R5A, Section 1: Miniature Worlds: Mapping the Spaces of Childhood

TuTh 8-9:30 | 206 Dwinelle | Instructor: Instructor TBA

Units: 4

This course satisfies the first half or the “A” portion of the Reading and Composition requirement.

This course examines representations of childhood in American, Italian, and Northern European literature. Because we were all children once, we might think that we know very well what it is like to be a child. But can we really access the world of a child — even the world of our past child-self? Starting in the late nineteenth century, this course investigates diverse constructions of the child-figure in a range of genres, including novels, film, and short stories. Our particular focus will be the mapping of childhood spaces within the text. These include spaces that child characters create for themselves, either as a refuge from or resistance to the adult world, and spaces that adult characters create for children. As we explore the narrative function of these spaces, we will also question the desires that motivate their creation. In creating spaces for children, what meanings do adult authors and characters impose on them? How does the text encourage or undermine our own attempts to construct childhood? And how do we try to make the child characters conform to a unified explanation of the text? Tracing these geographies of childhood, we will thus study the relation between these spaces and the interpretative work of the reader. We will ask how the desire to access these spaces mimics the desire to grasp the meaning of the text.

Throughout this course, we will practice the skills of critical reading and writing, which are fundamental preparation for all college work. This course is designed to fulfill the first half of the Reading and Composition requirement. We will learn not only how to read analytically, but also how to craft clear and persuasive arguments about literary texts. In addition to three essays, we will complete exercises in style and register, grammar, and the development of a thesis statement. Each essay will be produced through the course of the writing process, including an outline, rough drafts, and peer review. We will also complete several shorter writing assignments that focus on the skill of close reading.


Henry James, The Turn of the Screw
Virginia Woolf, The Waves
Elizabeth Bowen, selected short stories
Vittorio De Sica, Bicycle Thief (film)
Italo Calvino, The Baron in the Trees
Rosetta Loy, The Water Door

Prerequisite:  Successful completion of the UC Entry Level Writing Requirement or its equivalent.  Students may not enroll in nor attend R1B/R5B courses without completing this prerequisite.