Wednesdays 1-3 pm
Course website: <http://www.people.fas.harvard.edu/~rbernst/WGS1408.htm>
Norman Rockwell, “The Problem We All Live With,” 1964.
This painting was inspired by six-year-old Ruby Bridges,
who integrated a
Why is it important that the
central figure in Norman Rockwell’s painting, “The Problem We All Live With,”
is a girl—and not a boy, woman, teenager, or man? What makes this girl useful to the story that
Rockwell wants to tell about not only desegregation, but about American
identity and history? This course foregrounds
such questions as we examine the cultural histories of girlhood in the
Required Texts (all are available at The Harvard Coop; most are on reserve at Lamont Library and in the WGS Resource Room):
Bridges, Ruby. Through My Eyes
Coolidge, Susan. What Katy Did
Fitzhugh, Louise. Harriet the Spy
Fitzhugh, Louise. The Long Secret
Hoxie, W.J. How Girls Can Help Their Country
Jenkins, Henry, ed. The Children’s Culture Reader
Morrison, Toni. The Bluest Eye
Porter, Eleanor H. Foreword by Marion Dane Bauer. Pollyanna
Porter, Eleanor H. Pollyanna Grows Up
Tripp, Valerie. Meet Felicity
The required Sourcebook (“SB”) is on reserve at Lamont Library and in the WGS Resource Room.
Please note: This course does not attempt to provide a comprehensive history of American childhood or children. If you would like to encounter such a history, I recommend Steven Mintz’s Huck’s Raft: A History of American Childhood or Harvey J. Graff’s Conflicting Paths: Growing Up in America. Both these books are available at the Harvard Coop or on reserve at Lamont Library. Also, you will receive in class a lengthy bibliography of additional recommended texts on childhood and gender. These resources may assist you as you conceive, research, and write your final paper.
Course Requirements and Grading:
Attendance and informed, productive participation 35% of final grade
Mid-semester Paper (five pages, due Monday, March 6) 15% of final grade
Prospectus (due Monday, April 10) 10% of final grade
Draft of Final Paper (due Monday, May 1) 10% of final grade
Final Paper (15-25 pages, due Monday, May 20) 30% of final grade
The papers and prospectus are due in the WGS office by 3 pm of the due date.
Late papers will be penalized one third of a letter grade for each day overdue.
The prospectus and draft are graded “full credit/no credit.”
Failure to complete any assignment can lower your grade in excess of the stated
The assignment for the mid-semester paper will be distributed on February 22. The assignments for the final paper, plus instructions for the prospectus and draft, will be distributed on March 8.
This course focuses on pre-adolescent US girls and girlhood. Students’ final research projects may duplicate this focus, or may place the course’s key ideas into conversation with related topics including non-US girls, teenage girls and youth culture, boys and boyhood, “tweens,” or “grrls.”
Graduate students who wish to take this course will receive different writing assignments and will be required to attend four lunchtime or dinnertime meetings in which we will read and discuss works by leading thinkers in the field of Childhood Studies. Further information about all writing assignments will be distributed on February 22.
Students will take collective responsibility for the success of every discussion. This responsibility involves two components. First, you are required to arrive in class having read and thought about all the reading. In other words, merely gulping down the reading is inadequate. You should come to class having chewed and digested the material thoroughly. You are expected to prepare your own thoughts, opinions, and questions before every class. Second, you must express your ideas in a respectful manner that advances our conversation. Practices that disrespect your colleagues (for example, interrupting, hogging the floor, launching personal attacks, or answering cell phones) will hinder conversation; such practices, therefore, are unacceptable.
Discourses of American Childhood
This unit introduces fundamental
concepts in the study of girlhood in the
Ripe” by Sir John Everett Millais, 1879.
A mass-marketed lithograph of this British painting became a very
popular home decoration in the
February 1. Sugar and Spice?
