Compare and contrast the ‘agency’ available to children in any three of the following texts: (a) Swallows and Amazons (b) Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry (c) Tom’s Midnight Garden (d) Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (Im happy for you to choose either 3 of these texts however, I dont have a copy of Harry Potter ready to upload but I could scan in a copy if needed) Guidance notes These notes suggest some approaches you might want to take in response to the TMA question, and are intended to help you get started. They are not designed to be used as an essay plan, and you may well want to take a different approach.
Please make sure that you have read through the EA300 Assessment Guide carefully before you begin, and that you have noted the guidance on referencing and avoiding plagiarism. This option requires you to consider what the concept of ‘agency’ means in a range of novels for children. You should consider whether ‘agency’ means similar or different things in the novels you have chosen. As this is a type of ‘compare and contrast’ question, you will need to think about your chosen texts in relation to each other rather than discussing each in isolation. Your first task in this assignment is to reflect on your understanding of ‘agency’ in the context of writing for children.
A useful starting point for your thinking will be McDowell’s introductory discussion of ‘agency’ in her critical essay on Roll of Thunder, Hear my Cry in Classic Texts and Contemporary Trends. Do you agree with McDowell’s definition of ‘child agency’? In what other ways might ‘agency’ be understood? Is ‘agency’ solely about what children can do, or can it also be about what they can imagine? When planning your assignment, look at different child characters in your chosen texts and consider how far each of them might be said to have agency. You might ask yourself: What kind of choices is each character able to make?
What are the constraints on, or possibilities for, their actions within the world of their respective texts? Are these the same for all child characters within this particular text? You could think about how child agency is linked to notions of freedom and disobedience. It will be particularly useful to consider whether ideas of child agency have changed over time. You might consider these questions in relation to particular features of the books you have chosen, such as their overarching themes, the relationships different characters have with one another, the models of childhood represented, the way the plot is driven, or the focalisation and point of view of the text.
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