Philip Nel > Courses > English 710, Sec. B: Dr. Seuss (Spring 2012)

English 710: Dr. Seuss

Required Texts
Leading Class Discussion
Response Papers
Sighting Seuss
Message Board
Schedule of Assignments
Bibliographic Supplement to Dr. Seuss: American Icon
Seuss: Films
Seuss: TV Advertisements
Seuss on the Web
Professor Philip Nel
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Office Hours: M 3:30-5, F 8-9,
& by appointment.
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EH 228

Last updated Monday, March 12, 2012


Required Texts:

A note on the required texts: If you bought a new copy of Dr. Seuss: American Icon, please let me know so that I can donate the profit to charity. That profit is precisely $1 per book, but I don't believe in profiting off of my students.


       Studying the most popular children’s author in America, we will read Seuss’s influences, contemporaries, and of course a generous selection of Seuss’s own work (some of his 65 books, the Private SNAFU animated cartoons, political cartoons, magazine cartoons, and advertising work). We will also read Judith and Neil Morgan's Dr. Seuss and Mr. Geisel (the definitive biography), Richard Minear's Dr. Seuss Goes to War, my Dr. Seuss: American Icon, and important criticism (Cohen, Spiegelman, Menand, Shortsleeve, op de Beeck, & others). The course will be organized around key themes, such as nonsense, aesthetics, autobiography, childhood, adaptation, and a series of political questions (especially concerning race and gender). This course fulfills three credits of the American Literature overlay req. for English majors.

       As a 700-level class, the primary audience is graduate students.

       In this class, education will not be a passive experience: I expect discussion, debate, and exchanges of ideas. This requires that you not only be present but that you be an active presence. A note on the criticism: While I do hope you learn from the critical articles, you do need to agree with each critic. Since I am among those critics, I should tell you that I don't agree with all that I've published. So, do not be shy about critiquing my work. To offer a critique, marshall contrary evidence — that evidence will certainly come from the text under discussion, but may also derive from other contextual (biographical, historical, cultural, theoretical, etc.) information.

  Points Due
Response Papers 90 Roughly once a month: three total. See schedule of due dates.
Class Participation & 200 Daily.
Message Board Weekly.
Leading Class Discussion 110 See schedule.
Sighting Seuss 100 In class, Apr. 2
Midterm Exam 150 In class, Mar. 2
Paper 200 In class, Apr. 27; abstract due April 13.
Final Exam 150 Due in my office by 1:40 pm., May 9.
Total 1000  

Requirements: Paper | Response Papers | Class Participation and Attendance | Leading Class Discussion | Sighting Seuss | Technology | Message Board | Assignments

       Paper: The paper must be typed (word-processed) and double-spaced; include a title, your name, the date; and have numbered pages that are stapled together. Late papers will be penalized one grade (e.g., B+ to C+) for each day late.
        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. 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 questions, please ask. If you plagiarize, you will automatically fail this course. For more information on Kansas State University's Honor System, please visit <>.

        Response Papers: You will also write three response papers (2 pp. in length) in response to our readings. Response papers are designed to ready you for class discussion and to explore ideas you could develop further in your longer paper. They are due the day indicated on the syllabus and must address the reading for that day. In your response paper, you should not repeat previous class discussions or provide a mere summary of the reading. Instead, your response should begin to analyze the reading assigned for that class session, selecting an issue or theme or question you feel to be significant. I recommend that you select a word, phrase, image, two-page spread (if a picture book or comic), or short quotation from the reading to initiate your response. That selection can be from the criticism or from a literary text; you might even apply the criticism to the literary text. Responses will be graded on a 30-point scale: 30-27=A, 26-24=B, 23-21=C, 20-18=D, <17=F. I do not accept late response papers.

