Instructor: Perry Nodelman
Class: Tuesday and Thursday, 11:30-12:45, 4M46
Office: 2C03 Centennial
Office Hours: preferably by appointment. Other times can also be arranged. If you wish to get in touch with me otherwise, call me at 786-9918; if I'm not there, leave a message on my voice mail with a number where I can reach you. I can also be reached via e-mail:
Nodelman, Perry, Words about Pictures: the Narrative Art of Children's Picture Books
AND THESE PICTURE BOOKS:
Munsch, Robert, We Share Everything!
OPTIONAL TEXT: Nodelman, Perry, Pleasures of Children's Literature, 2E. This text is especially recommended for those who have not previously studied children's literature or considered theoretical questions about children and their reading.
In addition, you should read as many different children's picture books as you can throughout the term. Try to choose a variety: ones you like and ones you hate, ones for younger and older children, etc. Many picture books are available in the U of W library's special collection; there are also good selections at many public libraries, school libraries, and resource centres; and at bookstores such as Toad Hall Toys on Arthur, and McNally Robinson for Kids at Grant Park Plaza.
The course will proceed more or less in the order and at the times outlined below. But since it's hard to determine how long class discussion of any specific topic might take, we may find ourselves diverging from this plan: don't worry too much about it, since we have no particular obligation to cover all the materials and topics listed. Nevertheless, be prepared to discuss the texts listed after "READ" and do the presentations you've signed up for in relation to a particular topic as soon as we've agreed to stop discussing the previous topic.
Outline, etc., selection and taste
READ: (optional: Pleasures, chapter 1)
BRING to second class a either: 1), a picture book you loved in your childhood and still own; 2), if you can find it, a new copy of a picture book you loved as a child; 3), a copy of a picture book loved by a child you know or have known as an adult; or 4), failing all the above: a written description of a picture book you loved as a child and your memories of it. If you weren't a reader as a child and have no contact with child readers in your adult life, you may write about a narrative movie or TV show you loved as a child.
READ: Pleasures, chapters 1, 2, and 3. Otherwise, there's an anti-assignment this week. If you haven't done so yet, don't start reading any other part of Pleasures or the tales in Hallett and Karasek. We'll be working on the unwritten versions of tales we already have in our heads, and we don't want to confuse these with "the facts."
READ: Pleasures 245-260; tales selected from
Hallett and Karasek, p. 21 to p.147. (While I'll announce a
more specific list of selections prior to these classes, I encourage
you to read as many of the tales in Hallett and Karasek as you
NOTE: If you're not familiar with reader-response strategies for thinking about literary texts, or terms like "implied reader," "gap," "repertoire," or "consistency-building," you should read Chapter 4 in Pleasures also.
READ: In Pleasures: Chapter 5, 8; also, chapter 11 and Hallett and Karasek, pp. 244-262 if you're unfamiliar with strategies for reading picture books.
READ: Ella Enchanted, Hallett and Karasek 209-243, Pleasures, chapter 6 and 7.
READ: Pleasures, chapter 9; Hallett and Karasek,
263 to end.
TEST: February 22: Group discussion, to be followed by take home writing, due February 24.
READ: Hallett and Karasek, tales selected from those on pp. 148-208; tales selected from Datlow and Windling (again, I encourage you to read as much of this book as you can manage.)
READ: Pleasures, 263-268.
BRING: Any two children's versions of any one or more Bible stories (you'll need at least two versions of the same story).
BRING: Copies for everybody of the poems you'd like to include in a class poetry anthology.
READ: Pleasures, chapter 10.
A NOTE ABOUT CONTRACTS: The information you'll find below describes the basic, conventional set of assignments for the course. Should you find that some of the kinds of work required don't suit your learning style, or should you prefer to organize your time in some different manner, you may consult with me to negotiate some different pattern of work agreeable to both of us. Such negotiations may occur at any point in the course, but only in relation to work due by deadlines that have not yet passed; you may not negotiate to replace earlier missed assignments. Once we have agreed on a particular set of dates and assignments, I will ask you to sign a contract agreeing to the change; after that, no further change or variation will be possible without further negotiation.
