Fall 2012 Graphic Novel Course: New! Improved! Flawed!

I sometimes feel that I should apologize to students who took earlier iterations of my courses. I know more now than I did then, and have crafted a much better syllabus than we used for that earlier class.  That said, I also know that in a few years’ time, I will consider my current (new! improved!) syllabi to be embarrassingly inadequate. But, then, the more we learn, the more we are conscious of how much we do not know.

My new “Graphic Novel” course — its third iteration — occasions these reflections. I’m particularly pleased with the paper assignments: Using Ivan Brunetti’s Cartooning Philosophy and Practice (a required text for the first time), I’ve scrapped one large paper for two smaller ones, both of which require (a) creativity and (b) analysis of part a.  One of these creative assignments is to render an entire novel as a single-panel cartoon.  Yes, this is challenging, but Brunetti walks you through the process, and students can follow his example (click for larger image).

From Ivan Brunetti's Cartooning Philosophy and Practice (2007, 2011): The Catcher in the Rye as a single-panel comic

The idea in both this and the other creative assignment is to get the students to think like a comics artist.  It is not to create a comics artist.  I’m an English professor, and this is neither a creative-writing class nor a studio class & so I do not expect them to create art.  In evaluating students’ work, I’m grading their analysis rather than the creative work itself.  Why did they make these choices and not different ones?  Do they think their choices worked? What have they learned from the experience? These are the questions their analysis must address.

Ivan Brunetti, Cartooning Philosophy and Practice (2011)I want students to see just how difficult and complex the comics form is. With a novel, you have all that is available to a creative writer — diction, tone, metaphor, point of view, and so on. With comics, you have all that is available to a creative writer and to an artist. It’s not only the words that matter; it’s every millimeter of space on the entire page. Students need to think about layout, design, size, shape, space, perspective, and so on.  Graphic novels — I’m using the term “comics” and “graphic novel” interchangeably — are far more formally complex than ordinary novels.  I hope the creative assignments will help students appreciate the form’s complexity.

In order to deepen their sense of how comics work, I’m also assigning more critical reading. Scott McCloud’s definition (juxtaposed pictorial and other images in deliberate sequence) — itself a modified version of Will Eisner’s — has become the dominant way of thinking about comics. Scott McCloud, Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art (1993)And it’s a valuable paradigm. But Mark Newgarden and Paul Karasik provide another model, Brunetti yet another, and Robert C. Harvey another still.  It’s valuable for students — and all of us — to ponder competing theories of how comics work.

An ideal course would give equal time to the single-panel comic (which McCloud excludes from his definition), the daily comic strip, the comic book, and the long-form graphic narrative (often called the “graphic novel”). Mine spends most of its time on the longer-form works, but does include more comic strips than it used to — and that’s an improvement. What I really want is a brief anthology of classic comic strips, running from Winsor McCay (Little Nemo in Slumberland) to Richard Thompson (Cul de Sac). The large format of McCay would make his inclusion tricky, but let’s say we just include one McCay and as a fold-out.  Then you’d want other greats: George Herriman, Otto Soglow, Frank King, Ernie Bushmiller, Hal Foster, Milt Caniff, Crockett Johnson, Walt Kelly, Charles M. Schulz, G. B. Trudeau, Lynn Johnston, Lynda Barry, Bill Watterson, Aaron McGruder, Richard Thompson.  Oh, and I’m sure I’m missing someone.  Anyway, one could do a week’s worth of a narrative-driven strip but otherwise restrict the selection to a few Sunday strips per artist, say. This is the anthology I want to assign. Since it doesn’t exist, I furtively copy a very few strips for the course pack or handouts.

Ho Che Anderson, KingIt’s all about balancing competing interests. I want different graphic styles, different time periods (my course offers only a glance a medium’s history, alas), different identity categories (race, gender, sexuality, nationality, &c.). On this last point, I’m pleased to be including Ho Che Anderson’s excellent King: A Comics Biography, but sad to have lost Gene Luen Yang’s American Born Chinese and even Neil Gaiman’s Sandman (!).  There are texts I feel bad about cutting (Persepolis, which does at least remain on my Lit for Adolescents syllabus), work that I keep meaning to include but don’t (Joe Sacco’s Palestine), and artists I lack the courage to assign in an undergraduate class (I’ve taught the brilliant, powerful, disturbing work of Phoebe Gloeckner in a grad class, but not undergrad).  But I like what’s there: Spiegelman’s Maus, Tan’s The Arrival, Barry’s One Hundred Demons, Tezuka’s Buddha (Vol. 1), Bechdel’s Fun Home, Moore and Gibbons’ Watchmen, Ware’s brand-new Building Stories (which isn’t out until October), and all the rest.  (If you didn’t follow the link to the syllabus in the second paragraph, then click on relevant words in this sentence.)

