas, and Daniel Heath Justice [Cherokee Nation]). We will also pay particular attention to the development of the children’s literature industry in the United States and to the current state of children’s publishing.  Readings will include children’s novels by writers like Louise Erdrich, Laura Ingalls Wilder, L. Frank Baum, Jacqueline Woodson, and E. B. White, as well as numerous critical and theoretical articles.