Philip Nel > Courses > English 703: Critical Approaches to Children's Literature (Spring 2013) > Keywords Paper Assignment
Philip Nel's English 703: Critical Approaches to Children's Literature
|CHOOSE WORD BY:
||In class, 25 March 2013.
||In class, 26 April 2013
||In class, 8 May 2013.
Write an entry for Keywords for Children's Literature. Your entry cannot be a word that is already in the book. It needs to be a keyword that the book has failed to include.
Choosing a Word
Choose a word that is crucial to the discussion of children's literature, but also that is contested or conflicted. As Raymond Williams wrote in his Keywords (1976, 1983): keywords "involve ideas and values," get used in "interesting or difficult ways" -- and in different ways by different people. So, if you find that, in critical conversations, a particular word is getting used in different ways by different people, then that's a candidate for your keyword. If you're stuck, take a second look at the introduction to Keywords for Children's Literature or at Williams' introduction to Keywords (in your class pack). And, of course, you're more than welcome to ask me. I expect to be consulted about this. I know it's a challenging assignment.
Writing the Essay
Here is a version of the assignment Lissa Paul and I gave contributors to Keywords for Children's Literature (2011).
Adopting, modifying, and expanding criteria from Bennett, Grossberg and Morris’ New Keywords and Burgett and Hendler’s Keywords for American Cultural Studies, we developed the following guidelines:
- Your definition should offer a scholarly account of the word’s origins, but should focus on a particular interpretation of the word’s significance for the study of children’s literature and culture. Please look at the relevant entry or entries from the Oxford English Dictionary, and (when possible) other relevant material — such as entries from Williams’ Keywords, New Keywords, Keywords for American Cultural Studies, and/or other related critical works. You can access the Oxford English Dictionary on-line via the databases at the library. If you're on campus, you can just click on the words Oxford English Dictionary in the previous sentence or this one.
- In your very first paragraph, begin with a history of the keyword itself. From there, move into the critical controversies in which this keyword is enmeshed.
- To quote New Keywords’ editors, your entry “should offer concrete examples of usage.” Those examples should come from children’s literature (primarily) but can certainly include children’s culture. Your mandate is to focus on traditions in English, but we invite you to include non-English traditions if or when you can.
- Following Burgett and Hendler’s Keywords for American Cultural Studies, we wish you to address the following questions as each relates to the study of children’s literature and culture:
- What kind of critical projects does your keyword enable?
- What are the critical genealogies of the term and how do these genealogies affect its use today?
- Are there ways of thinking that are occluded or obstructed by the use of this term?
- What other keywords constellate around it? With which other keywords is your keyword in conversation?
- To help these entries connect to one another, you might swap drafts with a classmate working on a related word (or words). For example, during the production of Keywords for Children's Literature, Mavis Reimer (Home) and Claudia Nelson (Domesticity) were in conversation about their words, as was I (Postmodernism) and Kim Reynolds (Modernism).
- The best definitions will perform a mapping that explores the tensions within and around a given term.
- The length of entries will vary. Entries will range between 500 and 3000 words, though they can be longer if need be. Word count does not include “Works Cited,” though your entry should include citations.
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January 25, 2013