John Cech

Spring 2003

Large and small acts of violence have touched children's lives since the beginnings of civilization. At times this violence is careless and accidental, at times it is maliciously intentional, and at many times it has been regarded as an accepted part of growing up. Representations of the violence to which children are exposed is a current that runs through nursery rhymes and lullabyes; fairy tales and fantasies; games, toys, and any number of other genres of popular culture. Inescapably, violence is also found in the facts of young peoples' lives: in our families and schools, our neighborhoods and larger communities, including the global village. This course will examine the "origins" of violence vis-a-vis children in myth, psychology, and history. It will explore many of the more familiar forms in which this violence occurs and in which it is represented culturally -- from picture books, comics, realistic and fantasy fiction, and tranditional games to movies, rap, sports, and the digital world. Throughout, we will be interested in engaging a number of important questions (psychological, philosophical, historical, creative) about the shifting cultural dynamics that affect our attitudes toward violence and the ways that it touches the youngest among us as well as it has our own younger selves.

baby and book

Fall 2002

The child is all that is abandoned and at the same time divinely powerful; the insignificant, dubious beginning and the triumphal end. The "eternal child" in man is an indescribable experience, an incongruity, a handicap,and a divine prerogrative.
Carl Jung

This course is meant to be an introduction to and an exploration of the child's earliest experiences with literature, from birth until his/her first years in school. We will be interested in the relationships between children's books and oral literature and the imaginative, aesthetic, moral, and psychological growth of their young audiences. The course is designed to involve you actively, analytically, and creatively in the study of this subject. You will be encouraged to develop a first hand sense of how some forms of children's literature are created; you will be asked to look at works for children with a critical eye; and you will be urged to do your own field work, testing assertions, questions, and ideas that are raised in the course. Literature for Young Children is intended for the children in your classrooms, the children in your home, and the child who still lives somewhere within you.


Children on Bike Fall 2002

We usually don't link the words "children" and "culture" together. The latter is thought of as somethings serious, lofty, essential; while the former is generally regarded as disposable, insignificant, and dispensible. And when these two terms are combined, "culutre" is usually singular. The purpose of this course is to explore not only the connections between culture and childhood and their eternal ties, but also to consider the plurality of these cultures and childhoods. For though there are fundamental similarities that nearly all children share, the social circumstances and the developmental experiences are very different for a child who grows up to be veiled in one part of the world, and a child in another who is allowed to hold wild rumpusses in the family room, like Max in Maurice Sendak's Where the Wild Things Are. Childhoods, as we shall see, are dependent upon historical and material facts, social customs, and mythic configurations. But children and childhoods may also be a source of dramatic change and paradigmatic shifts, for cultures, and for the individuals who people and create them.

Magic Lantern Picture

Fall 2001
CRW 6166: Studies in Literary Form

Children's Books: Old Boundaries, New Directions This seminar will explore a wide range of works that have been created for children, or that have come to be regarded as works for children, though they may not have begun their history with that intention. One of the concerns we will have in the course is to look at those boundaries that have been drawn, arbitrarily or consciously, to define children's books, and thus what creative works we believe are important to bring into the lives of young people. We will look at "classics" as well as experimental works that are testing accepted assumptions, shorter works that began their life in the oral tradition as well as more extended works that are meant for sophisticated, literate audiences. Throughout the term, along with examining these works from a critical perspective, we will also be responding to them in creative ways, producing works that build imaginatively on these possibilities.

Copyright © 2002 by John Cech