        Class Participation and Attendance: Read everything, and come to class prepared to talk about what you have read. On the first day of discussion for each assignment, you must have finished the reading and be ready to discuss it. "The reading" is all the text assigned for that day. We make sense of literature by discussing it. For this reason, class participation will count for 20% of your final grade. Discussion will take place both in class and out of it, via the Message Board (explained below). I reserve the right to assign homework or in-class writing projects that are not listed on the syllabus.
        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 increment for each absence (e.g., B+ would become B). I appreciate your offering explanations for absences; however, the only way to excuse an absence is to provide me with an official letter from the dean. You cannot earn credit for work missed in class. If you miss class, it is your responsibility to discover what went on that day. "I didn't know because I wasn't in class" is never an acceptable excuse.
       If you have medical reason for doing so, you may (if you provide documentation to me at the start of the term) use a portable computer for taking notes in class -- but that's all you may use it for. If you lack such a reason, then you must put your laptop away during class. Similarly, out of common courtesy, you may not text-message during class. And turn off your cell phone.
        Leading Class Discussion:
       Students will sign up in pairs to initiate discussion for one of our class sessions. Questions for class discussion (4-5 in number) should highlight issues or themes or queries you think we should address in our class discussion of the reading assigned for that day. After conferring about and drafting the questions, groups leading discussion should email me their questions by 7 p.m. the night before; I will confirm receipt and offer any suggestions for the order or focus of the questions.
       Sighting Seuss:
        During the semester, keep an eye out for Dr. Seuss. Any time you notice Seuss -- or one of his characters -- referenced in popular culture, make a note of it, including full bibliographic information. If you can, please keep a copy of the item in question. For some examples of such items, see the items reproduced in the "Sighting Seuss" section of this blog post, and in the "Legacy and Influence" section of the Class Pack. For some examples of citations, see the bibliography for Chapter 6 of Dr. Seuss: American Icon, pp. 282-84. I would also prefer if you did not duplicate something mentioned in Dr. Seuss: American Icon. To get a sense of what your analysis might look like, please read Chapter 6 of Dr. Seuss: American Icon. You're not required to read the book mentioned at the end of this sentence, but if this sort of cultural analysis interests you, then check out Gilbert Rodman's Elvis After Elvis: The Posthumous Career of a Living Legend (1996).
        Where will you find these references? Some sources may include television programs, movies, popular music, magazine articles, blogs, comic strips, email, poems, political cartoons (it is an election year), and advertisments (but not for Dr. Seuss books). You're looking for references and allusions to Dr. Seuss in popular culture -- moments in which people invoke Seuss, parody Seuss, identify with Seuss, borrow from Seuss, or otherwise appropriate Seuss. So, for example, please exclude any advertising created by an entity licensed by Dr. Seuss Enterprises. You're interested in what Seuss means to other people.
        On April 2, 2012, you will turn in the following:
    1. A close-reading of one of the items you've found. In other words, interpret this cultural artifact. For what purpose does it invoke Seuss? How does the creator of this object view Seuss? How do you know? Length: Your interpretation should be at least a couple of paragraphs in length. Think of this as being a roughly 2-page paper.
    2. A bibliography of all of the items you've found. I would like each person to find at least a half dozen, but there's no upper limit here.
    3. If possible, turn in the item that you have interpreted. If it's not possible, then it's not possible.
       This syllabus is on-line, available through the "Courses" section of my homepage: <>. I have linked authors' names to relevant webpages, listed resources, and provided links to the paper assignments.

        Message Board: Post comments to the message board once a 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 asses 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.

       Access the message board via K-State On-Line.

  1. Log in to our class on K-State On-Line.
  2. At left, choose the "Message Board."

       Email: My email address is Please use the subject line. Due to the increased volume of spam, messages without clear subject lines will be deleated 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.

[C] = Shown in Class. [CP] = Class Pack. [F #] = Fensch's Of Sneetches..., + page #s. [KSOL] = K-State OnLine [R] = On Reserve (at Hale Library). [W] = Web. [YFS] = Your Favorite Seuss.

Note: "through" means "to the end of" (not "up to"). Page numbers refer to the editions assigned.