Read in class: excerpts from Martha Finley, Elsie Dinsmore (1867)
Read in class: excerpts from Anne DuCille, “Shirley Temple of My Familiar,” Transitions 73 (1997) 10-32
Look at in class: Sir John Everett Millais, “Cherry Ripe” and Norman Rockwell, “The Problem We All Live With”
View in class: Shirley Temple “Baby Burlesks”
February 8. Histories and Cultures of Childhood to 1900
Karin Calvert, “Children in American Family Portraiture, 1670 to 1810.” William and Mary Quarterly, III, 39.1 (Jan 1982), 87-113 (SB or online through JSTOR)
Sylvia D. Hoffert, “’A Very Peculiar Sorrow’: Attitudes Toward Infant Death in the Urban Northeast, 1800-1860.” American Quarterly, 39.4 (Winter 1987): 601-616 (SB or online through JSTOR)
Anne Scott MacLeod, “The Caddie Woodlawn Syndrome: American Girlhood and the Nineteenth Century,” in Mary Lynn Stevens Heininger et al, A Century of Childhood 1820-1920 (Rochester, NY: The Margaret Woodbury Strong Museum, 1984), pp. 97-119 (SB)
Wilma King, “Within the Professional Household: Slave
Children in the Antebellum South” and “No Bondage for Me: Free Boys and Girls
Within a Slave Society,” in African
American Childhoods: Historical Perspectives from Slavery to Civil Rights (
Karin Calvert, “Children in the House: The Material Culture of Early Childhood,” pp. 67-80 in Henry Jenkins, ed., The Children’s Culture Reader (hereafter “Jenkins”):
Viviana A. Zelizer, “From Useful to Useless: Moral Conflict over Child Labor,” pp. 81-94 in Jenkins
Stephen Kline, “The Making of Children’s Culture,” pp. 95-109 in Jenkins
Miriam Formanek-Brunell, “The Politics of Dollhood in
Recommended: Harvey J. Graff, Conflicting Paths: Growing Up in America, chapters 1-4 and/or Steven Mintz, Huck’s Raft: A History of American Childhood, chapters 1-9
February 15. Histories and Cultures of Childhood, 1900 to the Present
David Nasaw, Children of the City At Work and At Play (New York: Oxford University Press, 1985), pp. 101-137 (SB)
Wilma King, “Black and Red Education at Hampton
Institute: A Case Study of the
Kenneth Kidd, “Boyology in the Twentieth Century,” Children’s Literature 28 (2000), 44-72 (SB)
Lisa Jacobson, Raising
Consumers: Children and the American Mass Market in the Early Twentieth Century
Barrie Thorne, “Boys and Girls Together… But Mostly Apart,” pp. 318-336 in Jenkins
Allison James, “Confections, Concoctions, and Conceptions,” pp. 394-405 in Jenkins
Lynne Vallone, “Grrrls and Dolls: Feminism and Female Youth Culture,” in Beverly Lyon Clark and Margaret R. Higonnet, eds., Girls, Boys, Books, Toys: Gender in Children’s Literature and Culture (Baltimore, MD: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1999), pp. 196-210 (SB)
Juliet Schor, Born to Buy: The Commercialized Child and the
New Consumer Culture. (
Recommended: Harvey J. Graff, Conflicting Paths: Growing Up in
February 22. Constructing Children’s Innocence
Philippe Aries, “From Immodesty to Innocence” (41-57 in Jenkins)
Anne Higonnet, Pictures of Innocence: The History and Crisis of Ideal Childhood (London: Thames and Hudson, 1998), pp 15-49 (SB)
James Kincaid, “Producing Erotic Children” (241-253 in Jenkins)
James Kincaid, Erotic Innocence (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1998), pp. 51-109 (SB).
Valerie Walkerdine, “Popular Culture and the Eroticization of Little Girls,” pp. 254-265 in Jenkins
Assignment for Paper #1 distributed.
March 1. Childhood and Cultural Work
Karen Sánchez-Eppler, “Temperance in the Bed of a Child: Incest and Social Order in Nineteenth-Century America” American Quarterly 47.1 (March 1995), pp. 1-33 (SB or online through JSTOR)
Caroline F. Levander, “‘Let Her White Progeny Offset Her Dark One’: The Child and the Racial Politics of Nation Making.” American Literature, 76.2 (June 2004): 221-246 (SB or online through Project Muse)
Karen Sánchez-Eppler, “Raising Empires like Children: Race, Nation, and Religious Education,” American Literary History 8.3 (Autumn 1996), pp. 399-425 (online through JSTOR)
Gail S. Bederman, “‘Teaching Our Sons to Do What We
Have Been Teaching the Savages to Avoid’: G. Stanley Hall, Racial
Recapitulation, and the Neurasthenic Paradox.” Chap. in Manliness and Civilization: A Cultural History of Gender and Race in
William Leach, “Child-World in the Promised Land,” in James Gilbert et al, The Mythmaking Frame of Mind: Social Imagination and American Culture (Belmotn, CA: Wadsworth Publishing Company, 1993), pp. 209-238 (SB)
Sarah Banet-Weiser, “Elián González and ‘The Purpose of America’: Nation, Family, and the Child-Citizen,” American Quarterly 55.2 (2003): 149-178 (online through Project Muse)
Lori Merish, “Cuteness and Commodity Aesthetics: Tom
Thumb and Shirley Temple,” in Rosemarie
Tavia Nyong’o, “Racial Kitsch and Black Performance,” The Yale Journal of Criticism 15.2 (2002): 371-391 (online through Project Muse)
Karen Sánchez-Eppler, “Playing at Class,” ELH 67.3 (2000), pp. 819-842 (online through Project Muse)
Ann Laura Stoler, “A Sentimental Education: Children
on the Imperial Divide,” chap. in Carnal
Knowledge and Imperial Power: Race and the Intimate in Colonial Rule (
Unit II: Reading American Girlhoods
In this unit, we apply the knowledge and analytic methods we encountered in the previous unit. We read rich primary texts that provide opportunities for us to think about
discourses of American girlhood.
