Philip Nel > Courses > English 680: Radical Children's Literature (Fall 2008)
Philip Nel > Books > Tales for Little Rebels > English 680: Radical Children's Literature (Fall 2008)
English 680: Radical Children's Literature
ECS 017. TR 1:05-2:20 p.m.
Professor Philip Nel
Office Phone: 532-2165
Office: ECS 103
Office Hours: TR 4-5 p.m., & by appt.
Virtual Office Hours: philnel@ksu.edu
Website: www.ksu.edu/english/nelp/
       
Paper Assignment: Undergraduates Grad Students
Class Presentation: Assignment Dates
Book Review: Assignment Due Dates
Other Assignments: Politicized Kids Message Board
Syllabus last updated on November 11, 2008 .
Required Texts:
Objectives:
       Children’s literature is political.  In this class, we will read children’s books by left-leaning authors, children’s books that have been perceived as leftist, and the definitive work on the subject: Julia Mickenberg’s Learning from the Left: Children’s Literature and Radical Politics in the United States. The course focuses on picture books and illustrated works for preteen readers; Radical Young Adult Literature (a genre more explicit in its political engagement) is a vast territory that mostly lies beyond the scope of our inquiry. So, we will read stories by Munro Leaf, Dr. Seuss, Langston Hughes, Lucille Clifton, Syd Hoff, Carl Sandburg, Lois Gould, Jay Williams, and many others. In so doing, we will map radical traditions of (mostly) American children’s literature, examining what makes a book Leftist (and what does not), and investigate how ideologies of the Left inform (and do not inform) books for children.
Grading: Undergraduates | Graduate Students

Undergraduates:  

Points

  Due

Class Participation

100

  Daily.

Message Board 100   Weekly.

Presentation   

200

  In class, on day scheduled.

Paper

200

  In class, 12/4.

Politicized Kids 50   In class, 11/20.
Midterm Exam 150   In class, 10/16.

Final Exam

200

  In class, 12/16, 2:00 - 3:50 p.m.

Total

1000


Graduate Students: 

Points

  Due

Class Participation

100

  Daily.

Message Board 100   Weekly.

Presentation  

200

  In class, on day scheduled.

Book Review

50

  In class, on day scheduled.

Paper

200

  Abstract, 11/6; Final, 12/4.

Politicized Kids 50   In class, 11/20.
Midterm Exam 100   In class, 10/16.

Final Exam

200

  In class, 12/16, 2:00 - 3:50 p.m.

Total

1000

Requirements: Class Participation and Attendance | Paper | Presentation | Book Review | Politicized Kids | Message Board Board

        Class Participation and Attendance:
        Read everything, and come to class prepared to talk about what you have read. On the first day of class discussion for each assignment, you must have finished the reading and be ready to discuss it. By "the reading," I mean all of the text assigned for that day. This class will be based on discussion, so class participation is expected, and will count for 10% of your final grade. I reserve the right to assign homework or in-class writing projects that are not listed on the syllabus.
        Although it shouldn't be necessary for me to say this, I'll say it anyway: Class attendance is required. Since the class meets three times a week, you are granted three absences, but more than three will lower your final grade by one grade for each absence (e.g., B would become C). You cannot earn credit for work missed in class. If you miss class, it is your responsibility to discover what went on that day.
        Paper: Undergraduates | Graduate Students
        The paper must: be typed (word-processed) and double-spaced; include a title, your name, and the date; and have numbered pages that are stapled or paper-clipped together. Late papers will be penalized one grade (e.g., B+ to C+) for each day late. For a full description of the paper assignment for undergraduates and the paper assignment for graduate students, please click on the relevant words in this sentence.
        Sources: Use the MLA method for documenting sources. Don't plagiarize. When you turn in a paper, you pledge that you have faithfully abided by the guidelines for documenting sources -- most grammar handbooks provide guidelines for documentation. Always remember: you must cite the sources of any ideas that are not your own. If you quote, paraphrase, or use another's ideas, you must give credit to the person whose ideas you are using. If you have any questions, please ask. If you plagiarize, you will automatically fail this course. For more information on Kansas State University's Honor System, please visit <www.ksu.edu/honor>.
        Presentation:
        Groups of students will sign up to present some contextual material for one of our class sessions. The presentations should be 10 minutes in length. Rehearse your presentation to make sure that it comes in at or near to 10 minutes.
        Students must meet with me in advance to confirm the focus of their presentation.
        Each group must develop a brief handout (one side of one page or two sides of one page) which you can distribute to the class as a reference to the information and insights you will provide. The handout must include an annotated bibliography of relevant secondary sources.
        You will need to consult relevant resources (some on reserve, others available in the stacks or other library resources). As you might guess from these guidelines, you should plan to meet with your group at least once in advance of the presentation. When you meet with me, I may well be able to recommend some sources for your subject.
        Book Review (Graduate Students):
        Please note that the book review assignment is for graduate students only. Undergraduates should ignore this particular assignment.
        Politicized Kids: The Political Uses of Children and Children's Literature:
        Keep your eyes and ears open for the ways in which our contemporary culture uses children and children’s literature to advance particular political arguments.  And collect some examples.  You might find them in political cartoons, political campaigns, the news, movies, video games, television shows, magazines, website, or books — Golan and Origen's Goodnight Bush comes to mind. Please do not use the example in the previous sentence or any example on the syllabus.
        On November 20, 2008, you will turn in the following:
    1. A close-reading of one of the items you’ve found.  In other words, interpret this piece of culture.
      • For what purpose does it invoke children or children’s literature?
      • What are its politics?  And be specific here.  If radical, then what type of radicalism is at work?  If conservative, then what type of conservatism?
      • Is its argument persuasive?  Why or why not?
    2. An annotated bibliography of all the items you find.  I would like each person to find at least three, but there’s no upper limit here.  In your annotation, identify — as best you can — the specific political argument being made.
    3. The items in your bibliography, if possible.  So, for example, while turning in a videogame may be impractical, turning in a print advertisement would be easy.  And you can be creative here: for example, TV commercials often show up on YouTube or elsewhere on the internet.  Provide the link in your bibliography, and (if you can) a screenshot of the item.