The term work for this course consists of:
Assignments may be submitted:
For each of the first three writing assignments, due January 7, January 21, and February 4, you're asked to hand in a piece of exploratory writing in which you ask a question about some specific aspect of the course material that you yourself would genuinely like to be able to answer, and for which you believe an answer would be useful to others in developing some aspect of their understanding of fairy tales, myths or poetry for children. See notes below for further information on exploratory writing.
In order to complete the test portion of the assignment, you'll need to have read any materials assigned prior to the test occasion, and you'll need to attend the class discussion on February 22. Small group discussion during that class will be followed by a question for you to answer before, and due at, the next class, February 24.
For the major writing assignment, due March 30 (the day of the last class in this course), you must submit the following:
You may, if you wish, do further exploratory writing in order to develop your ideas for each assignment, and submit it with your other work. You might also want to respond to one or more of a classmate's first three exploratory writings, and have the classmate respond to yours, in order to practice the kind of work required for the major assignment.
Your grade for the major assignment will be based primarily on my evaluation of the last piece of finished writing. Remember that this finished writing is designed to be read by an audience unknown to you but interested in this subject, and constructed with that purpose in mind. Since this is a finished writing, the evaluation will take questions of clarity, accuracy, formatting, and the effectiveness of the style into account. Nevertheless, you have no obligation to write in a less personal style than you use for exploratory writing: any decisions you make about style should emerge from the effect you intend to have on the audience you hope for. While the last piece of finished writing in each assignment is the primary basis of evaluation, you must submit all the writings in order to complete the assignment. Missing pieces of writing will seriously affect your grade for the assignment.
Remember that the major writing assignment requires you to write pieces with a specific relationship to each other and in a specific chronological sequence. Each piece must be finished before you can go on to the next stage of the process. This means you must make sure that you start soon enough, and that you get each succeeding piece done soon enough so that you will be able to finish the projects by the due dates.
I've organized the work for this course in this way in the faith that writing regularly and receiving feedback regularly almost always helps students to learn more. Consequently, I take missed deadlines very seriously. All assignments are due by the dates specified, and ordinarily, NO late work will be accepted. I can be persuaded to make exceptions to this rule only when you know of problems in advance and have made specific arrangements with me before the due date or hand-in date, or if you can provide evidence of serious, unexpected problems that developed at the last minute. In all cases when you're having trouble meeting a deadline, your best first step is to try to reach me by phone (786-9918), and if I don't answer, leave a message on my voice mail, prior to the deadline. You may also e-mail me at
Otherwise: No work will be accepted past deadline unless you can present evidence of medical or other serious problems or have made arrangements with me prior to the deadline. Each missed assignment receives an automatic grade of 0%. Thus, if you miss one of three exploratories, I'll assign a grade for the two submitted then reduce it by one-third; if you miss one of the pieces for the major assignment, I'll assign a grade then reduce the total by one-fifth.
No term work of any sort will be accepted after 2 p.m., March 31, 2000.
The purpose of the writing assignment is to allow you to use, or help you to develop, strategies for achieving deeper understanding by engaging in dialogue with others--with texts, with other students, and with the writers of published criticism. Your goal is to develop knowledge shareable with others--particularly others who have no particular interest in you personally, but who do have a reason for wanting to know more about fairy tales, myths or children's poetry. In order to make the best use of the assignment as a tool for learning and for developing shareable knowledge, you need to be honest about what does and does not interest you and what you are and are not certain about. You need to believe that your responses might indeed be a source of knowledge worth sharing with others. You need to be willing to investigate the causes and implications of your interests or uncertainties with some objectivity in order to try to understand them better in ways useful to other people. You need to be willing to interact with others and develop ways of using their responses to your ideas and yours to theirs in order to increase your understanding. Above all, you need to remain open to new possibilities, new uncertainties--to operate in the faith that your ideas about any subject and your answers to any given question are likely to change and to grow more complicated and, probably, less certain, in the light of new experiences and further thinking and dialogue with others. You want, not necessarily to have definite answers or solutions to problems, but to develop as much understanding as you can of the implications and ramifications of the questions or problems at hand.