Every syllabus is an impossible puzzle that begets a series of necessary but regrettable compromises. That’s never more true than in Big Broad Course Topics: Children’s Literature, The Novel, the Graphic Novel. These topics are immeasurably huge, and a single semester cannot even approach doing them justice.

But… that’s OK. Each such course provides an introduction to the material, and gives students the skills to seek out more knowledge on their own. And this is the point of college: to prepare students for a lifelong journey of learning. Students should graduate from a university proud of what they’ve learned, but also humbled and inspired by all they’ve yet to learn. College is only the first step.

Taken in that context, I’d say that my syllabi for Fall 2012 — while they could be better, and will be, in future — represent a pretty good first step.  (Though, of course, critical comments are always welcome!)

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Seussology

The Cat's hatI’m doing it again — teaching an entire course devoted to Dr. Seuss (the link in this sentence takes you to the current draft of the syllabus).  Art!  Politics!  Verse!  Nonsense!  Activism!  These are but some of the subjects we’ll explore in English 710: Dr. Seuss, a graduate-level course which begins on Wednesday.

Aiming to improve on the earlier Seuss course (taught 5 years ago), I did not look at the earlier syllabus as I drafted this one.  Only when I finished the draft did I read the 2007 version of the class, incorporating some of the worthier parts of that syllabus.  The idea, this time, is to structure the class around a dozen sets of questions — any of which, as I’ve pointed out on the paper assignment, could lead students to a fruitful paper.  Here are a few:

Dr. Seuss, And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street (cover)1. The Child: The Boy in the Book.  How do Seuss’s works conceive of the child? With which understanding of childhood would you link his children? In his works, what sort of power do children have? And which children get that power? How is Seuss’s work influenced by his own childhood, including what he read?

3. Activism, Part 1: Horton Hears a Heil! How do Seuss’s politics play out in his own works? Are there ideological inconsistencies between his stated goals and other messages that the books may convey? What makes an activist children’s book persuasive to its readers?

4. Cartoons, Camp, & Surrealism: The Art of Dr. Seuss. What kind of artist is Dr. Seuss? How do cartoons inform his aesthetic? How do artistic movements inform his aesthetic? Beyond The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T., does camp play a role in his aesthetic? Indeed, what is the Seuss aesthetic? How does his art work?

7. Gender: Is Seuss for the Goose Seuss for the Gander? The most blunt way to ask this question is this: Was (or is) Dr. Seuss sexist? More subtle ways to ask the question might include: In what ways do Seuss’s books participate in gender stereotypes? In what ways do they resist gender stereotypes? What role, if any, should Seuss’s biography play in your answer to these questions?

10. Marketing: Quick, Henry, the DDT!  There’s debate among those who study Seuss, and in the wider public discourse about Seuss. On the one hand, there are those who argue that much of the posthumous merchandising (Grinch selling breakfast cereal, etc.) violates Seuss’s wishes: his work had a moral and aesthetic value, not merely a commercial one. On the other hand, there are those who will point out that Seuss was a successful advertising man (until the publication of The Cat in the Hat, his primary source of income was advertising), and in fact entered into merchandising agreements during his life. Wade into this debate about art and commerce. Which side is more correct? Or is there a different set of questions we should be asking?

Above: Seuss’s Ford advertisements, 1949

There are also questions about poetry, race, and adaptations, among other topics. (You can find a full list on the paper assignment.)   I chose this structure because the best discussions derive from good questions.

Your Favorite SeussAnother change from last time: using the anthology Your Favorite Seuss, instead of having the students buy individual Seuss books.  I have mixed feelings about this choice.  On the one hand, this is far cheaper than having them buy the individual books — and that’s my primary reason for doing this.  I realize that books are expensive.  And, also in its favor, Molly Leach has done a really nice job in redesigning the layout for each Seuss book.  On the other hand, I’d prefer for students to read the books as originally laid out.  Your Favorite Seuss includes all text, but moves artwork around so that it can include 13 books in fewer pages.  As a compromise, I’m putting the original versions on Reserve (at the library) so that students can also see the originals.

