Sometimes my class in Children’s Literature goes really well, and sometimes not so well. When it works, it’s because the students are interested in the philosophical issues raised by the texts, and willing to push my analyses in new directions. When it doesn’t it’s because the students resist philosophy. It’s hard to believe you could have a group of kids at an elite college signing up for a course in ChL and then taking an it’s-just-a-kids-book-so-stop-reading-fancy-ideas-into-it attitude, but if even a couple of them do, it damages the whole class. One time I remember I gave a complex analysis of something and looked up at blank hostility — and then one of them put up her hand and said, “it was really sad when the dog died.” This became my watchword for a bad class experience. It was really sad when the dog died.
Now I’m watching out-takes of Stephen Colbert’s conversation with Maurice Sendak, and Sendak is saying that when Jenny, the dog in Higgledy Piggledy Pop, joins the World Mother Goose Theatre Company she’s actually dead. And I ‘m thinking: Jenny dies? My adult reading of this text was coloured by my childhood reading, and I never knew. This is devastating. In short, I am really really sad that the dog died.