The exploratory writing you submit for evaluation will be considered as work in progress--writing for the purpose of developing your understanding. As I read your exploratories, then, I won't pay much attention to matters of presentation--spelling, grammar, format, etc.--as long as I can figure out what you intend to say. (I would, however, prefer that you either type or write on every other line; my eyes are weak.) In my evaluation of your finished writings, I will take presentation--questions of format, grammar, spelling etc.--into account.
Remember that the major writing assignment due at the end of term requires you to write pieces with a specific relationship to each other and in a specific chronological sequence. Each piece must be finished before you can go on to the next stage of the process. This means you must make sure that you start soon enough, and that you get each succeeding piece done soon enough so that you will be able to finish the projects by the due dates.
The various writings required for the major assignment represent descriptions of different stages in the process of your thinking--not drafts of the same piece of writing. Try to think of each one as a new, different writing, describing where you are with your ideas at this particular moment, how you got there in terms of your own thinking and your interactions with others, and where you think you might be going next.
I'll evaluate your writing assignments primarily on the basis of what they reveal of your skills and strategies for coming to terms with literature, and offer comments to help you to develop those skills and strategies. Consequently, my marks and comments on writing will, for the most part, represent my evaluation of the usefulness of your strategies of thinking. And I will prefer writing that accurately describes the process of your thinking to writing that closes off the possibility of your enriching your understanding.
The assignments require you to do four different kinds of writing: exploratory writing, responses to the writing of others, abstracts, and finished writing. The following notes might help you to better understand these kinds of writing.
We'll discuss what this means in class. The following notes offer some guidelines and advice:
The object is to use writing as a way of developing your understanding of children's literature. You'll know you have written a successful piece if you find that you understand something more or something different when you've finished it than you did when you started to write it. This means either answering a question you feel needs to be answered or else developing more knowledge about why it's a meaningful question. In order to do that, you'll have to write without first planning the overall organization of the piece of writing as a whole. If, in the process, of writing, you discover that you've changed your mind about something, don't stop and start again. Instead, continue writing to discover what you can about the implications of your change of mind. And don't limit your writing to what you're already sure about; if you don't understand something, say so, and try to figure our why. Rather than being an organized description of your conclusions as you've come to understand them, your writing should record the process by which you've developed your conclusions.
You will do your best exploratory writing if you choose specific questions relevant to the course that you yourself find interesting and that you believe you would benefit by thinking further about. Remember that specific detailed thinking is always more interesting and more useful than weak generalizing. Don't try to cover too much ground in too few words.
Because each of us thinks best in our own individual ways, there is no ideal pattern or procedure for exploration. It might, however, be useful to start by establishing what question you'd like to answer or what you'd like to try to learn more about, why you want to think about that, and what method or procedure or tactic you've chosen in order to explore it. Then, at the end, try to sum up what you have or haven't learned, whether or not you think it valuable, and why.
Whatever specific text or topic you choose to write about, your writing should centre around your developing a deeper understanding of your own response to the literature you read in ways that might make knowledge of your response useful to other readers. In order to develop that understanding, particularly in terms of your writing about your responses to fictional texts, here are some specific questions that you might consider exploring (but it'd be wise to concentrate on only one or two for each piece of writing, in order to explore at a usefully detailed level):
In discussing any of the above, you should explore the significance and the implications of what you discover. You may do so in terms of your own reading and response, reading and response in general, or the reading and response of children specifically.
You might also write about any of the following:
Your response to another student's first writing is itself exploratory in nature: think of it in terms of exploratory writing. Your goal is to think about someone else's ideas as they report them in order to help them develop their ideas and ways to communicate them to others. In order to do this successfully, you'll need to be honest about what you find valuable and why, what you do and do not understand, what gaps in arguments or evidence you perceive, etc. You'll need to think through whatever implications you see in what has been written and share your sense of those implications with your colleague. And you need to be willing to suggest possible paths that might be followed to develop further understanding: things to think about, strategies to use, etc. You are acting as a fellow scholar here, not as an editor: there's no reason to correct errors, offer formatting suggestions, etc. Focus on the ideas, not on questions of presentation.
