Reading and Writing About Literature (ENGL 100, Section 006)

Why Fairy Tales Still Matter

September 2020, MWF 14:00-15:00

What, exactly, is a fairy tale? Why do some remain popular even two or three hundred years after they were first published? And why do modern writers so often return to the form, sometimes to rewrite old tales and sometimes to compose brand-new ones? In this course, we will address these questions by reading and discussing a variety of classic tales by the Brothers Grimm, Charles Perrault, and Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont as well as modern versions of those tales by Philip Pullman, Emma Donoghue, and Francesca Lia Block. We’ll end the term by examining a graphic novel that transports classic fairy-tale characters into modern-day New York. In lectures and discussions we’ll consider how fairy tales have been adapted to meet the needs of distinct historical periods, and how different critical approaches to the same text can yield entirely different—even competing—interpretations.

Principles of Literary Studies
(ENGL 200, Section 001)

The Image-Saturated World

September 2020, MWF  10:00-11:00

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.

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 2020, MWF 12:00-13:00

“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; Philip Pullman, The Golden Compass; and Neil Gaiman, Coraline.


Children’s Literature
(ENGL 392, Section 005)

Representations of the Anthropocene in Writing for Youth

January 2021, MWF 11:00-12:00

This section of ENGL 392 will examine recent children’s and young adult 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 dystopian representations of post-crisis worlds including Philip Reeve’s Mortal Engines (2001)  and M.T. Anderson’s Feed (2002), before rounding out the term with a graphic novel, likely Adam Rapp’s Decelerate Blue (2017). Along the way, we’ll consider how YA literature represents questions of resource extraction, personal and generational responsibility, and environmental activism.


Majors Seminar (ENGL 490, Section 007)

Children in Time: Young Readers in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Century

January 2021, W 13:00-15:00

Joseph Wright
The Wood Children

Willem Wissing and John Vandervaart, Master Montagu Drake (1689)

Wissing and Vandervaart
Master Montagu Drake

The century that separates the portraits of Montagu Drake and the Wood children saw deep changes in how children were understood and treated in the English-speaking world–and in the kinds of books that were published for them. 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. A gentler orientation towards childhood was accompanied by the emergence of a publishing industry aimed specifically at young readers. In this seminar, we will examine seventeenth- and eighteenth-century texts for youth, and some of the contemporary beliefs about childhood that informed them. We’ll consider such matters as changing parent-child relations, the emergence of cross-over texts (books written for adults but appropriated by younger readers), the rise of children’s  publishers, and the commodification of childhood. Our study texts will include Robinson Crusoe, Gulliver’s Travels, and a selection of early fairy tales, short stories, and poems for young readers.

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