Monthly Archives: October 2017

Final Project- Letter to generous readers

The tentative title of this project is: Teaching Adults through Children’s Literature. Long term, I’m interested in writing an autoethnography that blends experiences I’ve had in my Composition classroom, conversations I’ve had (accidentally and on purpose) with departmental heads and bosses, and composition rhetoric studies to support the use of postcolonial theory and now, children’s literature in the writing classroom. I’m not in the headspace yet to tell you how postcolonial theory/literature and children’s literature will intersect with one another, but I imagine it will, especially considering how “othered” both fields are in literary studies as a whole.

This particular project is a sliver of that, yet I think still able to exist independently. It has many parts, some of which I hope to complete by the end of this term, some of which I’ll need to work on after implementing my syllabus in a classroom.

What I’ve shared with you are drafts of three parts: 1) The context: I have imagined an email exchange with a chair and a lecturer who I affectionately name Y. Y is able to share their decision to incorporate Children’s Literature into the English 121-English Composition II classroom. Given Y’s familiarity with the Pathways program, public college bureaucracy, and English departments’ altruistic albeit violent desire to other, Y comes prepared with course objectives, methodologies, reading lists, and an annotated syllabus. The tone is purposefully cynical, but do let me know if you feel that takes away from your understanding of the project. 2) The Value statement pre implementation of syllabus: It’s REALLY unfinished, so please rip it to shreds. 3) The syllabus: It’s mostly fleshed out, but there are a couple of readings that I am missing. I’m also interested in possibly using children’s lit/YA lit that is open access—any tips on that would be most appreciated.

Additionally, I have three major goals for this project:

  1. Bug the shit out of academics: Because, why not? I’m reading Kynard’s Vernacular Insurrections and I’m finding there’s power in hybridity. There’s also value in messing with form and expectations. Rather than position my argument as a defense, what happens if it’s a part of a conversation free from power dynamics, academic gestures of politeness, and language that often hides meaning instead of creates it. So yes, I would never think to talk to my chair in the way I do here, but I think that’s the point.
  2. Use course objectives as a way to substantiate the value of Children’s literature in developing literacy: Fun and games aside, I have to eventually get down to business if I want this course to run. That means, I have to take each course objective listed on the ENG 121 syllabus and argue how Children and YA literature will assist me in meeting these objectives. I sort of start to do this with my scenario bits and I do it on the syllabus as well. It’s not fully fleshed out yet though.
  3. Design a syllabus that I would implement in the Fall 2018 semester: I’ve got to have a syllabus, or else nobody giving me not one course for not one student. Facts.

Finally, I left a table of contents in there so you can see where I’m hoping to take this project long-term, feedback on the table of contents is also welcomed.

I so appreciate any time you put into my project and am looking forward to all of the insight you’ll provide.


Blog 4

For my final project, I will be working on a part of my portfolio exam. Although the exam has 4 parts and I am hoping to be finished with at least 2 of them before the end of this semester, I will only be using one piece for workshop because that is all that I have had time to focus on so far.

The piece that I will be submitting for workshop is the draft of a 10 page conference paper. The entirety of my portfolio exam will be focusing on the topic of queerness in literature, but for the conference paper I am specifically focusing on Queer Young Adult literature. My idea for the paper is to trace the emergence of Queer YA  fantasy novels, and what fantasy means when dealing with queer characters.

In the broadest sense, my interest in queer young adult fiction stems from my own lack of exposure to queer texts in my young adult years. Reading fictional stories was a large part of my own coming out experience, but I did not have any books to refer to. Instead, I had to rely on online stories and finding queer subtexts in classic texts like The Great Gatsby. I know that YA novels with gay and otherwise queer characters existed, but they were never made readily available to me. As such, I study this literature as a means of bringing it into the classroom so that others can be exposed to it.

While I am not entirely sure how the idea to focus on fantasy novels came to me, I think that part of me wanted to look at texts that I would not normally look at, and another part of me just wanted an excuse to read some of the books that have been on my reading list but that I haven’t felt like I had the time to read.

So far in my process, I have spent a great deal of time researching which books I should look at, and admittedly getting a little carried away in this part of the process. I have been reading as many q         ueer YA books as I can get my hands on, starting from the book that is widely considered to be the first in the field. As I have been reading, I have been trying to find trends within queer YA books that might have led to the fantasy novels and thought about the interplay between queerness and fantasy.