An abstract is a statement summarizing the main points of a text. Your goal in your abstract is not to comment on the piece or respond to it in any way. It is to describe its argument and outline how the argument is presented. A successful abstract will describe, not just the main subject or thesis of a text, but how the argument is developed: what aspects of the topic are covered, in what order, what supporting evidence is provided, and what conclusions are reached about each of those aspects. While your main goal is to provide a summary, you also want to provide a reader with enough details to understand, not just what opinion is being stated, but how the writer of the text goes about defending that opinion. In order to do this successfully, you'll probably have to write a number of paragraphs; I'm not specifying a length for your abstract because what you need to write will depend on the content and complexity of the text you choose to work on.
I'll be offering suggestions in class about where to find critical articles and books suitable to work with for this assignment. Meanwhile, however, you might want to browse through the bibliography of children's literature criticism at my web site:
A finished writing is work based on earlier explorations, but written for an audience unfamiliar with those explorations and thought through, organized, and prepared as if for submission for publication. Unlike exploratory writing, therefore, this piece should be organized and revised in order for it to be as clear and as persuasive as you can make it. Note, however: that doesn't mean it needs to be written in "formal" language, or that it has to follow any particular model or structural pattern or represent anyone's ideas about supposed rules for essays or academic writing. The object is to communicate what you want to say as clearly, as simply, and as directly as you possibly can, in a structure and in a language that best serves your ideas and purposes and communicates them most successfully. We'll further discuss the nature of finished writing, and the distinctions between exploratory and finished writing, in class.
You can think of the audience for this writing as someone who might be taking this course in the future. In order to do a good job, you probably need to believe that our own experience as a reader might help someone else--your audience--to understand some important things about Canadian children's literature, or about children's reading, or about thinking and/or learning about literature in general. You therefore intend to share your ideas with this audience in order to help them understand these things. Remember that you yourself arrived at your final understanding by undergoing a process that helped you to develop your ideas; reporting the history of how this happened might well be an effective way of communicating what you want to say as you yourself experienced it and best understand it.
The finished writing should be presented neatly and accurately in standard MLA format, including a list of works cited. It should be accompanied by all other required exploratory writing.
In editing drafts of the finished writing for yourself and for others, you may find the following guidelines useful:
Is it clear what the piece is trying to do and how it's trying to do it, and does everything in it (selection of material, focus, citations of examples, choice of style, etc.) contribute to making it work?
In order to complete the test portion of the assignment, you must participate in the class discussions to be held on February 22. You'll need to have read specific materials announced in class in the weeks prior to the test occasion. Small group discussion in class time will be followed by a question for you to answer before, and due at, the next class, February 24.
Since the test is meant to evaluate your mastery of the skills taught in the course, it involves group discussion work and response to the ideas of others. In order to write tests based on class discussion, you MUST attend the class and participate in the discussion; I obviously can't accept take-home test answers from people who didn't actually attend. Should missing the test occasion be unavoidable, we'll try to negotiate an acceptable alternative.
The final exam will be held on April 3, 2000 at 1:30 p.m. The exam will be three hours long and focus on response, analysis and evaluation. The exam is likely to involve small group discussion as well as writing; the class test has been set up in a similar fashion in order to prepare you for this experience.
Test and exam answers are best thought of as exploratory writings in response to the assigned questions. In choosing strategies and writing procedures, you are wise to follow the guidelines suggested above for exploratories.
The first three exploratory writings are worth 15%. (I'll put grades on the individual assignments to give you an idea of where you stand, but I'll assign this grade after all three exploratories are submitted, taking into account your progress over the three assignments.)
The major writing assignment is worth 40%.
NOTE: each missed deadline for writing submissions will automatically result in a grade of 0 for work due at that point, unless you can successfully negotiate later submission. I'll lower your grade for each assignment in proportion to the number of missing assignments, as specified above under deadlines.
Primarily based on attendance and participation in class discussion; you'll be asked to tell me what grade you think you should receive for this part of the course work, and explain why.
The grade arrived at by my evaluations of written work and in-class work may not necessarily be the term mark awarded; bonuses may be given for your performance or development in the course as a whole. Furthermore, the success of a discussion class such as this one depends on the regular participation of everyone involved. Obviously, then, irregular attendance can seriously affect the mark you receive.
