HUMS 371, The Picturebook: Euro-American and Japanese Traditions
This course surveys the history of the picture book, from the early modern period to the late 20th century, considering the Anglo-American tradition within a broader European context and especially in relationship to the long (and ongoing) picturebook tradition in Japan. As we will see, indeed, the famous late nineteeth-century breakthrough for the Anglo-European picturebook–with the work of Randolph Caldecott (for whom the annual Caldecott award for best American picturebook is still named) and Walter Crane–comes partly from these British artists’ intense engagement (as of artists all over Europe and in the Americas) with Japanese art. Hence these are not simply side-by-side traditions; what is usually seen as the “principal” (ie Euro-American) tradition is quite literally an off-shoot of the Japanese picturebook.
While organized chronologically, this course also delves deeply into questions both of content ( thematics and emerging generic conventions, narrative and pictorial) and of form. Throughout we will treat the picturebook as a kind of book whose formal dimensions (its experiments with size, shape, paper texture, collage, volvelles, fold-outs, fonts, and other modes of self-presentation) shape meaning just as much as its images and its texts. We will examine the picturebook as a multi-media object, discussing both its (multi-sensory) appeal to child readers and its aspirations to shape their ways of seeing, reading, sensing, understanding. At moments, the picturebook represents multi-medial wisdom literature. At others, it categorizes, questions, and upends the real world it finds itself in.
IN ADDITION TO READING AND DISCUSSING, INTERESTED STUDENTS WILL HAVE THE CHANCE TO EXPERIMENT WITH WRITING AND CONSTRUCTING PICTURE BOOKS.
THIS COURSE WILL TAKE PLACE PRIMARILY ON ZOOM (the instructor is immune-compromised). Its primary weekly activity will be small group discussion. But there will also be virtual or live fieldtrips to the Beinecke’s Betsy Beinecke Shirley Collection of American Children’s Literature, and perhaps other venues; and the chance to participate (if interested) in a live or virtual workshop on picture book construction.