Course Outline


©2008 Elisa Mora
INF2141 will provide students with a forum for engaging in historically grounded explorations of the centrality of cultural texts and artifacts within contemporary childhood. From toys to fairy tales, books to videogames, this course adopts a multi-disciplinary approach to examine how texts and artifacts not only play a crucial role within children’s culture, but furthermore reflect and reproduce dominant (and oftentimes conflicting) ideologies, traditions, controversies and social values.

Students will examine the complex interplay between children’s texts and artifacts, particularly as it relates to the concurrent rise of transmedia intertextuality and commercialization within children’s culture. They will learn about the key issues, institutions and “cultural gatekeepers” (including librarians) involved in the production, circulation and management of adult-produced texts and artifacts for children, and the ways in which children in turn engage with these texts and artifacts as part of a deeply meaningful shared cultural experience.

A variety of examples and case studies will be examined, through in-class analysis and discussion of foundational children’s books, films, television series, toys, video games and digital applications. Recurring motifs, narrative themes and genres will be addressed. Special emphasis will be placed on understanding the continuities and discontinuities that exist between new and traditional cultural forms. Students will also be invited to consider the unique set of opportunities and challenges associated with digital technologies, and how they are currently (re)shaping children’s culture in potentially significant ways.

Topics

  • Historical overview of cultural texts and artifacts that play a central role within children’s culture, including children’s literature, film, television, videogames, toys, mobile devices and emerging technologies.
  • Contemporary issues, major debates and core theories within the study of children’s texts (literature, media) and artifacts (information technologies, toys, etc.)
  • Children’s texts and artifacts as the locus of controversy and debate, social movements and policy development.
  • Continuities and discontinuities between new and traditional cultural forms, for instance between children’s literature and digital media.
  • Dominant themes, motifs, narrative tropes and genres found across children’s culture.
  • Relationship between convergence (technological and corporate) and commercialization within children’s cultural production (and consumption).

Goals and Objectives
Through this course, students will gain an understanding of the key issues, traditions and trends that surround children’s texts and artifacts, from books to videogames and beyond. By developing a theoretically and historically grounded foundation in children’s cultural and textual studies, students will be prepared for a wide range of future engagements with children’s literature and new media, including both academic inquiry and children’s collection development.

Students will gain familiarity of the various interests involved in the production and management of children’s literature and media, enabling them to better understand and evaluate current and future developments in this area.

Students will gain an awareness of a diverse range of children’s cultural texts and artifacts, their many contexts, and the increasingly complex relationships between them.

Students will develop the skills required to embark upon rigorous critical analysis of children’s texts and artifacts, including textual and discourse analysis of individual cases, as well as social/cultural studies of child audiences and the children’s industries.

Format
The class will meet for three hours each week to engage in a seminar style session, which will include a lecture, in-class discussions, group activities, guest lecturers, and case studies. The third hour of each class is reserved for media screenings. On their own time, students must complete weekly course readings and written assignments.

Prerequisites
There are no prerequisites. This course is open to students at both the Master and PhD level.