One assignment I’ve retained from the original version of the class is “Sighting Seuss,” which requires students to keep an eye out for appropriations, references, parodies, etc. of Seuss in contemporary popular culture.  Examples might include this Kids in the Hall sketch (1990), in which Dave Foley presents the “Dr. Seuss Bible”:

Another example is NicePeter’s recent “Dr. Seuss vs. Shakespeare: Epic Battles of Rap History #12″ (2011):

As it’s an election year, we should find many examples of Seuss in political satire.  Since the 1990s, people have been aligning Newt Gingrich with the Grinch.

Newt Gingrinch, Newsweek cover (1994) Grinch

But he’s not the only one.  John Kerry, George W. Bush, Osama Bin Laden, Barack Obama, and others have all been caricatured as the Grinch.

There are hundreds of examples of Seuss in popular culture.  The point is to get students to think about the ways in which Seuss circulates in the public imagination.  When people invoke Seuss (or his anapestic tetrameter, or his characters, etc.), to what purpose do they use him?  In popular culture, what does Seuss mean?

One big change from the last time I taught this is that formerly obscure short films by Seuss are now easy to find.  5 years ago, I showed the class a bootleg DVD of Your Job in Germany (1945), a propaganda film written by Theodor Geisel (a.k.a. Dr. Seuss) and directed by Frank Capra.  You can now see this via YouTube or Archive.org.

Indeed, until this weekend I had never seen Our Job in Japan (1945), another U.S. Army propaganda film written by Geisel — and, incidentally, considered so sympathetic to the Japanese that General MacArthur worked to prevent it from being shown to the troops.  But now, it’s very easy to find (as in below, also courtesy of Archive.org).

I’ve assembled a whole page of these films.  We’ll still view a few of these in class, but now the students have the luxury of re-watching them and seeing more than those screened during class.  For those of you who lack the time to view all of those Private SNAFU cartoons, here are a couple of the better ones, which, yes, include some “adult” humor.  (The audience were GIs, not children.)  You will also note the sort of ethnic caricature common to Warner Bros. cartoons of the period.

Private SNAFU: Spies (Aug. 1943)


Directed by Chuck Jones.  If the voice reminds you of Bugs Bunny, that’s because Mel Blanc is also the voice of SNAFU. (From Archive.org)

Private SNAFU: The Home Front (Nov. 1943)


Directed by Frank Tashlin. (From Archive.org)

Well.  Any suggestions?  Let me know.  Classes start on Wednesday, and I’ll be editing the syllabus until then.  Though (of course) I can modify the reading list during the term, I tend to do that only minimally once the semester begins.   If no suggestions, well, I hope you’ve enjoyed learning about, oh,… the thinks that we’ll think!

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Harry Potter’s Library

J. K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of AzkabanNine years ago, I started teaching a course I called “Harry Potter’s Library: J.K. Rowling, Texts and Contexts.”  This coming fall, I’ll be teaching it for the seventh time (eighth, if you count the semester I taught two sections).  The course has been so popular that Kansas State University uses it in its promotional materials. Faced with a high demand for the class, the English Department offers at least one section each year.  Thankfully, my colleagues Karin Westman and Naomi Wood have also been teaching it (freeing me to teach other courses).  Indeed, our current syllabus is a collaborative effort — and will likely change further before the term actually starts.  I’d like to incorporate some PotterMore, and arrange for a guest lecturer on Wizard Rock.

When I began teaching the class, on the first day I asked “How many people have read any of the books or seen the first film?” About half of the class raised hands.  On the first day of class now, all thirty students answer that question in the affirmative.  Indeed, on the first day of class, 27 or 28 students have read the entire series at least once.  These students have grown up with Harry, Ron, and Hermione as their contemporaries.  These students are the “Harry Potter generation.”

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 (movie)It’s tempting to claim that the release of the seventh (and final) film next month will be a kind of milestone for this generation — the last dramatic adaptation of their beloved series.  And it might be that.  But such a claim suggests that it (the film) will serve as a sort of “concluding chapter” to a phase of their lives, and I don’t think that’s strictly accurate.  A more accurate claim would be to say that, for many of this generation, the Harry Potter series constitutes a key portion their shared culture.  In increasingly fragmented media world (websites! videogames! Facebook! Twitter! movies! TV!), Harry Potter is one thing that they have in common — or most of them do, anyway.  Even if they’re not fans of the series, they’ll know the basic references.

