I've been struggling for - well, most of the summer - to put together a KILLER syllabus for my fall childhood's books class. The summer edition went so well, and I want another fabulous, exciting class. I couldn't just duplicate the summer syllabus, for a number of reasons, not least my desire for a course that has greater historical breadth.
I had a few titles I was determined to use: The Golden Compass, Alice, Peter Pan, Story of the Amulet, a Roald Dahl title, some Janeway and Newbery, Christina Rossetti's Speaking Likenesses.
But what was my theme? what was the organizing principle of the course, other than a generic survey?
So i talked with my friend B last night. B is a fellow grad student, and probably the best grad student teacher amongst us (of all the grad students currently teaching, probably, and CERTAINLY the best in our year). She's a medievalist, and doesn't know children's lit in any special way.
I ran my ideas by her, and she said: "wow, these all sound really disturbing and weird."
and then "why not just do that? focus on the disturbing, the darker parts of children and childhood?"
and I will.
Death, grimness, poverty, the supernatural/spooky, disturbing, bizarre, the child imperiled - THAT will be my theme.
Rossetti fits perfectly, now. I can do Stretton, and Andersen's fairy stories (and a few of Grimms' or Jacobs' fairytales, probably). I'm contemplating excerpting from The Jungle Books - "Letting in the Jungle," which I found a very sinister and terrifying story (as well as being a representative of Kipling, as well as featuring the wild child, Mowgli).
I'm thinking of including Macdonald's At the Back of the North Wind, though it's been some years since I last read it; but Diamond dies, and that's creepy enough!
One of my decisions - to be made ASAP for book-ordering purposes - is WHICH Dahl to use? Initially, I planned to use Matilda, but after talking with B, I think The Witches makes a MUCH better choice.
What other texts would be good in this syllabus? I'm going to include The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (supernatural + Aslan's death + Edmund's Badness), and I'd like to put in HP & the Prisoner of Azkaban (the dementors - need I say more? though Order of the Phoenix would be much more appropriate, I don't think any of the books after book 3 can work as stand-alones).
Suggestions welcome, please!!!! especially any from, say, 1890-1970. I have the contemporary overbooked as it is (it occurred to me that Snicket is IDEAL for this class!), and the Victorians are well represented, but anything before 1840, and after 1890, would be fantastic!!!