If I am able to finish this essay, the other two parts of the portfolio exam that I am considering doing are: an annotated bibliography exploring queerness and gender-nonconformity since the Medieval era until now in order to show that you cannot ascribe the labels we use to identify gender and sexuality to figures from before the time that these terms were coined, and a syllabus focusing on the concept of coming out as any subversive identity, including  but not necessarily related to gender or sexuality. Any suggestions for texts for either of these projects would also be greatly appreciated.

Blog #4 – Final Project

My final paper is also my overall project for my Master’s Degree in Liberal Studies, within my track of Biography, Autobiography and Memoirs. The project itself is a memoir on my teenage years, in which I’m attempting to trace the steps of how I was bullied in middle school and how I coped throughout that time as well as afterwards. Using old journals, which were filled with various kinds of writings, as well as photos and artworks that I’ve compiled I’m hoping to write the details of how I see those years. It also deals with how I’ve dealt with the difficulties I’ve had with my own family and the amount of verbal abuse I’ve dealt with over the years.

Some of the research that I’ve done has not been limited to what I have saved over the years but also text that I’ve found while researching on how to write the white pages of my capstone project. Articles on the effects of bullying, and the long term effects on someone who has dealt with childhood bullies. One of the articles specifically focusing on Latina teenagers and how they’re most likely of their peer group to have suicidal thoughts. Between their social interactions at school and their interactions with family it is possible that there have been lasting effects on their lives.

Books in which the characters have been put through a situation in which they’re bullied or even forced to stay away from school because of the effects of bullying have also been a part of the reading. Many of these text have been listed in the bibliography at the end of the project. The words of these characters didn’t exist when I was growing up but they have taught me that some of these authors know about or have dealt with the problem of bullying.  Their stories have given me the opportunity to understand how a creative person has found an outlet for their work, whether dealing with their own characters overcoming the same obstacles or by showing that they can be better than they are.

Writing about my life as a creative project is not something I have come to terms with just yet, even writing it in the style of a novel or something close to that. It’s a difficult task and one that I’m struggling with, as of now it’s just a stream of conscience writing for the creative part until I’ve found a center to where I hope to go with the project. It’s a difficult project and one where I’m also trying to find a place to integrate some of the text that we have read in class.

Honestly since I’m one of the first going into this workshop I’m not sure of how this project will work but I’m hoping to get feedback before I continue to move forward. Don’t mind the blank spaces, I am trying to fill them in as I go but since I had to post the draft for this project, well it is a work in progress.

Blending and Cultural Narratives by Trites (Discussion Questions)

  1. How convinced are we by Trites’ argument that lila’s xeroderma pigmentosum is “an embodied metaphor for racism (58),” that “xp may well be a metaphor for race in [a cool moonlight] (58)”? Are we not veering into dangerous territory when we conflate the two?
  2. Trites quotes David Herman’s argument that “cognitive narratology ‘investigates how narratives, through their forms as well as their themes, work to privilege some world models over others’ (79),” further specifying that she believes the most influential world model found in adolescent literature is “the model of requisite adolescent growth (79).” Do you think this is true of a cool moonlight? How do we see this play out in lila’s journey from wanting to be a sun goddess to being happy with being a moon girl?
    • Is it only the child/adolescent protagonist that must grow? Are the characters that form the community also growing or not growing? What is the role of the community/family in maintaining/enforcing this “requisite adolescent growth”? Do monk and mama and dad want lila to grow?
  3. I have never read Neal Shusterman’s Unwind, but juding from Trites’ analysis and quoting of the text, feel that it seems to be a highly problematic text. Trites says, “the book is ultimately far more pro-life than pro-choice, even though the text appears initially to try to present all sides of the debate fairly (71).” But it doesn’t! And ultimately, the message is received by readers, whether consciously or not. So. Where does that leave us? As someone interested in the sociology of knowledge and the way language works to enforce and maintain certain ideologies, I find this kind of work operating in children’s literature extra alarming. This goes back to our discussions around the fact that, ultimately, adults write children’s literature. Trites may argue that “the model of requisite adolescent growth” is the major unifying cultural narrative found in children’s literature, but perhaps it’s just the “ideas of the ruling class” (sorry to bring in Marx) that make it into these texts?

Blog #3

I realized this was sitting in my drafts and I never posted it!!