The closest analogue that my generation has is Star Wars, and yet Harry Potter feels bigger than Star Wars.  I haven’t studied this subject closely, but my sense is that the appeal of Harry Potter is broader than that of Star Wars.  Fans of each are comparably devout, fond of dressing up in costumes, collecting memorabilia, having conventions.  But I cannot think of anything comparable to, say, Wizard Rock in the Star Wars fan community.  For a variety of reasons, Harry Potter has permeated the culture much more thoroughly than just about anything else.  What the Beatles are to popular music, Harry Potter is to children’s literature — and, indeed, to popular culture.  In the first chapter of the first Harry Potter book, Professor Minerva McGonagall predicted that the infant Harry Potter “will be famous — a legend — … there will be books written about Harry — every child will know his name.” Rowling could not, then, have known how prophetic that statement would turn out to be.

Well.  Back to the course.  The structure, each time, has been roughly the same.  Part I: Antecedents and Influences.  Part II: The Harry Potter series (plus some critical articles on it).  Part III: Contemporary British Fantasy.  But the particular texts have varied.  Sometimes, for Part III, we’ve done the entire His Dark Materials trilogy.  Diana Wynne Jones and Eoin Colfer have also made appearances in Part III.  Lately, we’ve been doing Pullman’s book 1 (The Golden Compass) with book 1 from Jonathan Stroud’s Bartimaeus trilogy.

The class pulls in people from all over the university — we’ve had students from just about every major.  Since the total number of credit hours already taken determines when a student gets to enroll, most of the students are seniors — many of whom, they tell me, have been waiting to take the class since they were freshmen.

Lest readers of this blog post imagine that the course is “light,” take another look at the syllabus.  The Potter novels themselves run a total of 4,195 pages.  When you add in the other novels and additional critical texts, that’s a lot of reading.  Sure, most of the reading is fun.  But it’s also work — the rare work that is also enjoyable.  Happily, students who enroll in the course tend to be dedicated and (thus) do not complain about the heavy reading load.  And, over the course of the semester, they come to understand that it’s fun to take children’s literature seriously.

It is fun.  And showing people the fun of taking children’s books seriously is one of the reasons I do what I do — teaching and writing about literature for young people.

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Back-to-School Special, Part II: Pimp My Syllabus

Norton Critical Edition of Alice in WonderlandYes, it might have made more sense to post this query prior to the new semester, rather than just after the term has begun.  But my tendency to work close to deadlines means that the syllabus is never finished until just before the term starts.  In any case, I’ll be teaching Literature for Children again, and — as always — would like to make the course better.

I’ve taught the class over two dozen times in the last decade, and have revised the syllabus along the way — omitting some texts, adding others.  Last spring, I revamped the paper assignments.  I now gear them towards (a) getting students to think beyond their likes and dislikes, and (b) keeping up with the field, finding new books.  For the first assignment, they write about a childhood favorite: what attracted them to the book then, and how is their response to the book now similar and different to what it was then?  For the second, they look at the same book, answering instead how the book works.  What genre is the book?  Is it a successful example of the genre?  And Tango Makes ThreeFor the third, they need to find a new book (published in the last ten years) of a different type — different genre, and different intended audience.  And it cannot be a book from the syllabus.  Then they need to answer the same questions posed for the second paper.  I really like this assignment because it pushes students towards appreciating the value of books that may not be to their individual tastes.

But I invoke the popular MTV program (2004-2007) in my blog post’s title because I’d like to shake up the syllabus a bit.  What I have works, but it could work better.  I’d like to improve in three areas, the first of which is “diversity” in two senses of the term: first as an identity category, and second as a genre category.  Ideally, I’d find works that expand diversity in both ways.  It’s very important to me that anything on the syllabus be a good representative of any category: nothing can be included solely as a “diversity” candidate.  The third area I’d like to improve is newness. I always bring in books (some old, some new) not on the syllabus: for example, this past Wednesday, when I taught The Giving Tree (chosen because it can be read many ways, and because it’s a book that provokes discussion), I also brought in the recent parody, The Taking Tree.  When I teach In the Night Kitchen, I always show them some Little Nemo in Slumberland strips. Etc. But I’d like to give some of the newbies a more permanent place.  Margaret Wise Brown and Clement Hurd, Goodnight MoonI’ll of course retain some historical focus, and certain classic texts will remain: fairy tales, Maurice Sendak, Lewis Carroll, Dr. Seuss, Margaret Wise Brown, Langston Hughes (I’ve not listed specific titles of poems on the syllabus, but some of his are in the class pack).  But, as I say, I want to add more recent books.