Marking for this course is based on the U of W's grade point system. Your work will be evaluated on a scale from 0 to 4.5. The numbers may be interpreted as follows:
Note: In order to avoid over-subtle distinctions, I give no numerical grade on any individual assignment that varies from these; for example, excellent work is always awarded 4, never 3.9 or 4.1.
As a final mark, I will award the nearest official grade to the number which represents 20% of your first term writing mark, 30% of your second term writing mark, 20% of your in-class mark, and 30% of your final examination mark. For instance, a final mark of 3.6 will be considered a 3.5, or B+; a final mark of 3.8 will be considered a 4, or A-.
You're urged to keep a photocopy or computer file of ALL assignments handed in for grading; occasionally loss or theft occurs, and then I'll need a duplicate copy.
You're advised to read pages A-9 to A-11 and A-20 to A-24 of the 1999/2000 Calendar for the rules regarding Registration, Voluntary Withdrawals, Academic Misconduct including plagiarism, and Appeals.
March 3 is the FINAL DATE to withdraw without academic penalty from courses which begin in January and end in April.
This course outline constitutes your official notice of the dates and requirements for tests and assignments throughout the course. Deciding to remain in the course after having been provided with these materials constitutes your contractual agreement to live by the conditions specified. If you think you can't accept any of these conditions, speak to me about it before the course gets any further under way: otherwise, it'll be too late to arrange anything very much different for yourself (but see also note under Assignments, re contracts). Also: I may or may not give further reminders of the various assignments during class; so make sure you read the outline and course guide carefully, and take particular notice of all due dates.
I'll assume that students in the course are capable of handling the kind of flexibility in organization of the class and in time spent on topics that is likely to make a course of this sort the most intellectually rewarding experience. I will, however, try to provide more exact schedules covering the next few weeks, particularly in terms of reading assignments and such, whenever it's possible.
You need to have read the texts listed in the schedule following the word "READ" before attending the classes that deal with them, and bring the materials listed after "BRING," or else you won't be able to participate usefully in the discussions. If you haven't read enough of the assigned text to have developed a fairly substantial response to it, or done the thinking required to select appropriate and interesting materials to bring, then there's little point in attending. If it becomes apparent to me that you've come to class without having read the texts in question, I reserve the option of asking you to leave.
Remember that, as the weeks pass, you'll suddenly become responsible for having read much of Pleasures of Children's Literature, Hallett and Karaseck, and Datlow and Windling. Avoid leaving your reading until the last minute, when you might not actually have the time to get it done.
One of my central beliefs about studying literature is that we all respond differently to it, and that all of our responses are worthy of thoughtful consideration and potentially interesting to others, especially others engaged in literary study and wishing to understand literary matters better. Therefore, being a part of this course means:
It's particularly important to maintain these standards in small group discussions. If you don't believe that the opinions of your fellow students are worth listening to or that you can learn anything from them, or if you believe that respect for the opinions of others means never expressing disagreement with them or arguing against them, then this is not the course for you.
In signing up for the course, you've obligated yourself to attend class unless it's absolutely impossible for you to do so; you have in effect made a series of appointments, and contracted to keep them. This general rule of student etiquette is particularly important in a discussion course like this one. Learning how to engage in discussion and learn from it is a key component of the course, and frequent absences imply a refusal to take that component seriously. Of equal significance is the fact that erratic attendance on the part of some class members makes it difficult for the class as a whole to develop the kind of collegial group atmosphere that results in productive academic discussion. Therefore, frequent absences of some students (especially when interrupted by occasional presences) might prevent the course from becoming the best possible experience for those who have actually committed themselves to it.
The most obvious consequence of erratic attendance is lower grades. 10% of the final grade for this course is given for work in class; frequent absences could result in you losing the whole 10%.
I suggest the following:
Some variations on the same theme: It's disruptive to arrive late or leave while the class is in progress; it breaks the train of thought the rest of us are engaged on. While the occasional lateness due to reasons beyond your control is understandable, frequent late arrivals are to be avoided. If you intend to leave before the class is over, let me know in advance--and have an excellent reason for doing so. But even better: do remember that your class time constitutes a prior appointment and commitment. Try not to arrange other events during these hours.