Dr. Seuss: Art, Politics, and Imagination

at Brooklyn Institute for Social Research

Course Details
$315 3 seats left
Start Date:
Online Classroom
Class Level: All levels
Age Requirements: 21 and older
Average Class Size: 14
System Requirements:

You will need a reliable Internet connection as well as a computer or device with which you can access your virtual class. We recommend you arrive to class 5-10 minutes early to ensure you're able to set up your device and connection.

Class Delivery:

Classes will be held via Zoom.

Teacher: Yitzhak Lewis

Flexible Reschedule Policy: This provider has flexible, free rescheduling for any-in person workshop. Please see the cancellation policy for more details

What you'll learn in this lecture class:

Theodore Seuss Geisel, known to most as Dr. Seuss, is one of the most recognizable author-illustrators of children’s literature of the 20th century. His wobbly towers of preposterous composition, his trademark gibberish, puns and tongue twisters, and the endless list of invented places, peoples, instruments, and alphabets were the accompaniments to countless childhoods. However, Seuss’s work is hardly childish escapism. The aesthetic autonomy of Seuss’s creative expression is coupled tightly with an equally evident political and ideological commitment. When so many mid-century authors, both children’s and adult’s, seem irredeemably dated, why does Dr. Seuss endure? At every step of his career, one finds an engagement with the political, historical and cultural moment—from the racist depictions of Asian people in his early works such as And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street to his books on tolerance from the 1950s (The SneetchesThe ZaxHorton Hears a Who!), his iconic, racially complicated The Cat in the Hat, his “bizarre” books from the 1960s (Green Eggs and HamFox in Sox), the environmentalist The Lorax, his Cold War parody The Butter Battle Book, and the late 20th-century optimism of Oh the Places You’ll Go! All the while, the quirky irreality of Seuss’s visuals signal a powerful autonomy of artistic expression. How can we understand Seuss’s work—as literary, visual, cultural, and political objects?

In this course, we will explore the mix of ideologies and political positions expressed in Seuss’s work and their relationship to his unique visual and literary style. Troubling the “man of his times” narrative that would explain Seuss’s politics as timely and his commitments as “mainstream,” we will instead take his inconsistent, and problematic, social engagement as an opportunity to explore questions of ideology and artistry in literature. As we read from selected works, we will discuss the tension between their (often didactic) ideological commitments and their (largely visual) autonomy from a realist mode of representation. Supplementing our reading will be secondary sources on questions of artistic autonomy and commitment by writers such as George Orwell, Jean-Paul Sartre, Theodor Adorno, and Salman Rushdie. Our overarching questions will be: What does it mean to create art, and children’s literature in particular, in the context of racism, colonialism, capitalism, and environmentalism? What are the possibilities and limits of artistic autonomy and political commitment?

Remote Learning

This course is available for "remote" learning and will be available to anyone with access to an internet device with a microphone (this includes most models of computers, tablets). Classes will take place with a "Live" instructor at the date/times listed below.

Upon registration, the instructor will send along additional information about how to log-on and participate in the class.

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Refund Policy

Upon request, we will refund the entire cost of a class up until 1 week before its start date. Students who withdraw after that point but before the first class are entitled to a 75% refund. After the first class: 50%. After the second: 25%. No refunds will be given after the third class.

Start Dates (1)
Start Date Time Teacher # Sessions Price
7:00pm - 10:00pm Eastern Time Yitzhak Lewis 4 $315
This course consists of multiple sessions, view schedule for sessions.
Thu, Jun 16 7:00pm - 10:00pm Eastern Time Yitzhak Lewis
Thu, Jun 23 7:00pm - 10:00pm Eastern Time Yitzhak Lewis
Thu, Jun 30 7:00pm - 10:00pm Eastern Time Yitzhak Lewis

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School: Brooklyn Institute for Social Research

Brooklyn Institute for Social Research

The Brooklyn Institute for Social Research was established in 2011 in Boerum Hill, Brooklyn. Its mission is to extend liberal arts education and research far beyond the borders of the traditional university, supporting community education needs and opening up new possibilities for scholarship in the...

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