I chose Lemony Snicket’s “The Bad Beginning,” his first of 13 books in the Series of Unfortunate Events. He is a master of morbid humor through sarcasm and irony. McGillis talks plenty about the use of bigness to convey characters in a “fearsome,” exaggerated, and sort of gross way (pg. 261). Villainous Count Olaf is described in this manner, as “very tall and very thin, dressed in a gray suit that had many dark stains on it. His face was unshaven, and rather than two eyebrows, like most human beings have, he had just one long one (pg. 22).” The whole description, but the unibrow in particular, is humorous insomuch as it’s incredibly obvious who we are supposed to hate from the very beginning of the text.  Similarly, Olaf’s henchpeople are described in “grotesque” ways (pg. 267). The hook-handed man is a personal favorite — how does he do anything with two hooks for hands??

Throughout the book, Snicket isn’t didactic so much as comically instructive. He literally defines words for young readers, but then will use this method with a sly humor. For example, he doesn’t actually define the word “adversary,” he simply writes “…adversary, a word which here means Count Olaf.”

The “sheer nonsense (pg. 265)” McGillis describes is present throughout the text, from Count Olaf thinking himself a magnificent actor, to Mr. Poe’s ridiculous cough (and name…Edgar Poe!) to the use of alliteration (the children are at Briny Beach when they hear of the terrible fire that destroyed their home, Count Olaf puts on the play A Marvelous Marriage to legally marry Violet so that he can get her fortune).

McGillis describes the “freakish” nature of children’s literature and how it lends itself to humor. This is evident in the descriptions of the three orphans themselves, especially Sunny, who is an infant but has razor sharp teeth that she uses to bite through things like tree trunks! She also babbles but is completely conscious of what is going on around her, and her babbling is understood by her siblings, who regularly translate for her.

Snicket’s work embodies a lot of what McGillis describes, in a way that leaves readers feeling uneasy about the fact that they’re laughing at the terrible plight of three young orphans. Whether they are reading about “a greedy and repulsive villain” or “cold porridge for breakfast,” young readers are sure to be entertained, even if they’re not sure what’s so amusing about the shenanigans three kids get into trying to stay alive.


Blog – Blending and Cultural Narratives

  1. Trites states that adolescence is a blend of man concepts, hat include, at a minimum, the following: biological concepts of puberty; social constructions of adolescence; religious and social rites of passage… economic factors that define the adolescent’s ability to work or not educational constructs of adolescent learning styles… and psychological concepts of cognitive capacity. How do these constructs apply to someone like Lila who doesn’t have the same social constructs as other children her age? Would she have the same rites of passage as other children, as she grows into adolescence?
  2. “[b]uilding the blend requires composition, completion, and elaborations” (Turner 2002:11). In other words, blending in literature occurs because of the author’s composition of the text, the adolescent reader’s cognitive act of reading, and that reader’s imaginative process of elaborating the blend into a new meaning. ” (56-57)  Thinking of what we were discussing in class last week about childhood text having a different meaning in adulthood. What does this mean if we read adolescence text as adults?
  3. “The ideological act, in which blends create new domains specifically aimed at manipulating a reader’s belief system, involves what cognitive narratology refers to as cultural narratives.  Cultural narratives have been called by many names: master narratives, metanarratives, dominant cultural ideologies, or even stereotypes; Zunshine herself refers to them as “cultural representations” (2002:126)” (60) In all of the text we’ve read this semester, what “cultural representations” are represented in them? Does this shape how we read a text?
  4. THE BODY IS A CONTAINER – “As Lakoff and Johnson explain, “We are physical beings, bounded and set off from the rest of the world by the surface of our skins, and we experience the rest of the world as outside us. Each of us is a container, with a bounding surfaces and an in-out orientation” (1980:29). (71) What does this type of context mean for a character like Lila who’s outside world is limited to the nighttime?


This last part is an extra, because once I learned about the context of Lila’s disease I was reminded of a movie and a show that I watched a long time ago about someone with the same disease. There is a 2006 Japanese movie as well as a 2006 Japanese Television Drama called Taiyo no Uta about a teenage girl with Xeroderma pigmentosum, it’s interesting to read something that came out around the same time with the same concept but a different age for the characters.


Don’t forget your final blogging assignment….

