Courses for 2022-2023

Term 1

ENGL 351 (001)

The century that separates the portraits of Master Montagu Drake and the Wood children saw deep changes in how children were understood and treated in the English-speaking world. By the end of the eighteenth century, for example, almost no one took seriously John Locke’s belief that children should be prepared for the demands of adult life through cold baths, hard beds, and leaky shoes; and, as Lawrence Stone notes, parental practices of giving more than one child the same name and recycling the names of dead children had more or less died out. In this course, we will examine how seventeenth- and eighteenth-century beliefs about childhood influenced writing for children and adolescents. We will consider such matters as parent-child relations, 17th- and 18th-century educational models, the rise of a children’s book industry the emergence of cross-over texts (books written for adults but read widely by youth), the rise of writing aimed at youth, and the commodification of childhood.

Some readings will focus on enduring childhood favourites such as Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels, Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe, and fairy tales by Charles Perrault and Jeanne-Marie Le Prince de Beaumont. Others will bring us into contact with texts that have fallen out of the canon of children’s reading–the transparently junky and profit-driven A Little Pretty Pocket-BookThe History of Little Goody Two-Shoes, with its attempt hawking quack medicines and toys, and the bizarrely sadistic novel The Village School, which now reads as a how-to guide for violating the rights of children. Along the way, we’ll take some time to visit (and handle) the tiny children’s books housed in UBC’s Rare Books and Special Collections, and consider changing visual representations of childhood over the century.

Children’s and Young Adult Literature
(ENGL 242, Section 001)

Wisdom, Nonsense, and True Lies: An Introduction to Children’s and Young Adult Literature

September 2021, MWF 11:00-12:00

“I imagine every one will judge it reasonable, that… children, when little, should look upon their parents as their lords, their absolute governors, and as such stand in awe of them; and that when they come to riper years, they should look on them as their best, as their only sure friends, and as such love and reverence them….”   

(John Locke, Some Thoughts Concerning Education, 1693) 

In an enormously popular and influential treatise that eventually became something of a handbook for parents and educators, the philosopher John Locke presents an idealized view of the path from childhood to maturity. Some Thoughts Concerning Education was published just as a distinct body of writing for the young was beginning to emerge in England, and Locke argued the books children read played an important role in their development. But Locke was also a bachelor who had little first-hand experience of children, and he failed to anticipate the many ways in which writing for the young would reflect the complicated and often fraught relations between children and their elders. This course will examine writing for younger readers from the 18th to the early 21st century. In our readings and discussions of British, American, and Canadian children’s and young adult literature, we will examine how changing understandings of childhood and adolescence are reflected in the literary genres that adults developed to socialize and regulate the conduct of the young. Texts will likely include fairy tales by Charles Perrault, Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont, and the Brothers Grimm, as well as modern adaptations by Francesca Lia Block and Emma Donoghue; didactic poems by Isaac Watts and John Bunyan, and nonsense verse by Lewis Carroll, Shel Silverstein, and Dennis Lee; C.S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe; Roald Dahl, The BFG; Neil Gaiman, The Graveyard Book; and Vera Brosgol, Anya’s Ghost.


Term 2

Children’s Literature (ENGL 392, Section 005)


Representations of the Anthropocene in Writing for Youth

“Are humans now overwhelming the great forces of nature?”

When Will Steffen, Paul Jozef Crutzen, and John McNeill posed this question in the title of a 2007 article, they already knew the answer. A few years earlier, while attending a conference in Mexico, the Nobel Prize-winning chemist Crutzen had vigorously asserted “We are in the Anthropocene!,” using a word that had been circulating informally among researchers since the 1980s. Within months the term had begun to appear in scientific journals, and it has since become the usual way of referring to the geological period in which human activity has become the dominant influence on the earth system — the interactions between our planet’s physical, chemical, and biological processes. In their 2007 article, however, Steffen, Crutzen, and McNeill’s immediate concern was not whether humans were altering the planet, but what to do about it.

In the last two decades the Anthropocene has become a term that, perhaps above all else, points to the fraught relationship between us and the planet we inhabit, raising important questions of personal and political responsibility. One place these questions are urgently urgently is in writing addressed to young readers — writing that, historically, has been charged with shaping the young for future roles as parents, citizens, and consumers. In this course we will examine recent young adult and children’s writing that addresses the effects of human action on the environment, with particular attention to climate change, extinction, and geopolitical conflict. We’ll begin with Philippe Squarzoni’s award-winning Climate Changed (2012), a graphic memoir that has attracted attention from both teens and adults. From there we’ll turn our attention to an environmental novel aimed at younger readers, Carl Hiassen’s Hoot (2002), followed by Dry (2018), Neal Shusterman’s young adult novel about the collapse of society during a water shortage. We’ll then consider two dystopian representations of post-crisis worlds, Philip Reeve’s Mortal Engines (2001) and M.T. Anderson’s Feed (2002), before rounding out the term with Ann Nocenti and David Aja’s graphic novel The Seeds (2021). Along the way, we’ll consider how YA literature represents questions of resource extraction, personal and generational responsibility, and environmental activism.



Some Previous Courses

Principles of Literary Studies (ENGL 200)

The Image-Saturated World (2020)

ENGL 200 is a collaboratively- taught exploration of key scholarly, theoretical, and critical approaches informing the study of literatures in English at UBC. Students in the course will work closely with one faculty instructor in a small-class setting. These small classes will join together for one lecture on each week’s designated texts and topic.

This grouping of the course begins with the acknowledgement that we inhabit an image-saturated world. That is, we look at pictures all the time — often as we read. We will consider texts that ask readers to imagine pictures or to think in pictorial terms and we will consider visual material that begs to be read. We will also compare private reading to the experience of public viewing, and we will explore how writers and artists have conceptualized the differences between word and image. This class is team-taught by a specialist in Asian diasporic cultural production and critical race studies; a specialist in eighteenth-century and children’s literature; and a specialist in Renaissance literature and book history. All three of us have an interest in what is called “material culture” and think of literature in relation to the physical environments, entities, and bodies that produce and are produced by it. Given this common ground, our course will bring literature together with images on a number of historical, aesthetic, and theoretical planes in a way that is fascinating in its own right and that will prepare students for success in upper-level literature courses across UBC.