The Child: The Boy in the Book
January W 18 Introduction. Gerald McBoing Boing (1950; story by Seuss, adapted by Phil Eastman and Bill Scott, directed by Robert Cannon) [C / W]. Dr. Seuss, The Cat in the Hat; Nel, Dr. Seuss: American Icon, introduction.
  F 20 Judith and Neil Morgan, Dr. Seuss and Mr. Geisel, Chapters 1, 2, & 3; Seuss, And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street (1937) [YFS / R].
  M 23 Edward Connery Lathem, "Words and Pictures Married: The Beginnings of Dr. Seuss" (1976) [F 61-75]; Seuss, If I Ran the Zoo (1950) [YFS / R]; Selma G. Lanes, "Seuss for the Goose Is Seuss for the Gander" (1971) [F 45-51]; Karen Sánchez-Eppler, “Childhood” (2011) [CP]. Leading Class Discussion: Crystal Bandel & Rebecca "Kat" Gibbs.
  W 25 Influences on Dr. Seuss. Peter Newell, The Hole Book (1908) [R]; Palmer Cox, excerpts from The Brownies: Their Book (1887) [CP]; a few of Rube Goldberg's "Inventions" [CP], excerpts from Hilaire Belloc, Bad Child's Book of Beasts (1897), More Beasts for Worse Children (1898), and A Moral Alphabet (1899) [CP]; George Herriman, Krazy Kat [CP].
Poetry: Seuss and Nonsense
  F 27 Morgans, Dr. Seuss and Mr. Geisel, Chapters 4, 5, 6; Seuss, Early Work, items 1 through 12 [CP]; Nel, Dr. Seuss: American Icon, Chapter 4, to p. 101.
M 30 Michael Heyman & Kevin Shortsleeve, “Nonsense” (2011) [CP]; Edward Lear, selected limericks, other verse, & prose[CP]; Lewis Carroll, "Jabberwocky" [CP]; Seuss, If I Ran the Circus (1956) [R]; Seuss, Dr. Seuss's Sleep Book (1962) [YFS / R]. Leading Class Discussion: Sara Austin & Emily Midkiff.
February W 1 Nel, Dr. Seuss: American Icon, Chapter 1, through p. 28; Kevin Shortsleeve, "The Cat in the Hippie: Dr. Seuss and the 60s Rebel" (2011) [CP]; Seuss, On Beyond Zebra! (1955); Seuss, Fox in Socks (1965) [R].
Activism, Part 1: Horton Hears a Heil!
F 3 Morgans, Chapter 7, 8, & 9; Minear, Dr. Seuss Goes to War, to p. 114; Your Job in Germany (1945; script by Geisel, directed by Frank Capra) [C / W]. Leading Class Discussion: Danielle Payne & Laura Thacker.
  M 6 Private SNAFU cartoons [C / W]; Nel, "Children's Literature Goes to War: Dr. Seuss, P.D. Eastman, Munro Leaf, and the Private SNAFU Films (1943-1946)" (2007) [CP]; Minear, to end. Meet in Rare Books, Hale Library, 5th Floor.
  W 8 Nel, Dr. Seuss: American Icon, Chapter 2; Seuss, "Writing for Children: A Mission" (1960) [CP]; Seuss, Yertle the Turtle (1958) [YFS / R]; Seuss, Horton Hatches the Egg (1940) [R]; Seuss, Horton Hears a Who! (1954) [YFS / R].
  F 10 Seuss, The Cat in the Hat; Betty Mensch and Allan Freeman, “Getting to Solla Sollew: The Existential Politics of Dr. Seuss” (1987) [CP]; Louis Menand, “Cat People: What Dr. Seuss Really Taught Us” (2002) [CP].
Cartoons, Camp, & Surrealism: The Art of Dr. Seuss
  M 13 McCloud, excerpts from Chs. 1 & 2, Understanding Comics (1995); Seuss, Hejji (1935) [KSOL]; Nel, "Dada Knows Best: Growing Up 'Surreal' with Dr. Seuss" (1999) [CP]; Happy Birthday to You! (1959) [YFS / R]; Seuss, The Secret Art of Dr. Seuss (1995) [R]. Leading Class Discussion: Meredith Flory & Elizabeth Symm.
  W 15 Nel, Dr. Seuss: American Icon, Chapter 3; Seuss, I Had Trouble In Getting to Solla Sollew (1965), Did I Ever Tell You How Lucky You Are? (1973), Oh, the Places You'll Go! (1991) [all R]; Susan Sontag, "Notes on Camp" (1964) [CP].
  F 17 Morgans, Chapters 10 & 11; The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T (1953) [C].
  M 20 Cohen, Chapter 19 [CP]; The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T [C].
