Children’s and young adult literature serves multiple educational, social, and cultural purposes: teaching children to read alphanumeric and visual texts; demonstrating how narrative, genre, and literary devices work; showing how one might navigate personal and social issues; offering windows into experiences that differ from one’s own; and conveying ideologies either invisibly or critically. In English 277, students explore these purposes by reading children’s and young adult texts produced in various genres, including picturebooks, hybrid novels, print fiction, and comics. We will also examine how such literature constructs cultural understandings of “child” and “teen” or “young adult.” Doing so requires us to look closely at the relationship between course texts and the contexts in which they were produced.
English 277 fulfills VLPA and W general education credits as well as counting toward the English major or minor.
Goals and Methodology
Students in the course work toward several goals:
- Analyzing the characters, language, structure and themes of fictional texts,
- Explaining the relationship between selected children’s/young adult works and the historical, political, institutional, and cultural contexts of their production,
- Explicating how audiences process and children’s/young adult literature,
- Defining (and recognizing the limits of defining) children’s/young adult literature, and
- Developing as critical thinkers who can formulate substantive arguments and explore those arguments with evidence.
Course activities promote active learning, with most class sessions incorporating a mix of mini-lectures, discussion, and group work. The course design—which includes frequent non-graded and graded writing—reflects the importance of writing as a means of learning. My role is to provide the tools and resources you will need to advance your own thinking. I will pose questions, design activities to help you think through these questions, and respond to your ideas. Your role is to do the hard work—the close reading, discussion, and writing. You will analyze texts, present your interpretations via class discussion and written assignments, and critically respond to others’ interpretations.