Author Archives: Christopher Morabito

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.

Humor and Willy Wonka

“‘Oh, don’t worry about them!’ cried Mr. Wonka. ‘They’re always laughing! They think everything’s a colossal joke’” (Dahl 81).

When you think about the story line of Roald Dahl’s famous children’s book Charlie and the Chocolate Factory it may seem a little off-putting. It is essentially the story of five kids who visit a chocolate factory where all of the works are slaves and four of the five children only narrowly escape death. In truth, the infamous Willy Wonka comes across as more villain than hero. Yet, since its first publication in 1964, the Charlie and the Chocolate Factory has gone through multiple editions and has been the subject of two widely successful move adaptions. How is it that such a story can come across as, not only palatable, but widely endearing? The success of the book lies in no small part with Dahl’s use of humor.

In the essay “Humor and the Body in  Children’s Literature,” Roderick McGillis explores a number of different forms of humor that are often found in children’s literature, and Dahl makes use of almost all of them. From funny names and strange words to playing with size and strange foods, there seems to be humor embedded into each twist and turn through Wonka’s elaborately whimsical factory.  Perhaps, however, the type of humor that is most true to Dahl’s work lies in the idea exaggeration and fantasy (McGillis 267).  Certainly in, a factory that makes jawbreakers that never get smaller, ice-cream that never melts, and gum that can take the place of an entire meal whatever happens exists outside of the realm of reality and believability. It is from this place of suspended reality that we are able to find humor in the torture of children.

Indeed, the idea of grotesque and unpleasant humor seems to be a reoccurring theme throughout the novel. One of the earliest examples of this is when one of the children, Augustus Gloop, falls into a chocolate river and gets sucked into a pipe that leads to the fudge room. While his parents are clearly distraught by what is happening to their child, the reader cannot help but to laugh as the Oompa-Loompas sing about the possible market success of “Augustus-favored chocolate-coated Gloop” (76). This occurs time and time again as Violet turns into a blueberry, swelling and turning purple, before being rolled out of the room with her parents close behind, Veruca and her parents get pushed down a pipe to the furnace (which luckily for them only gets lit every other day) and Mike Teavee is zapped into a million pieces before popping back up small enough to be carried out in his mother’s hand. The children are removed from the factory tour one by one with no knowledge of what will happen to them. When we seem then again leaving the factory at the end of the story, they appear to be unharmed yet not unscathed. The pressure of the tube has thinned Augustus, Violet is back to her original size but not her original color, Veruca is covered in trash but it must have been a day when the furnace is not lit, and Mike has been stretched out so that he towers over even the adults and is as thin as a pencil (Dahl 148). Sure, these kids have been tortured, but at least the reader can get a good laugh out of it.

As evident in some of the examples above, size is a large contributor to the humor of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Even before Augustus gets sucked into a tube, he is the subject of the reader’s laughter due to the fact that he is significantly overweight. In fact, the illustrations show him almost as round as blueberry Violet. Augustus’ weight is the subject of many jokes and remarks such as when the rest of the children each take one blade of edible grass and Augustus grabs a handful. The reader laughs again as Violet grows in size and once more when Mike shrinks. While not depicted on the page, the reader cannot help but to laugh as well at the idea of Mike being stretched by a gum machine or Violet being juiced. In these moments, and many other in the story, the manipulation of the body becomes a source of humor.

Yet, it is not just the children that are subject to bodily humor. Perhaps the most obvious examples of characters in the story that are designed strictly for humor are the Oompa-Loompas. Putting aside the overt racism of having a tribe of people living and working inside of a chocolate factory while wearing leaves and furs, one cannot help but to find humor in Wonka’s work force. With their strange names and small stature, standing as tall as an average adult’s knee, the Oompa-Loompas come across as just another element of the whimsical chocolate factory. The Oompa-Loompas are also directly responsible for much of the humor surrounding the fates of the children through the songs that they sing whenever one of the rejected children is carted out of the room.

Ultimately, it must be said that the Wonka Factory is home to humor in many forms, and it is because of this humor that Dahl has secured a place in the tradition of children’s literature.

Kertzer Discussion Questions

  1. In the article, Kertzer poses three different ways of analyzing Alexie’s novel: through the critique of Elizabeth Cook-Lynn, through the novel’s intertextual references and similarities, and through the use of risky laughter. Of the three, which approach seems most beneficial in understanding The Absolutely True Diary?
  2. Kertzer points out that both Rowdy and Gordy take issue with Junior’s attraction to Penelope. Kertzer seems to defend the relationship by stating that Junior knows it isn’t perfect and that both Junior and Penelople are aware of the fact that they are simply using eachother. Do you agree with Kertzer’s justification or is this relationship proof of Junior “colonizing and marginalizing” himself?
  3. Kertzer points out that when Junior compares reservations to death camps he is not joking for a change. Are there any other points in the narrative where Junior seems to take a more serious approach? What is the significance of these moments?
  4. In the final section of the essay, Kertzer points out that there are moments where the Junior’s humor lends itself to misrepresentation and misinterpretation. What are some of the moments that perhaps humor wasn’t necessary or seemed to be out of place? What does the use of humor say about Alexie’s imagined audience?

Secondary Source: Reading LGBT-Themed Literature with Young People

LGBT themed Literature

The article that I chose to focus on for this week is “Reading LGBT-Themed Literature with Young People: What’s Possible?” by Caroline T. Clark and Mollie V. Blackburn. In it, the authors discuss the various ways that LGBT texts have been incorporated into classrooms and the limitations behind these approaches.  I chose this article because I felt that we spend a lot of time talking about the books we read from an academic stance but sometimes fail to address the intended audience of these texts. While this article does not directly address Aristotle and Dante, it does provide some valuable insight into what it would be like to use such a text in a classroom and offers some advice as to what is the best way to do so.

Blog 1: Discussion Questions for Wonder

Hi everyone,

I hope that you are all enjoying the long weekend in spite of the weather. Here are my discussion questions for Wonder.


  1. Is it ableist to give August an award at the end of year ceremony? Was there anyone else who was more deserving of the award?

2.  When August sits down with Mr. Tushman towards the end of the book we learn that Tushman knew about the notes and much of what was going on in the school. Should he have done something about it, or why didn’t he?

3. Part 5 of Wonder, Justin’s narration stands out as lacking most capital letters. Why might Palacio have done this, especially to Justin’s section as opposed to any other?