  W 22 discussion of The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T; Nel, Chapter 4, pp. 124-129; Morgans, Chapter 12.
Reading Teacher: The Cat in the Hat and What He Begat
  F 24 Morgans, Chapter 13. Dick and Jane [C]; John Hersey, "Why Do Students Bog Down on First R?" (1954) [CP]; Dolch Word Lists [W]; Dr. Seuss, The Cat in the Hat (1957), The Cat in the Hat Comes Back (1958) [R]. Leading Class Discussion: Caroline Sweeney & Megan Kern.
M 27 The Cat in the Hat Comes Back. Stan and Jan Berenstain, The Big Honey Hunt (1962, in the The Big Book of Berenstain Bears Beginner Books); P. D. Eastman, Go, Dog. Go!; Syd Hoff, Danny and the Dinosaur; Else Homelund Minarik, Little Bear, illus. Maurice Sendak [all R]. Stan and Jan Berenstain, excerpt from Down a Sunny Dirt Road [CP].
  W 29 Morgans, Chapter 14; Nel, Dr. Seuss: American Icon, Chapter 1, pp. 29-35; Dr. Seuss, Green Eggs and Ham (1960), One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish (1960) [R]; Theo LeSieg, Ten Apples Up on Top!, illus. Roy McKie (1961) [R].
March F 2 Midterm Exam.
Race: Was the Cat in the Hat Black?
  M 5 Nathalie op de Beeck, Suspended Animation, Introduction & excerpt from Chapter 2 [CP]; Seuss, And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street (1937) [YFS / R]; Jerrold and Lorraine Beim, Two Is a Team, illus. Ernest T. Crichlow (1945) [R]; Margret and H.A. Rey, Spotty (1945) [R]; Seuss, The Sneetches (1961) [YFS / R]; Garth Williams, The Rabbits’ Wedding (1958) [R]. Leading Class Discussion: Rebekah Mulvaney & Autumn Van Leeuwen.
  W 7 Robin Bernstein, Racial Innocence (2011), Introduction [CP]; Seuss, If I Ran the Zoo (1950) [YFS / R], Horton Hears a Who! (1954) [YFS / R].
  F 9 Seuss, The Cat in the Hat (1957); Cohen, Chapter 16 [CP]; Seuss, "...But for Grown-Ups Laughing isn't any Fun" (1952) [CP]; Nel, “Was the Cat in the Hat Black?: Seuss and Race in the 1950s” (unpublished) [CP]
Gender: Is Seuss for the Goose Seuss for the Gander?
  M 12 Carolyn See, "Dr. Seuss and the Naked Ladies" (1974) [F 53-56]; Alison Lurie, "The Cabinet of Dr. Seuss" (1990) [F 155-64]; Seuss, The Seven Lady Godivas (1939) [C]; Seuss, Horton Hatches the Egg (1940); Seuss, Horton Hears a Who! (1954) [YFS / R]; Seuss, The Cat in the Hat (1957); Seuss, And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street (1937) [YFS / R]. Leading Class Discussion: Elizabeth Rankin & Allison Shufelt.
  W 14 Ludwig Bemelmans, Madeline (1939) [R]; Kay Thompson, Eloise, illus. Hilary Knight (1955) [R]; Seuss, "Gertrude McFuzz" (in Yertle the Turtle and Other Stories, 1958) [R]; Seuss, "The Glunk That Got Thunk" (in I Can Lick 30 Tigers Today and Other Stories, 1969) [R]; Russell Hoban, Bedtime for Frances (1960) [R]; Crockett Johnson, Harold and the Purple Crayon (1955) [R].
  F 16 Morgans, Chapters 15 & 16; Seuss, Green Eggs and Ham (1960); Seuss, Daisy-Head Mayzie (1994) [R]; Seuss, Smith & Prelutzky, Hooray for Diffendoofer Day (1998) [R]; Jan Benzel, "Dr. Seuss Finally Transcended the Gender Barrier" (1995) [F 181-83]; Nel, Dr. Seuss: American Icon, Chapter 4, pp. 101-117.
M 26 No class. Work on "Sighting Seuss."
Case Study: Seuss vs. Sendak
W 28 Sendak, Kenny's Window (1956) [R]; Glenn Edward Sadler, "A Conversation with Maurice Sendak and Dr. Seuss" (1982/1992) [F 135-40]. Maurice Sendak, Where the Wild Things Are (1963) [R], The Sign on Rosie's Door (1960) [R]; Sendak, "Caldecott Medal Acceptance" (1964) [CP], "Really Rosie" (1976) [CP]. Leading Class Discussion: Shaun Baker & Jessica Campbell
