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Lecture Four: Coraline and Models of Childhood


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Title: Lecture Four: Coraline and Models of Childhood

Lecture Four Coraline and Models of Childhood
  • 9/16/13

Fantasy Definitions
  • A work of fantasy is one in which at least one
    element of the story does not conform to natural
  • When discussing fantasy, we distinguish between
    the primary world and the secondary world. The
    primary world refers to the world we live in,
    where natural laws are observed. The secondary
    world refers to another place, where one or more
    of the natural laws have been suspended.
  • A portal is the physical link between the primary
    and secondary worlds.

Primary v. Secondary World
  • In some works of fantasy, characters only know a
    primary world, but it is a world in which
    something happens that does not conform to
    natural laws. For instance, most of the Harry
    Potter series takes place in the primary world,
    as witches and wizards live alongside Muggles in
    modern day Britain. Sometimes they are able to
    shroud their actions from Muggles by hiding
    Hogwarts in a mist or placing the Ministry of
    Magic underground in London or having a separate
    train platform however, there is not a separate
    magic world.

Muggles and Wizards Live in the Same World
Primary v. Secondary World
  • In other works of fantasy, characters begin in
    the primary world, but find some way to enter the
    secondary world. In the C.S. Lewis Narnia
    series, for instance, the characters find a
    portal to a secondary world through a disused

Primary v. Secondary World
  • Finally, there are fantasy texts in which the
    characters live in a secondary world throughout
    the novel. A good example of this sort of text
    would be Lois Lowrys The Giver, which takes
    place in an entirely fictional society.

Coraline and Models of Childhood
Model Summary
The Romantic Child The child as superior to adults in some ways and as aligned with nature, beauty or spirituality.
The Sinful Child The child as inherently evil and in need of control and/or correction.
The Working Child The child as competent and resilient.
The Sacred Child The child as precious and fragile and in need of protection
The Child as Radically Other The idea that childhood is a distinctive and separate time from childhood.
The Developing Child The idea that childhood is on a continuum with adulthood.
The Child as Miniature Adult The child is just an adult in miniature, capable of possessing an adult view of the world.
Coraline as the Developing Child?
  • How would you describe Coraline BEFORE she enters
    the portal?

From the graphic novel
Coraline Before Entering the Portal
  • BORED!
  • What should I do? asked Coraline (6).
  • Coraline had watched all the videos. She was
    bored with her toys, and shed read all her books
  • What shall I do? asked Coraline (17).
  • Im bored, she said Why dont you play me?
    she asked (19).
  • Unwilling to try complicated adult foods
  • Coraline was disgusted. Daddy, she said,
    youve made a recipe again (9).
  • If you tried it, maybe youd like it, said
    Coralines father, but she shook her head (10).

Growing Up Means
  • Growing up involves the child distinguishing
    herself from her parents a child goes from being
    an extension of her parents to becoming her own
  • The development of subjectivity of becoming an
    independent being with its own thoughts and ideas
    is not an easy one, and it can be complicated
    for both the child and for the parents.
  • Coralines boredom signals that she is still
    looking to her parents to set her desires, but
    there are also hints that Coraline is using her
    boredom to develop her own desires.

Coralines Desires Slowly Emerge
  • Coraline saw some Day-Glo green gloves she liked
    a lot. Her mother refused to buy them for her,
    preferring instead to buy white socks, navy blue
    school underpants, four gray blouses, and a dark
    gray skirt. But Mum, everybody at schools got
    gray blouses and everything. Nobodys got green
    gloves. I could be the only one (23).

Coraline Demonstrates That She is on the Verge
  • Miss Spink and Miss Forcible made a point of
    telling Coraline how dangerous the well was, and
    they warned her to be sure she kept away from it.
    So Coraline set off to explore for it, so that
    she knew where it was, to keep away from it
    properly (5)
  • In danger? thought Coraline to herself. It
    sounded exciting. It didnt sound like a bad
    thing. Not really (21).
  • She knew she was doing something wrong, and she
    was trying to listen for her mother coming back,
    but she heard nothing. Then Coraline put her hand
    on the doorknob and turned it and, finally, she
    opened the door (26).

Why Does Coraline See the Portal?
  • Coralines mother is the one to show her the door
    and to show her the key, but Coraline only sees
    the portal when she is alone. Its as if her
    mother has given her the opportunity to grow, but
    it is up to Coraline to explore her desires and,
    ultimately, to stand up for what she really

Why Does Coraline See the Portal?
  • One of the most important things parents can
    do for children is to educate them in the way of
    desire, not by fulfilling their desires but by
    showing how desire may be pursued as a project,
    not by distracting them out of their boredom by
    by allowing boredom as an opportunity to explore
    their own possible desires. When Coraline and her
    mother view the opened door together, it is
    blocked by a brick wall this is not the space of
    shared desire, but one that Coraline must pursue
    on her own (Coats, Between Horror, Humor and
    Hope 79).

Wish Fulfillment?
  • Were here, said her other mother, in a voice
    so close to her real mothers that Coraline could
    scarcely tell them apart. Were here. Were
    ready to love you and play with you and feed you
    and make your life interesting. Coraline pulled
    back, and the other mother let her go with
    reluctance (60).

Coralines Progress
Coralines Epiphany
  • You really dont understand, do you? she said.
    I dont want whatever I want. Nobody does. Not
    really. What kind of fun would it be if I just
    got everything I ever wanted? Just like that, and
    it didnt mean anything. What then?

Comparing the Film to the Novel
  • Obviously, film adaptations must differ from the
    texts upon which they are based because of time
    and point-of-view constraints.
  • However, authors of childrens literature often
    assume one sort of audience, whereas directors of
    major film productions that need to justify their
    huge budgets may assume a broader audience.
  • The reason I would like you to compare these two
    versions of Gaimans novel is that the film
    departs significantly in a way that enables us to
    understand how girls and women are portrayed in
    mass media.

  • Although we are spending the next class period
    ONLY watching Coraline, you will have homework
    due on September 25th. I will place the homework
    assignment on the blog tonight. It is based upon
    Chapter 2 of Hintz and Tribunellas Reading
    Childrens Literature.
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