When you were a child, did your parents read you Goodnight Moon? Captain Underpants? Or was it Struwwelpeter? Or Le Petit Prince or the Cholito series? Tales from the Pachatantra? Pinocchio or Babcia na jabloni? In this course we will read classic and contemporary children’s literature, folklore, and fairy tales from a variety of countries in order to explore the very different ideas of what constitutes “childhood” from place to place and across history. We will look closely at individual works to see how even a seemingly story can reveal fascinating glimpses of cultural values and cultural difference; we will also read essays on children’s literature by leading child psychologists, cultural historians, and literary critics. If there is student interest, we may try to write (and illustrate) our own children’s books during the semester.
Field WorkCountry: Greece
Day: 1 - Tuesday, 6 October
After having read two classics of children’s literature based on Greek myth and legend (D’Aulaire’s Greek Myths and Mary Pope Osborne’s Tales from the Odyssey), we will compare how contemporary Greek culture presents its mythological and classical history to children. We will begin at the Children’s Museum of Athens, pretending (for a while at least) to be children ourselves as we try to experience the museum from a child’s perspective. We will then switch gears and examine the ways classical history and mythology are represented to children in an institutional public setting. After lunch, we will walk to the nearby Acropolis to visit the Parthenon, the Theatre of Dionysus, and the Acropolis Museum, investigating the contrasts between the contemporary reality of these monuments of antiquity and their idealized representations in the children’s literature that we have read. If time permits we will make a purely scholarly trip through the children’s section of the Acropolis gift shop, with an eye to understanding how Classical culture is marketed to children and their parents. Academic objectives:
- Explore how contemporary Greece represents its Classical mythological history to children
- Experience first-hand the contrast between monuments of antiquity and their literary representation in children’s books on the syllabus (D’Aulaires Greek Myths and the Children’s Odyssey)
- Gather material for a non-fiction children’s book introducing the Acropolis to elementary school students