Blog Assignment #4: Post on final paper and responses to each other’s post, if writing a final paper:  About a week before you submit your materials for workshop–or before–you should write a 1-2 page post about your final paper and the research you are completing.  I would like everyone to comment on these posts.

I would recommend that everyone get going on this–and do comment on each other’s posts.  It will enhance the workshop experience, which is otherwise going to unfold in Dropbox (and in the classroom of course!).

Secondary Source for “a cool moonlight” (Blog #2)

So I read “a cool moonlight” and instinctively compared it to “Wonder” and “Challenger Deep.” I kept thinking about the different ways that each protagonist connected with, talked about, and navigated their disability. A major concept within disability studies is “normalcy” and how socially-constructed and artificial it is. Normalcy operated very differently in each of these novels, and Auggie, Caden, and Lila all dealt with normalcy in distinct ways. For example, sometimes normalcy was desired as goal for the disabled characters, other times it was considered unnecessary.

I was fascinated by the ways that able-bodied characters interact with the disabled characters in these books, and how each author uses these scenes to depict, satirize, or ignore societal ableism. The secondary source I chose explores interactions between able-bodied adults and disabled children. The article makes use of Freud’s uncanny, continuing some of the themes of the minor Gothic mode discussed in the McGillis article and that we talked about in class.

The source I chose is from a book called “Disabled Children’s Childhood Studies” (I attached the whole book here because it has some amazing sources that some of you may be interested in). But for this assignment I am most interested in Chapter 13: The Disavowal of Uncanny Disabled Children: Why Non-Disabled People Are So Messed Up Around Childhood Disability by Dan Goodley and Rebecca Lawthom (pages 164-179 of the book, or 180-195 of the PDF).

Most of “a cool moonlight” explores how a disabled child deals with the able-bodied world, so I thought this source would be an interesting way to look at the other side of the book. How do the able-bodied characters deal with Lila? In what ways is “a cool moonlight” potentially more utopic than “Wonder” or “Challenger Deep”?

Blog Post #3: Humor and the Body (Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon)

After I read the McGillis piece, a series of questions surfaced for me: What are the ways in which humor is embodied? How does humor get (re)articulated through bodies? What are the meanings of different kinds of humor and how do they weigh in/on the body and how does the audience make meaning of them? I really started to grapple with these questions and the ways in which “the body has been a source of humor” (.258) as I read Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon.

In Everything, Everything, Yoon chronicles the journey of teenager Madeline Whittier, a self-identified multiracial Japanese and African American girl who believes that she has a dangerous and life threatening auto-immune disease. Madeline lives her life (or her semblance of a life) in her decontaminated house under the supervision of her mother and her nurse, Carla. Quarantined in her home since an infant, Madeline knows little of the outside world and has capitulated to the demands of her disease out of necessity. Madeline’s very body becomes threatened when she makes contact with the outside world (her sickness is embodied quite literally here).

Early in the novel, Madeline describes the condition of her disease in relation to how it fueled her passion for reading and the ways she interacts with books (by labeling them as her property), she remarks: “I don’t know why I do this. There’s no one else here except my mother, who never reads, and my nurse Carla, who has no time to read because she spends all her time watching me breathe” (.1). Here, Madeline deploys humor not only to explain her medical condition and the impact it has on her body (“basically, I’m allergic to the world”) but she also utilizes humor to convey the ways in which her disease regulates her interactions with and navigation of the world (specifically, the world inside her house). For Madeline, humor allows her to cope with a medical condition that could ultimately be a death sentence. It helps her processing and speaks to her desire to not be the object of any one’s pity. Madeline does not want to be restricted to the confines of her house, though she realizes that this is her social reality and thus humor becomes a vital part of how she traverses it. The humor expressed early in the novel speaks to the ways in which humor can create necessary space and/distance from excoriating human experiences, a line of reasoning that McGillis draws, as he states “we can realize that the humor provides us with a necessary distancing from the death so that we can take in the lesson this death delivers” (.263). Madeline was distancing herself from her illness and the significance and power it had over her life through the deployment of humor. Furthermore, Madeline arguably pokes fun at her disease in an exaggerated fashion that is characteristic of humor in children’s literature—for instance, when she says she’s allergic to the world. Madeline isn’t literally allergic to the world (only certain triggers) but by exaggerating Madeline constructs herself as aberrant, as different, a notion that speaks to McGillis’ assertion that “the point is that much humor for children is exaggerated, fantasy writ large, a reminder of the monstrous and the freakish. The freakish serves, as Susan Stewart asserts, to normalize the person reading about or looking at the freak, ‘as much as it marks the freak as an aberration’ (.267).