So, children’s-literature-readers, with the above objectives in mind, which texts should go?  And which texts should be added?  (The age cut-off, by the way, is adolescence — at Kansas State University, Literature for Adolescents is a separate course.)  Clicking on this sentence will take you to my current Literature for Children syllabus — click on the link or scroll down to the Schedule of Assignments.  Thanks in advance for any thoughts you might have.

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Back-to-School Special, Part I: Children’s Literature & Asymptotes

In my decade of teaching Children’s Literature at the university level, I’ve learned a lot.  But I never feel that I’ve learned quite enough to teach the grad class Critical Approaches to Children’s Literature.  I’m grateful that I’m teaching it now and not ten years ago, but it’s one of those courses that makes me conscious of the deficits in my knowledge.  And, on the whole, I see this process as a good thing — because it means that I’m moving closer to mastery of the subject… which, of course, is all one can do.  If the x-axis represents mastery, I’m moving along a curve that approaches but never actually intersects with the x-axis.  I get ever closer, but never arrive.

That curve, by the way, is called an asymptote.  It looks like this:

Horizontal Asymptotes

Above is a graph of y =1/x, taken from this website.  The line approaches zero (which, in my analogy, represents mastery of the field), but never reaches it.

Norton Critical Edition of Alice in WonderlandSo, the syllabus for Critical Approaches to Children’s Literature represents one stop along that journey.  What’s on it?  General themes include: didacticism, pleasure, nonsense, audience, genre, diversity. Theoretical approaches include: formalist, psychoanalytic, feminist, queer theory, cultural studies, and others.  As you’ll see (if you follow the link), we’ll be reading fiction by Helen Bannerman, J. M. Barrie, Francesca Lia Block, Anthony Browne, Lewis Carroll, Jean-Marie Leprince de Beaumont, Maria Edgeworth, Neil Gaiman, Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, Heinrich Hoffmann, Ann Jonas, Guus Kuijer, David Macaulay, L.M. Montgomery, Walter Dean Myers, Marilyn Nelson, Charles Perrault, Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith, Brian Selznick, Dr. Seuss, Mary Martha Sherwood, Shaun Tan, Chris Van Allsburg, and Mary Wollstonecraft, among others.  A Wreath for Emmett TillAnd we’ll gain critical perspective from Robin Bernstein, Michel Foucault, Sigmund Freud, Felicity A. Hughes, Anne Scott MacCleod, Michelle Martin, W.J.T. Mitchell, William Moebius, Mitzi Myers, Perry Nodelman, Walter J. Ong, Lissa Paul, Jacqueline Rose, Jan Susina, and many others.

Yes, there are many other texts and theorists that could be included.  And I’m sure that I will change the syllabus again next time I teach it.  Indeed, I’d like to use Keywords for Children’s Literature, which I co-edited with Lissa Paul (due out from NYU P in May of this year).  In case you’re curious, whenever I use a book of my own, I donate any royalties I receive to an appropriate charity.  When I used my Dr. Seuss: American Icon (in a Seuss class), that worked out to about $1 per book.  So, it’s not much, but I don’t think it’s ethical to profit off of my students in that way.  Anyway, I’m sure this syllabus could be better — and not just because I now note a few formatting errors on the Schedule of Assignments.  (I’ll fix those before class on Wednesday.)  But I also think the syllabus will do the job, as I — and my students — travel along that curve, always approaching, never arriving, but learning a lot along the way.

UPDATE: 18 Jan. 2011, 10:45 am. Looking back at what I wrote (late last night, with minimal editing), there’s a major omission that I need to correct: Naomi Wood.  My Critical Approaches to Children’s Literature syllabus and course pack borrow heavily from hers.  Yes, my class has my own “stamp” on it — and that’s even more true of this year’s iteration of the syllabus.  (The initial syllabus, from Spring 2009, even more closely followed hers.)  But the general course plan is very much hers.  I’m fortunate to have helpful colleagues who share their knowledge, and I want to make sure that Naomi gets due credit here.  So, Naomi: I doff my hat to you!  And, yes, it is a red-and-white-striped topper.  How ever did you know?