March 6. Mid-Semester Paper due 3 pm to the WGS office
March 8. The Angel in the Home
Susan Coolidge, What Katy Did
All remaining assignments distributed.
March 15. Topsy and Eva in and beyond Uncle Tom’s Cabin
View before class: Dimples
Harriet Beecher Stowe, Uncle Tom’s Cabin chapters 14, 15, 20, 22, 25, 26, 27 (SB or online at <http://www.iath.virginia.edu/utc/uncletom/uthp.html>
George L. Aiken, Uncle Tom’s Cabin (1852) Act II, scenes 1, 2, 4; Act II, scenes 2, 4; Act IV, scenes 2, 3; Act V, scene 2; Act VI, scene 6. SB or online at <http://www.iath.virginia.edu/utc/onstage/scripts/aikenhp.html>
“Oh, I’se So Wicked” (1852) <http://www.iath.virginia.edu/utc/songs/sowickedf.html>
“Eva to her Papa” (1852) <http://www.iath.virginia.edu/utc/songs/evatopapaf.html>
“I Never Had a Mammy” (1923) <http://www.iath.virginia.edu/utc/songs/duncanmammyf.html>
“The Entrance of Topsy” (1910) <http://www.iath.virginia.edu/utc/onstage/sound/topsentf.html>
Anonymous, “Topsy, Or, The Slave Girl’s Appeal,” The Liberator 3 December 1852. SB or online at <http://www.iath.virginia.edu/utc/songs/sopo02bt.html>
Anonymous, Little Eva, The Flower of the South.
Aunt Mary’s Picture Book (
View Topsy-Eva doll at <http://www.iath.virginia.edu/utc/tomituds/topsyevadoll.html>
Anonymous, The Story of Topsy from Uncle Tom’s Cabin (Chicago, IL: Reilly and Britton, 1908) (SB or online at <http://www.iath.virginia.edu/utc/childrn/cbcbhbat.html>
Peruse “The Duncan Sisters in Topsy and Eva” <http://www.iath.virginia.edu/utc/onstage/duncanhp.html>
Jim O’Loughlin, “Grow’d Again: Articulation and the History of Topsy.” SB or online at <http://www.iath.virginia.edu/utc/interpret/exhibits/oloughlin/oloughlin.html> (graduate students should substitute Jim O’Loughlin, “Articulating Uncle Tom’s Cabin,” New Literary History 31.3 : 573-597 [online through Project Muse])
March 22. Girls’ Racial and National Responsibilities
View before class: The Little Colonel
W.J. Hoxie, How Girls Can Help Their Country
Silas X. Floyd, Floyd’s Flowers, or, Duty and Beauty for Colored Children (Atlanta, Chicago, and Boston: Hertel, Jenkins & Co., 1905; reprint, New York: AMS Press), excerpts in SB
The Brownies’ Book, excerpts in SB
Zitkala-Sa, “Impressions of an Indian Childhood” and “The School Days of an Indian Girl” (SB or online at <http://digital.library.upenn.edu/women/zitkala-sa/stories/stories.html>)
March 29. NO CLASS! Enjoy your Spring Break!
April 5. Glad Girls and the Mind Cure
View before class: Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm
Eleanor H. Porter, Foreword by Marion Dane Bauer. Pollyanna
Eleanor H. Porter, Pollyanna Grows Up
Monday, April 10: Prospectus due by 3pm to WGS office.
April 12. Sexualized Girls
Recommended: Henry A. Giroux, “Stealing Innocence: The Politics of Child Beauty Pageants,” pp. 265-282 in Jenkins
April 19. Girls as (Secret) Agents
Louise Fitzhugh, Harriet the Spy
Louise Fitzhugh, The Long Secret
Ruby Bridges, Through My Eyes
April 26. Girls and Beauty
Toni Morrison, The Bluest Eye
Anne DuCille, “Shirley Temple of My Familiar,” Transitions 73 (1997), pp. 10-32 (SB and online through JSTOR)
Monday, May 1: Draft of Final Paper due to WGS office, 3 pm.
May 3. The American Girl
Valerie Tripp, Meet Felicity
Selected articles on a recent controversy regarding the partnership of the American Girl company with Girls Inc. (SB)
Susan Stewart, On Longing: Narratives of the Miniature, the Gigantic, the Souvenir, the Collection (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1993), pp. 37-69 (SB)
Peruse the website of American Girl <www.americangirl.com> in depth.
Go to a bookstore that has a children’s section and browse through the display of American Girl books and other commodities. How does the display construct knowledge about what an “American Girl” is, was, and should be?
Monday, May 20: Final Paper due to WGS office, 3 pm.
Enjoy your summer!