English R1B

Reading and Composition : Wild Child

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
9 Fall 2014 Browning, Catherine Cronquist
MWF 3-4 250 Dwinelle

Book List

Barrie: Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens and Peter and Wendy ; Burroughs: Tarzan of the Apes; Eliot: The Mill on the Floss; Gaiman: The Graveyard Book; Graff and Birkenstein: They Say/I Say ; Kipling: The Jungle Books

Other Readings and Media

Additional readings on course website including selections from Rousseau, Blake, Maria and Richard Lovell Edgeworth, D. Wordsworth, W. Wordsworth, Darwin, Sendak, Jean Craighead George, Sally Shuttleworth, and more.

Film (to be shown in class, no need to order/buy): L’enfant sauvage (dir. Truffaut, 1970).


This course will explore the literary depiction of the “wild child” and the association of childhood with “primitive,” “savage,” or “natural” conditions. We’ll consider a broad spectrum of wild child characters, including abandoned and orphaned children who become “feral,” children raised in deliberate seclusion or a “state of nature,” children who opt out of civilized society, and children who simply behave ferociously. Our primary focus will be on the function of the wild child as a literary trope, particularly in the nineteenth century, but we will also attend to the real-life phenomenon of neglected and abused children who grow up without normative socialization. Throughout the course, we’ll ask what’s at stake when childhood is figured as the antithesis of civilization, why the figure of the “feral child” is so threatening, and how innocence and primitivism are interrelated.

As part of the university’s Reading and Composition requirement, this course develops reading, writing, and research skills that are applicable across the curriculum. We will focus on how to find, evaluate, and make effective use of research tools and resources for analytic writing. The primary writing assignments for the course will be three progressively longer papers (2-3 pages, 6-8 pages, 8-10 pages), combining analysis of primary texts with research from secondary sources. Strategies for revision will form another major focus of the course, and the second and third papers will include substantial work (and feedback) at the prewriting and draft stages of composition.  

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