Later in the book, the plot really thickens and humor gives way to a teenage love story. Whereas humor is how Madeline initially copes with her condition, she later hinges her future, desires, and ambitions on her next door hunky neighbor, Olly. Madeline falls in love with Olly and doesn’t really rely on humor to explore, process, or understand (which felt so problematic to me)—Olly becomes more important than coping and figuring her own thing out and the novel’s emphasis on embodiment shifts to consider the ways in which love inhabits and affects the body (heart racing, flutters, butterflies, Madeline’s “body blushing”) and how perceptions and realities of health operate inside and outside the body (when Madeline describes feeling well versus when she feels like she feels like she’s been “doused with kerosene and lit with a match” (.224; .234). Near the conclusion of Everything, Everything, Madeline discovers that she doesn’t have a life-threatening auto-immune disease. Rather, it is implied that her mother has an undiagnosed mental health issue that surfaced after the deaths of Madeline’s father and brother when she was a baby. I think it’s worth considering how humor shifted, evolved, and (dis)appeared throughout the novel (as well as broader dynamics and themes of masculinity and femininity, gender, sexuality and race).

Humor and the Body in Children’s Lit x This One Summer

This One Summer is a graphic novel from the creative duo behind Skim. In This One Summer, Jillian Tamaki and Mariko Tamaki pair up again to bring us the story of one girl’s summer: in a familiar place, Awago Beach (her family’s summering spot), while she grapples with the new and unfamiliar of growing up and leaving girlhood. It is in this in-between place that we meet Rose and her summertime sister/best friend, Windy. While Rose (and Windy) oscillate between carefree girlhood and the pangs of pre-teen angst and growing up, we see the body and humor operate in different ways.

Rose is the narrator and she is one year older than Windy. Because of this, she often drives the adventures, and her particular ‘pre-teen but crossing into teen’ proclivities dictate what they do. One such pastime is the consumption of horror movies. When Rose decides she’s not interested in X-men or Sex and the City anymore (the movies Windy already has), Rose and Windy go to the local store, Brewster’s, to rent a film. Postulating as grown-up, teenager, “cool,” in the hope of impressing her summer crush, Rose grabs the Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Yet, at home, in a private space, Rose and Windy hide under the covers instead of watching the film outright, while text and sound bubbles surround them (“ BZZZZ!!” “Splat!!” “Squirt!” “HELP ME!!”). Rose asks Windy to distract her, and Windy brings up oral sex. “That’s so gross!!” Windy proclaims, when she finds out what it entails (all the while, the movie continues to contribute background sound for the conversation). This is in line with McGillis’ assertion that “we can see the potentially subversive aspect of humor most clearly in the scatological and violent manifestations, its obsession with the body and all its discernable parts (264)”: the sounds of dismembering bodies surround the two girls while they discuss oral sex. “The dead body and the body in pieces are recurring features of children’s stories and fantasies, and it is quite possible to find humor in the body in pieces (263).” And indeed, some of the most poignant scenes are the ones in which we see Rose grapple with her fear of the horrific images from the films they consume. For example, she sprints home one night after watching Friday the 13th and bursts into nervous/scared/tired laughter after making it home unscathed.

We also see This One Summer grapple with the humor around changing girls bodies. Windy and Rose have extensive conversations around boobs and speculate on what size boobs they will have. In one scene on the beach, Windy proceeds to dance around as they together shriek “BREASTS!” “TITS!” “SEXY TA-TAS!” before being admonished by passing adults. Rose and Windy collapse, laughing. Here, “language itself provides broad humor (264)” as the girls confront the reality of their own changing bodies and those of their peers. With all that happens in the book, it literally closes on Rose thinking, “Boobs would be cool,” as she and her family leave the cottage for the summer.

This One Summer tackles a number of topics, from teenage sex, to miscarriage, to family tensions, to summer crushes, to the pangs of growing up and leaving girlhood. The body, bodies, and body parts play an ongoing role throughout the book, and the humor in relation to the body is both gentle at times (Windy mangling gummy feet candies before consuming them) or unrelentingly grotesque (as with the many scenes involving horror films). The visuals vividly drive all this home; I will share some of my favorites in class.