    Please note:

        Computing -- the Internet, the Message Board, and Email:

        The Internet: This syllabus is on-line, via the "Courses" section of my homepage <www.ksu.edu/english/nelp/>. I have listed resources, and provided links to the paper assignments for underrgraduate students and graduate students.

        Message Board: Post comments to the message board every other week (or more frequently, if you wish). An average posting should run one or two paragraphs in length. In other words, your postings do not need to be long, but they must be substantive -- long enough to convey clearly the problem you are taking up and your point of view, connecting your comment to others' comments, as appropriate. I will monitor these discussions and assess a grade (at the end of the semester) based on the thoughtfulness of your comments, their ability to foster discussion among your classmates, and their responsiveness to both our readings and to your classmates in comments on the message board. Though extra postings to the message board will not automatically replace participation in class discussions, regular contributions above and beyond your weekly posting can improve your class participation grade.
        You can access the message board via K-State On-Line:
  1. First, log in to our class on K-State On-Line.
  2. At left, choose "Message Board."
  3. To post, you may either reply to a message (when you're reading a message, there's a "Reply" option) or begin a new thread (by selecting "New Thread" at top right).
        Email: My email address is philnel@ksu.edu. Please use the subject line. Due to the increased volume of spam, messages without clear subject lines will be deleted unread. You can write with questions, send a thesis statement or outline for an essay, make an appointment to meet me in my office, or do anything else that could be handled with a quick exchange of messages. I check email several times daily, but I am not on-line at all times.
 

Schedule of Assignments
Subject to Change
[W] = On Web. [CP] = Course Pack. [TLR] = Tales for Little Rebels. [R] = On Reserve (at Hale Library). [C] = To read in Class.
Note: "through" means "to the end of" (not "up to"). Page numbers refer to the editions assigned.
Introduction: What's Left?
August T 26 Introduction. Munro Leaf, The Story of Ferdinand (1936).
  R 28 Mickenberg, Learning from the Left, Introduction; Mickenberg and Nel, Tales for Little Rebels, Introduction.
 
R Is for Rebel
September T 2 Alphabet from New England Primer (c. 1690) [CP]; Mickenberg and Nel, Tales for Little Rebels' Intro. to Part I, Klein's Socialist Primer (1908), Art Young's Socialist Primer (1930), Ned Donn's "Pioneer Mother Goose" (1934), M. Boland's "ABC for Martin" (1935), Lucille Clifton's The Black BC's (1970) [all TLR Pt. 1].
R 4 Eve Merriam's The Inner City Mother Goose (1969) [C], Dan Piraro's The Three Little Pigs Buy the White House (2004) [R]; Golan and Origen's Goodnight Bush (2008) [C]; Mike Lester's A Is for Salad (2000) [R].
 
