Department of English

University of Toronto

ENG435H1S L0101

ENG435H1S  L0101  R10-12
Advanced Seminar Group 3: Wild Child: Parenting at the Social Limit in Contemporary American Fiction
Instructor: Prof. N. Morgenstern

Office Location: Jackman Humanities Building, Room 625
Email: naomi.morgenstern@utoronto.ca


Brief Description of Course:  This course will consider representations of liminal or “wild” childhood in literature, politics and philosophy. How has the child’s vulnerability and non-reciprocal dependency been registered by architects of political belonging from Plato to the United Nations and in and in contemporary works of literary and cinematic fiction? Is the child merely a proto-adult, temporarily lacking in the requirements of full citizenship and full responsibility, or does childhood name a constitutive and irreducible dimension of human being? What is the relationship among human rights, animal rights, and the rights of the child? How have changing relationships to parenthood and to the ethics of reproduction affected narrative representations of the parent-child relationship? This course will read recent critical writing on the figure of the child and the politics of reproduction as well as novels and films depicting children and their guardian in states of ethical and existential crisis.

Required Reading: Plato, from The Republic; Aristotle, from Politics; Hobbes, from Leviathan; Locke, from the Second Treatise; Freud, From The History of an Infantile Neurosis; Ruddick, Maternal Thinking; Benatar, Better Never To Have Been; Guenther, The Gift of the Other; Roth, American Pastoral; Donaghue, Room; Morrison, A Mercy; McCarthy, The Road; Villeneuve, Prisoners; Munro, selected short stories.

First Three Authors/Texts: Plato, Aristotle, Roth.

Method of Evaluation: Short essay, long essay, presentation.

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