This interdisciplinary seminar examines the ways that society has imbued children and childhood with meanings that are simultaneously symbolic and political. We begin our investigation broadly and gradually grow more specific. “Big” questions we engage include: Is the child figure as we know her a social construction, or does she possess some universal characteristics that transcend time, place and personal circumstance? What social forces of the Romantic and Victorian eras converged to help form the modern child? What do “moral panics” have to do with childhood? From here, the course becomes more specialized, focusing on highly contested topics: gender identity; ethnicity versus national identity; rights and representation. Throughout the course, we will focus on adult expressions of concern over the worth, safety and happiness of children’s lives. We also will study how children understand and represent themselves. A continual issue in the course is the extent to which such expressions are motivated by genuine worry for children’s well-being, by crass political maneuvering, or by some combination of the two. By the end of the course, we should have deeper understandings of childhood as a historical construction and of the debates surrounding some of the issues that society currently deems relevant to children. Works we will engage may include Lois Lowry’s The Giver , Neil Postman’s The Disappearance of Childhood , Roger Smith’s A Universal Child? , and Elisabeth Young-Bruehl’s Childism: Confronting Prejudice Against Children .