  F 30 Kenneth Kidd, Chapter 4 from Freud in Oz: At the Intersection of Psychoanalysis and Children's Literature (2011) [CP], Sendak and Spiegelman, "In the Dumps" (1993) [CP]; Seuss, "What Was I Scared of?" (from The Sneetches and Other Stories, 1961), I Had Trouble in Getting to Solla Sollew (1965) [both R]; Sendak, In the Night Kitchen (1970), Outside Over There (1981), We Are All in the Dumps with Jack and Guy (1993) [all R].
April M 2 Nel, Dr. Seuss: American Icon, Chapter 6; "Legacy and Influence" readings in Class Pack [CP]. "Sighting Seuss" DUE in class. Discussion of same.
Activism, Part 2: Speaking for the trees? We’ll see, we’ll see….
  W 4 Morgans, Chapter 17; Seuss, The Lorax (1971) [YFS / R]; Bill Peet, The Wump World (1970) [R]; Seuss, Bartholomew and the Oobleck (1949) [R]; Nathalie op de Beeck, “Speaking for the Trees: Environmental Ethics in the Rhetoric and Production of Picture Books” (2005) [CP], Seuss "The economic situation clarified: A prognostic re-evaluation" (1975) [CP]; Birkett and Lundgren, Truax (1997) [KSOL]. Leading Class Discussion: Roxanne Campbell & Ryan Gleason.
  F 6 Seuss, "“Dr. Seuss, brilliant prewar political cartoonist,..." (1947), "A Prayer for a Child" (1955) [both CP], Morgans, Chapters 18-19; Seuss, The Butter Battle Book (1984). Munro Leaf, The Story of Ferdinand (1936) [R]; James Thurber, The Last Flower (1939) [R]; Leo Lionni, The Alphabet Tree (1968) [R]; David Macaulay, Baaa (1985) [R].
Marketing: Quick, Henry, the DDT!
  M 9 Dr. Seuss, The Advertising Artwork of Dr. Seuss (Mandeville Special Collections, UCSD) [W]; Seuss, ads for Ford (1949) [W]; Nel, Chapter 4, pp. 117-124; Seuss, Scrambled Eggs Super! (1953) [R]; Dr. Seuss, How the Grinch Stole Christmas! (1957) [YFS / R]. Leading Class Discussion: Kristin Praeuner & Amanda Mahoney.
  W 11 Dr. Seuss and Chuck Jones, How the Grinch Stole Christmas! (1966) [C]; Seuss, ad for See-and-Say (1970s) [W]; Nel, Chapter 5; Seuss, Dr. Seuss's ABC (1963) [R]; Dr. Seuss's ABC: An Amazing Alphabet Book (board book, 1996) [C]; Green Eggs and Ham: With Fabulous Flaps and Peel-Off Stickers (2001) [C]; Seuss-isms for Success (1999) [C].
  F 13 Bring in three copies of the one-page abstract for your final paper.
Adaptation: What would you do, if a director asked you?
  M 16 Linda Hutcheon, Introduction to A Theory of Adaptation (2006) [CP]. The Cat in the Hat (animated cartoon, 1973); A scene from The Cat in the Hat (film, 2003) [C].
  W 18 Dr. Seuss, Horton Hears a Who! (1954) [YFS / R]; Horton Hears a Who! (animated cartoon, 1970) [C]. Leading Class Discussion: Orlando Dos Reis & Elisha Hillegeist.
  F 20 Horton Hears a Who! (film, 2008) [C].
  M 23 Horton Hears a Who! (film, 2008) [C].
Legacy & Influence: Oh, the Places You'll Go!
  W 25 Morgans, Chapters 20-21, and Epilogue. Seuss, You're Only Old Once! (1986) [R]; Seuss, Oh, the Places You'll Go! (1990) [YFS / R].
F 27 Paper Due.
M 30 Theodor Seuss Geisel Award-winners: Mo Willems, There Is a Bird on Your Head (2007); Antoinette Portis, Not a Box (2006) [all R].
May W 2 Jon Scieszka & Lane Smith, The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales (1992); Lane Smith, The Happy Hocky Family (1993); Sandra Boynton, Hippos Go Beserk! (1977, rev. 2000) [all R]; Nel, Dr. Seuss: American Icon, Chapter 1, pp. 35-38.
F 4 Conclusion and Review.
  W 9 Take-Home Final Exam: Due in my office by 1:40 pm.




for English 710-B: Dr. Seuss


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