Imagine
T 9 Mickenberg, Chapter 1 ("Lyrical Leftists, Juvenile Publishing, and the Politics of Progressive Education"); Sandburg's "How Two Sweetheart Dippies Sat in the Moonlight on a Lumber Yard Fence and Heard About the Sooners and the Boomers" (1923) [TLR Pt. 8]; excerpt from Kreymborg and Artzybasheff's Funnybone Alley (1927) [TLR Pt. 5]; Wanda Gág's Millions of Cats (1928) [R].
R 11

Mickenberg and Nel, Tales for Little Rebels' Intro. to Part 5; Gibson's Teacup Whale (1934) [TLR Pt. 5]; Krauss and Johnson's The Carrot Seed (1945) [R]; Margaret Wise Brown and Clement Hurd's Goodnight Moon (1947) [R]; Charles G. Shaw's It Looked Like Spilt Milk (1947) [C].

Presentation on the Bank Street School.

 
Organize: From Young Revolutionaries to the Cultural Front
T 16 Mickenberg, Chapter 2 ("'For Young Revolutionists': Children's Literature and the Communist Milieu, 1925-1935"); "Happy Valley" (1907, illus. Crane), Helen Kay's "Battle in the Barnyard" (1934) [both TLR Pt. 4]; Hermina Zur Mühlen's "Why?" (1927) [TLR Pt. 5]; Jack Hardy and William Siegel's "American History Retold in Pictures" (1931) [TLR Pt. 6].

Presentation on Red Diaper Babies.

R 18

Mickenberg and Nel, Tales for Little Rebels' Intro. to Part 4; Myra Page's "Pickets and Slippery Slicks" (1935), Oscar Saul and Lou Lantz's "The Beavers" (1936), Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America's "Mary Stays after School or -- What This Union's About" (1935) [all TLR Pt. 4]; Langston Hughes' "Sharecroppers" (1937) [TLR Pt. 3].

Presentation on the Popular Front.

 
T 23 Mickenberg, Chapter 3 ("Work and Sing: Children's Literature and the Cultural Front, 1935-1945"); A. Redfield's (Syd Hoff's) Mr. His: A Children's Story for Anybody (1939), Jerome Schwartz and Mark David's Oscar the Ostrich (1940) [all TLR Pt. 4]; Clara Hollos and Herb Kruckman's The Story of Your Coat (1946) [TLR Pt. 3]; Leo Lionni's Swimmy (1963) [R].
R 25 Legacy of the Cultural Front: Sandra Weiner's "Doria Ramirez" (1970) [TLR Pt. 4]; Martin Waddell and Helen Oxenbury's Farmer Duck (1991), Doreen Cronin and Betsy Lewin's Click Clack Moo: Cows that Type (2000), Toby Speed and Barry Root's Brave Potatoes (2000) [all R]; Kimberly Jack, "Trouble in the Farm Yard: Labor Relations and Politics in Doreen Cronin's Duck Books," Children's Literature Association Quarterly 30.4 (Winter 2005) <http://muse.jhu.edu/journals/childrens_literature_association_quarterly/v030/30.4jack.html> [link accessible only via K-State; if you're not logged in on campus, find it via K-State Libraries' Find e-journal].
 
A Person's a Person, Part I: The Influence of WWII
T 30 Margret Rey and H.A. Rey's Spotty (1945) [R]; H.A. and Margret Rey's Curious George (1941) [R]; June Cummins, "The Resisting Monkey: 'Curious George,' Slave Captivity Narratives, and the Postcolonial Condition," ARIEL: A Review of International English Literature 28.1 (Jan. 1997), pp. 69-83 [CP].
October R 2

Mickenberg, Chapter 7 ("Ballad for American Children: History, Folklore, and Leftist Civic Education"); Hildegarde Hoyt Swift and Lynd Ward, excerpt from North Star Shining (1947) [TLR Pt. 6]; Ruth Benedict, Gene Weltfish, and United Productions of America, In Henry's Backyard: The Races of Mankind (1948) [TLR Pt. 8].

Presentation on Teaching from the Left.

 
T 7

Mickenberg and Nel, Tales for Little Rebels' Intro. to Part 7; Philip Nel, "Dr. Seuss vs. Adolf Hitler: A Political Education," from Dr. Seuss: American Icon (2004) [CP]; Dr. Seuss, WWII cartoons available on-line at Dr. Seuss Went to War [W*]; Dr. Seuss, "The Sneetches" (1953) [TLR Pt. 7]; Seuss, The Sneetches (1961) [R]; Seuss, Horton Hears a Who! (1954) [R].

*Note: You don't need to read all 400+ political cartoons; instead, browse, letting your interests guide you.

