NEH Summer Seminar for School Teachers at Harvard
This seminar will investigate how imaginative literature leads children into possible worlds, enabling them to engage in mind reading and explore counterfactuals in ways that are impossible in real life.
Director: Maria Tatar, Harvard University
What happens to children when they read and immerse themselves in other worlds? In this seminar, we will investigate how imaginative literature leads children into possible worlds, enabling them to engage in mind reading and explore counterfactuals in ways that are impossible in real life.
We will begin with the culture of the nursery, analyzing the primal power of fairy tales, their connection with myth, and their attractions for both adult and child.
Next, we will turn to fantasy literature, reading 2 works that introduced the power of fantasy and imagination into children’s literature:
Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland
J.M. Barrie’s Peter and Wendy
A more contemporary fantasy narrative will help us understand strategies writers employ to draw children into fantasy worlds:
J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
Reading the last volume of the Harry Potter series will lead to discussion of the possibilities for understanding and analyzing the effects of story on child readers.
Literature across cultures
We will broaden out into other cultures through the study of the Thousand and One Nights, investigating issues of translation, transformation, and transcultural communication. We will also draw on the experiences of participants in their encounters with different versions of the tale. The challenge will be to understand the cultural specificity of fairy tales, even as we recognize how fairy tales move across geographic and linguistic borders.
Our guides will include
Our analysis of ethics and aesthetics in other worlds will lead us to consider how gender figures both in the fictions of childhood, in the child’s reading experience, and in the real-world challenges of the classroom.
Continuing education units
The seminar will provide participants with a certificate of participation that can be used to obtain continuing education units. For participants desiring graduate academic credit, extra work in the form of three 5-page essays or 1 essay of 15 pages will be expected so that a letter grade can be assigned. There will be no extra charge for academic credit.