Children's Literature 414 (Fall 2016)
Course Expectations and Assignments

Deborah Kaplan

Participation and Attendance

You are responsible for completing the reading for each week, attending every class, engaging in thoughtful, analytical, in-class discussion, and performing to the best of your ability on all written assignments. Participation is crucial to your success in the course, both contributing to the discussion and listening to your fellow students. Every student should have something of value to add to the conversation about every assigned reading.

Attendance is required. Every absence from a class meeting will influence the final course grade. In rare cases, students will have a single absence; two absences will make it difficult to excel in the course; three absences will result in a failing final grade. Should you need to miss a class, I urge you to let me know ahead of time to discuss the absence. Generally speaking, if you want to earn participation credit for a missed class, you will need to turn in an annotated bibliography for all of the required critical readings for that class. Each annotation will include two parts: first, it will offer a brief summary of the source, and then it will launch into an analysis of the required primary texts for that week, using the critical reading as a lens. Each annotation should be no less than 200 words.

25% of grade.

Writing and Presentation

The books you write about for your papers should be prose or verse fantasy or science fiction published for children or young adults. If you would like to write about something outside these guidelines (e.g. books published for adults, graphic novels, games, television, film, fan fiction, or any other media) you must clear your chosen works with me first.

Article presentation

You will be randomly assigned one article of critical theory over the course of the semester. If you've used your article for a presentation or in a major paper in another class, please let me know and I will assign another article.

  1. You will be responsible, with a fellow student, for leading a 30-minute class discussion about that article. Discuss the critical reading's relevance to the all of fiction works assigned for that week, its relevance to the subgenre under discussion, and -- if appropriate -- its relevance to previous books and subgenres discussed.
  2. Each presenter is individually responsible for a 500-word essay to be handed into the instructor covering the article and all of the week's fictional works.
  3. Additionally, before meeting with your co-presenter, post in Moodle your reading/preparation notes that you've made while thinking about the joint discussion. These do not have to be in any particular format (a scan of handwritten notes is acceptable, even sketch notes), or any particular length. If you are uploading a scan instead of a text document, it does not need to be in RTF format; PNG, GIF, JPG and PDF are acceptable formats.

10% of grade.

Implied reader papers

Choose two books, one from group A and one from group B. For each book, write a 700-word close reading which uses the text to identify the book's implied reader. Defend your assertion from the text. As a framework for your interpretation, use:

Kertzer, Adrienne E. “Inventing the child reader: how we read children’s books.” Children’s Literature in Education, vol. 15, no. 1, Springer, 1984, pp. 12–21.

List A

List B

10% of grade.

Series analysis

You will be assigned a science fiction or fantasy series to read through the semester. Throughout the semester, you will be expected to check in online through a private "reading journal" on Moodle to record your feelings upon finishing each book in the series, and how each book confirms or contradicts the expectations set up from the previous ones. If you have previously read the series, discuss how rereading the individual work stands given your expectations from your prior reading. These journal entries can be short and informal, but should be thoughtful considerations of how being part of a series influences each text. (If your series has only three works, then your fourth journal entry should be an analysis of the experience of reading the series as a whole.)

These journal entries (at least 250 words each, at least four journal entries) should be thoughtful considerations of how a component text and a larger series interact.

On December 9, you and two of your peers will be responsible for conducting a 30-minute discussion about that series in front of the class.

December 9

10% of grade.

Final paper

The instructor will distribute some current Calls for Papers requesting critical analysis of fiction for children and young adults. Using at least two fictional works not used in your other papers, write an essay in response to one of the CFPs. Your essay must refer to at least two pieces of critical work which must not be included on the syllabus. The fictional works may be from the syllabus, but they do not need to be.

This paper will have two written assignments to turn in.

  1. The first will be a 500 word abstract of your paper, a list of the books you plan to discuss, and an annotated bibliography of the critical work you will be using. Don't forget to list the Call for Papers to which you are responding!

    Due: November 4

    15% of grade.

  2. The second part of this assignment will be the final paper itself. (2000-3000 words)

    Due: December 23

    10% of grade.

Research and Writing Hints

The best papers are those for which you do not know the answer before you start doing your reading and research. If you begin writing your paper with your conclusions already fully formed, it won't be a good paper. To choose a paper topic, start with a question you're interested in, for which you would like to know the answer.

Your syllabus includes a bibliography of some helpful works in fantasy and science fiction for children and young adults. It also includes a research guide on how to look for critical sources. This research guide lists many of the print and electronic resources available at Simmons, as well as some of the electronic resources available on the web. Your final paper will require that you do some outside research.

You should begin this research early enough so that if you have any trouble, you can ask me or a reference librarian for help in plenty of time. Be aware that the critical sources most useful to you might not be available electronically, and you might need to arrange time to access the resource in print.

Moodle links to two sample annotated bibliographies and abstracts which were created by prior students in this class. If you're not sure how to structure these assignments, those are a good place to begin.

Submit all papers by 12 PM (noon) on the due date, submitted via Moodle.

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Children's Literature 414: a Renaissance in the Fantastic by Deborah Kaplan is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
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