ES2207 What is a child? Assignment 2 Summary: select one novel or film that features a child, children, or the state of childhood. Discuss and illustrate the ebb and flow of selected meanings in the text by developing a series of semiotic squares.
Overview:- Your task is to demonstrate your ability to think flexibly and imaginatively about the nature of childhood in relation to social life in general. To do this you are expected to use a particular analytic tool that has been developed to probe the meanings that constitute/structure our social lives.
In more detail, you are asked to study one of two American media-texts featuring particular notions of childhood (please check with me if you intend to use an alternative). Your study should either • involve the development of a number of semiotic squares that allow you to discuss both the particular meanings being emphasised in your chosen text, and the relations that they have with other meanings within the two referenced societies, • Or • one or two syntactic tables.
N.B. the time of maximum relevance of a book or film does not necessarily correspond to the apparent time of its narration, or even of its first publication or distribution.
In the case of The Wizard of Oz, the film is set in the time of the Great Depression and mass rural poverty in the United States (roughly, the 1930s). This period includes the work of the Farm Security Administration – a very rich archive of illustrative material. What is left out of many accounts of this time is that this was also the time when America came closest to wide-spread recognition of socialism as the solution to the country’s difficulties.
Harper Lees book,To Kill a Mockingbird, came out before the film. The setting of both the book and the film is the American Deep South at a time of great racial intolerance and before the start of the Civil Rights Movement (roughly, the late 1950s). The film, in this sense, is a little ‘after the fact’, i.e., ‘safer’, although still pertinent. Take a look at the YouTube of Billie Holliday singing ‘Strange Fruit’ to get a feel for what was at stake for the country at this time.
Finally, either running alongside your analysis, or as part of its conclusion, you may broaden the scope of your study by making comparisons with alternative notions of childhood that you think are critically relevant. N.B. ‘critically relevant’ here means locates childhood, or more generally, the child as metaphor, in different co-ordinations with the rest of social life and practice – including education.