Honors Fall 2022 Seminars

ENGL 401: Politically Engaged Youth in American Culture

Professor Chandler

Images of imperiled children are often central to media reports and political parties’ rhetoric about social problems, including border crises, racial or ethnic conflict, poverty and crime. Whether fueling social reform or supporting efforts to preserve cultural norms, representations of child endangerment and suffering are powerful reminders of human vulnerability and measures of societal need. Just as important, however, are the representations of youth agency and activism that we will study in this course. Literature, film, television and popular music have long been rich in images of children’s and teen’s power. And scholars of childhood have argued that these images are not necessarily fanciful, because it is not uncommon for young people to make decisive, productive choices in their own lives, inspire their associates, and contribute to larger social and historical movements. This course will examine the concept of the politically engaged and knowing youth through a range of theoretical writing, literature and other media. Authors may include nineteenth-century figures such as Harriet Beecher Stowe and Frances Harper, as well as later writers such as Gwendolyn Brooks, Julia Alvarez, Kelly Yang, and Henry Jenkins. We will explore assumptions and beliefs informing these images and narratives of empowered youth and consider what they contribute to U.S. culture. In addition to engaging with assigned readings and related texts, requirements for the course will include class discussion, short writing assignments, and a final research project. This course will occur on the Belknap campus.

  • This course fulfills a WR requirement.
  • It fulfills an elective requirement in the current literature track of the English major.
  • The course fulfills a post-1900 historical distribution requirement for those students relying on an older version of the major.