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Censoring Children’s Literature, Fall 2010

Helen Bannerman, Little Black SamboJ. K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of AzkabanSometimes, a new course draws on my expertise.  Other times, a new course is a chance for me to develop that expertise.  This class — “Censoring Children’s Literature” — is definitely the latter.  I have an interest in the subject, and I’ve tried to structure the syllabus around major issues concerning the regulation of what children and young adults read: texts that have been Bowdlerized so as not to offend current sensitivities, texts altered without the author’s consent, texts over which there’s a documented scuffle between author and publisher, and of course the many reasons that adults may deem a text unsuitable for children or adolescents (profanity, sex, homosexuality, racism, religion, and so on).  But I’m definitely not an expert on the subject.

Justine Larbalestier, LiarRoald Dahl, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (1964)The class is called “Censoring Children’s Literature” because that’s what fit on the university’s line schedule.  A more accurate title would be “What You Can and Can’t Say in Literature for Children and Young Adults.”  In other words, rather than framing the class around “censorship” exclusively, I also recognize there are reasons to be concerned about what children read — they lack the experience of adults, their identities are in the process of being formed, and one may fairly consider them more impressionable than older readers.  Certainly, one does not want to scar children emotionally, nor teach them to hate.  On the flip side, part of growing up is learning to cope with a world that can seem indifferent to your troubles: literature can help you explore these troubles imaginatively.

Dav Pilkey, The Adventures of Captain UnderpantsJudy Blume, ForeverAnd, then, there’s the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution: “Congress shall make no law [...] abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press.”  In other words, it’s one thing to seek to prevent your own children from reading a work you consider inappropriate, and it’s another thing to decide — on behalf of an entire school district or public library — that no children should have access to the work.

Walter Dean Myers, Fallen AngelsI expect the class to disagree about what books are and are not appropriate for younger readers.  That disagreement is part of the point of having this conversation in the first place.  Discerning how “the average person, applying contemporary community standards” — to quote the landmark obscenity ruling Roth v. United States (1957) — might perceive a book is a tricky business.  But I am and have always been drawn to the difficult questions, the grey areas of a debate, the problems without clear solutions.  So.  Let the conversation begin!

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Literature for Adolescents, Fall 2010

M.T. Anderson, Feed

J.D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye

With the fall term imminent (starts Monday), I’m posting a link to the latest iteration of my English 545: Literature for Adolescents. My goal is always “diversity” in many senses of that word.  We read books by writers of different backgrounds (African-American, Iranian, Chinese-American, Latino, Caucasian), genders, sexualities, classes — which are probably the categories most people think of when they hear the word “diversity.”  I also use the word in terms of genre.  We read graphic novels, a novel in verse, a novel in the form of a screenplay, memoir, dystopian fiction, historical fiction, a sports novel, magical realism, film, and fairy tales.  And I use the word to expand “Literature for Adolescents” beyond “Young Adult.”  On the syllabus are works about adolescence (but not necessarily written for adolescents), works that get assigned to adolescents, and of course Young Adult Literature.  Finally, we read some classics, and a lot that’s contemporary.

Marjane Satrapi, Persepolis

Francesca Lia Block, Weetzie Bat

I’m never completely satisfied with my syllabus.  So, each semester, I change it a little.  This term, for instance, I’ve added a “dystopias” unit: we’ll read M.T. Anderson‘s Feed and Suzanne Collins‘ The Hunger Games.  I’m happy about that change, but not about the omission of fantasy.  I also wonder if I have one too many graphic novels.  Any why are there no works by Native American authors on my syllabus?

Benjamin Alire Saenz, Sammy & Juliana in HollywoodWalter Dean Myers, MonsterEach syllabus is always incomplete. There are never enough weeks in the term to cover all I want to cover.  At best, students will get a taste of the field.  But I hope that this slender sliver of knowledge will send them back to the library, the bookstore, or possibly other English classes.  I hope that this is but the beginning (or a continuation) of a lifetime of reading and learning.  There is so much to read and to know, and our lives are so brief.  I write that last sentence to convey not despair, but rather urgency, inspiration, motivation.  Or, to quote a Robert Herrick line entirely out of context, “make much of time.”

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