Compare how pictures and words interact to construct narrative significance in two of the primary works: Examine the role of gender in the works chosen. Do depictions of gender reinforce or challenge stereotypes?

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The topics below are suggestions – you have to come up with your own argument. If you wish to narrow the focus by only addressing elements of the topic you may do so, but you should signal this in the research essay’s introduction. ‘This essay will concentrate on the relationship between word and picture in…’ is one way to accomplish this. If there are other elements of the topic you wish to explore consult with your tutor.

Topics:
Visual Narratives
On their own, pictures and words offer the reader a number of different narrative possibilities. Yet a picture book is more than the sum of its parts. Compare how pictures and words interact to construct narrative significance in two of the primary works. Explicitly refer to the visual and verbal techniques used by the authors and illustrators.
Gender and Identity

Examine the role of gender in the works chosen. Do depictions of gender reinforce or challenge stereotypes? Do characters have to negotiate gender expectations and do they experience pressures relating to gender identity? Do books for younger readers challenge the idea of a singular or stable gender identity?
Postmodernism
Rather than attempting to define postmodernism, one can describe postmodern characteristics and find how they are present in picturebooks or text-only books for younger readers. Are there characteristics such as intertextuality, nonlinearity, parody, self-referentiality and play which challenge conventional modes of representation and storytelling? What demands do these techniques make on readers and how do they alter the very idea of becoming ‘lost’ in a story?
Race
Race has always been a controversial issue in children’s literature. You may decide to concentrate on depictions of race in older works we now find offensive. Equally, it is possible to direct attention to more recent works which perhaps deal with race in a way that promotes equality and mutual understanding. However, there have also been controversies around race in recent books. You may want to place your discussion within contemporary anxieties about diversity in children’s literature.
Ethics
Take one ethical concern and examine how it is present or dealt with in the literary works examined. This concern might be an issue such as violence and war, family relationships, poverty, the environment, treatment of refugees and so on. The essay might consider what ethical questions the books pose for the reader to consider.

Preparation: Give yourself time to consider each of these topics. You will need to have found works for young readers that are relevant to the topic. In some cases this will involve an extended search.
You will also need to prepare a thesis statement for week 7. This is a very brief summary of the topic you have chosen, the books you propose to examine and an argument you intend to advance.
Evidence: Your essay will require significant research. It should complement but not overwhelm your argument. Quality of research is more important than quantity – peer-reviewed articles and books will be required. As a very rough estimate you would normally have at least six references for an essay of this length in addition to the primary works.
Criteria: The criteria for this assessment are:
ability to place text(s) analysed within historical and social context
ability to mobilise critical terms and concepts in order to generate insights about particular works
ability to take up a position within a debate
clarity of writing, structure and argument

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