Among his many inventions, Dickens has been credited with the invention of childhood and the invention of the Victorian novel. Certainly he had much to do with yoking the two together: in his inimitable hands, growing up literally became something novel, a story deserving--even demanding--to be told. In the process, a particular form of narration was born and, we might even say, came of age. This course will study the idea of narrative by examining the evolution of a particular kind of narrative: the coming of age story. Beginning with Dickens' DAVID COPPERFIELD, we will survey a range of nineteenth- and twentieth-century novels, stories, diaries and memoirs centered on the protagonists' (always agonal, often comic) maturation. These works will include Lewis Carroll's ALICE'S ADVENTURES IN WONDERLAND, Mark Twain's HUCKLEBERRY FINN, Anne Frank's DIARY, Vladimir Nabokov's LOLITA, Annie Dillard's AMERICAN CHILDHOOD, and Frank McCourt's ANGELA'S ASHES. Along the way, we will sample readings from such prominent narrative theorists as Hayden White, D.A. Miller, Peter Brooks, Walter Benjamin, Roland Barthes, and Fredric Jameson. And we will ask some especially knotty questions about childhood, narrative, and the historical relationship between the two: how has the story of childhood been told? what other stories has the story of childhood been used to tell? what kinds of stories can be told about what narrative is and how it works? in other words, how might we go about narrating narrative itself?
Formal assignments will include one short paper (5-7 pages), one longer paper (10-12 pages), and a final exam. Regular attendance, weekly listserve posts, and lively class participation are also mandatory.