 
McCarthyism and Children's Literature
R 9 Mickenberg, Chapter 4 ("'Pink-Tinged Pages'? McCarthyism and Children's Literature"); Testimony of Helen Goldfrank (a.k.a. Helen Kay) and testimony of Langston Hughes (McCarthy hearing, 1953) [W]; Lewis Carroll and Walt Kelly, "Who Stole the Tarts?" [TLR Pt. 7].
 
T 14

William Gropper, The Little Tailor (1955) [TLR Pt. 3]; Crockett Johnson, Harold and the Purple Crayon (1955) [R].

Presentation on Masses and New Masses.

R 16 Midterm Exam
 
A Person's a Person, Part II: Countering the Cold War
T 21

Mickenberg, Chapter 5 ("Countering the Cold War"); Langston Hughes's "A Little Boy in a Big City" (1952) [TLR Pt. 7], "Stories for Children" from Freedom (1950-1955) [TLR Pt. 6].

Presentation on Children's Literature of the Harlem Renaissance.

R 23

Garth Williams, The Rabbits' Wedding (1958) [R]; Ezra Jack Keats, The Snowy Day (1962) [R].

Presentation on African-American Children's Picture Books.

 
Subversive Science and Dramas of Ecology
T 28

Mickenberg, Chapter 6 ("The Tools of Science: Dialectics and Children's Literature"), pp. 175-204; excerpt from Caroline Nelson's Nature Talks on Economics (1912), excerpt from William Montgomery Brown's Science and History for Boys and Girls (1932), Alex Novikoff's "The Races of Mankind" (1945) [all TLR Pt. 2].

R 30

Mickenberg, Chapter 6, pp. 204-230; Bill Peet, The Wump World (1970) [R]; Charlotte Pomerantz and Jose Aruego, The Day They Parachuted Cats on Borneo (1971) [TLR Pt. 2].

Presentation on Children's Literature and Ecocriticism.

 
November T 4 Mickenberg and Nel, Tales for Little Rebels' Intro. to Part 2; Dr. Seuss, The Lorax (1971) [R]; Deb Preusch, Tom Barry, and Beth Wood, Red Ribbons for Emma (1981) [TLR Pt. 2].
 
Free to Be You and Me
R 6 Eve Merriam and Beni Montresor's Mommies at Work (1961) [R]; Norma Klein and Roy Doty's Girls Can Be Anything (1973) [TLR Pt. 3]; Eve Merriam's "Lucretia Mott" (1968) [TLR Pt. 7]; Lane Smith, John, Paul, George and Ben (2006) [R].
 
T 11 Jay Williams and Friso Henstra's The Practical Princess (1969) [TLR Pt. 5]; Julius Lester and Tom Feelings' "High John the Conqueror" (1969) [TLR Pt. 6]; Jeanne Desy and Leslie Udry's "The Princess Who Stood on Her Own Two Feet" (1982) [TLR Pt. 7].

Presentation on Fairy Tales.

R 13 Mickenberg, Epilogue; Free to Be You and Me (TV special, 1974) [watched in class].
 
  T 18 selected stories from Marlo Thomas and Friends, Free to Be You and Me (1974).
R 20

Maurice Sendak, Where the Wild Things Are (1963), In the Night Kitchen (1970), We're All in the Dumps with Jack and Guy (1993) [all R].

Politicized Kids DUE in class.

 
T 25 Lois Gould and Jacqueline Chwast's X: A Fabulous Child's Story (1978) [TLR Pt. 7]; Leslea Newman and Diane Souza's Heather Has Two Mommies (1989) [R], Johnny Valentine and Melody Sarecky's One Dad Two Dads Brown Dad Blue Dads (1994) [C], Justin Richardson, Peter Parnell and Henry Cole's And Tango Makes Three (2005) [R].
R 27 Thanksgiving.
 
Peace
December T 2 Mickenberg and Nel, Tales for Little Rebels' Intro. to Part 8; R.F. Outcault's "Buster Brown Plays David and Goliath" (1907), Munro Leaf's Three Promises to You (1957) [both TLR Pt. 8].
  R 4

Jean Merrill, The Pushcart War (1964), through Chapter XVII (p. 112).

Paper DUE in class.

 
  T 9 Jean Merrill, The Pushcart War (1964), to end.
R 11 Conclusion and Review.
 
T 16 Final Exam, 2:00 p.m. to 3:50 p.m. You must take the final exam on the day and at the time scheduled. NO EXCEPTIONS. MARK YOUR CALENDARS.

 


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