J.K. Rowling created the greatest literary phenomenon since the Bible with her blockbuster series of novels about the fledgling wizard Harry Potter. But if the world has most certainly followed every adventure of Harry and his friends, Rowling hardly invented the idea that a book written for children or young adults could take readers of every age by storm. This course will explore the incredible and treasured heritage of some of the modern literature’s greatest settings and characters, all without leaving the beautiful confines of iconic settings and characters that were born to entertain children while also helping their authors and eager adult audiences to make sense of the often troubling cultural and social environments from which they sprang.
To Platform 9 1/2 and Beyond: London
Our focus in London will be the amazing locations and settings that helped to define so many works of British Children’s Literature from the Victorian period through our own era. To get our search for settings started, we will sleuth out the major touchtones of literary context that dot our own London neighborhood. Coram’s Fields will occupy our time, as will the leisurely strolls past it that both Charles Dickens and J. M. Barrie had in their eras of literary invention, during which the former worked on A Christmas Carol and the latter was writing Peter Pan. Our walking search for literary magic will continue as we snake our way through the amazing gardens and parks of London, to statues that celebrate the lost boys of Neverland to the theaters where Winnie the Pooh’s author made his earlier literary life, to the Notting Hill neighborhood where Paddington Bear’s London adventures were set. We will take great care, finally, to set the epic of Harry Potter into its proper time and space, as we wander the Quiddich Fields of Hyde Park and wait for our train to leave London as Harry did, right by the famous Platform 9 1/2.
Tin Tin, Babar, Madeline, and The Little Prince
In Paris, our class will delve deeply into the French experiences of Empire and two world wars, assessing how the turbulent history of this period made its way into the literature of children. Through the beloved adventures of Tin Tin and Babar, we’ll explore how French and European ideas of culture were recast as stories for children. And we’ll traverse all Paris as we situate these cherished characters into a cannon that came to include the Madeline stories as well as the poignant world of The Little Prince.