Carrie R Matthews
Critical interpretation and meaning in works of prose fiction, representing a variety of types and periods.
Growing Up and Fitting In? Reading Modern Coming of Age Novels
This course will focus on two big questions: (1) How free are children to choose the kind of adults they become? and (2) Why should we care about literary depictions of growing up? We will explore these questions as we read and discover what works of fiction can tell us about how children actually grow up and might grow up.
The texts in this course follow a character’s self-development from childhood or adolescence to adulthood. We’ll move backwards in time, from the 21st century to the 19th, beginning with a contemporary novel (Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go) in which the protagonist remembers a childhood that at first seems romantic, then… well, you’ll see. For our second novel, we’ll turn to the late 20th-century American White Boy Shuffle, which is both hilarious and deeply sad. Next, we’ll read F. Scott Fitzgerald’s This Side of Paradise, which was published in 1920 when the author himself was barely an adult (23 years old), and we will conclude with the oft-banned classic story of an American boy’s maturation, Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.
Student learning goals
Read novels with more enjoyment, appreciation, and sophistication
Understand how the way a literary text conveys meaning affects the meaning itself
Use writing to reflect and discover what one thinks about a work of literature or problem raised by a work
General method of instruction
Class assignments and grading