English 545: Literature for Adolescents
Tues. & Thurs., 11:05 a.m. - 12:20 p.m.
Eisenhower 021
Professor Philip Nel.
Office Phone: 532-2165.   Office: 208 Denison Hall.
Office Hours: Tues., 2:00-4:00 p.m. & by appointment.
Virtual Office Hours: philnel@ksu.edu.
Website: www.ksu.edu/english/nelp/.
Syllabus last updated on Wednesday, August 16, 2006.
Paper Assignment | Bulletin board

Required Texts | Objectives | Grading | Requirements | Bulletin Board | Schedule of Assignments | Recommended Resources
Required Texts:
        This class is designed to introduce you to a range of literature for adolescents (also known as young adult literature), and to develop your critical skills in reading literary and cultural works. We will study works that feature adolescent characters, depict experiences familiar to adolescents, and are taught to or read by adolescents. We will approach these works from a variety of critical perspectives (including formalist, psychoanalytic, queer theory, feminist, Marxist, historical, postcolonial, ecological) -- perspectives that many high schools want their teachers to know. In summary, this course will be about different kinds of literature read by young adults, approaches to thinking about this literature, and adolescence's relationship to power. As such, the course will be useful both to future teachers and to students fulfilling the General Education requirement.
        In this class, education will not be a passive experience: I expect discussion, debate, and exchanges of ideas. This requires that you not only be present but that you be an active presence.




100 (total for all quizzes)   

In class, day reading is due.

Class Participation &   



Electronic Bulletin Board    


Midterm Exam


In class, Oct. 16th.



In my office (Denison 208) by 12 noon, Dec. 8th.

Final Exam


In class, 9:40-11:30 a.m., Dec. 17th.



Requirements: Paper | Quizzes | Class Participation and Attendance | Computing | Assignments
        The paper must: be typed (preferably word-processed) and double-spaced; include a title, your name, and the date; and have numbered pages that are stapled or paper-clipped together. Late papers will be penalized one grade (e.g., B+ to C+) for each day late.
        Sources: Use the MLA method for documenting sources. Don't plagiarize. When you turn in a paper, you pledge that you have faithfully abided by the guidelines for documenting sources -- most grammar handbooks provide guidelines for documentation. Always remember: you must cite the sources of any ideas that are not your own. If you quote, paraphrase, or use another's ideas, you must give credit to the person whose ideas you are using. If you have any questions, please ask. If you plagiarize, you will automatically fail this course. For more information on Kansas State University's Honor System, please visit <www.ksu.edu/honor>.
        Approximately 12 times during the semester, there'll be a quiz. Sometimes the quiz will be announced, and sometimes it won't. But it will always address the reading for that day. Because everyone can have a bad day, I'll drop the lowest quiz grade.
        Class Participation and Attendance:
        Read everything, and come to class prepared to talk about what you have read. On the first day of class discussion for each assignment, you must have finished the reading and be ready to discuss it. By "the reading," I mean all of the text assigned for that day. This class will be based on discussion, so class participation is expected, and will count for 20% of your final grade. Discussion will take place both in class, and out of it, via the Electronic Bulletin Board (explained below). I reserve the right to assign homework or in-class writing projects that are not listed on the syllabus.
        Class attendance is required. Since the class meets twice a week, you are granted two absences, but more than two will lower your final grade by one grade increment for each absence (e.g., B+ would become B). I appreciate your offering explanations for absences; however, the only way to excuse an absence is to provide me with an official letter from the dean. You cannot earn credit for work missed in class. If you miss class, it is your responsibility to discover what went on that day. "I didn't know because I wasn't in class" is never an acceptable excuse.
        Computing -- the Internet, the Electronic Bulletin Board, and Email:

        The Internet: For your reference, a hyperlinked version of this syllabus is on-line. Go to <www.ksu.edu/english/nelp/> and click on "Courses." I have linked authors' names to relevant webpages, listed web and library resources, and provided a link to the paper assignment.

        Electronic Bulletin Board: Post comments to the bulletin board once a week. An average posting should run about one or two paragraphs in length. In other words, your postings do not need to be long, but they must be substantive -- long enough to convey clearly the problem you are taking up and your point of view, connecting your comment to others' comments, as appropriate. I will monitor these discussions and assess a grade (at the end of the semester) based on the thoughtfulness of your comments, their ability to foster discussion among your classmates, and their responsiveness to both our readings and to your classmates' comments in class and on the bulletin board. You may respond to an existing thread of the conversation or initiate another; weekly postings will count towards your class participation grade. I may participate in these conversations, but I see the bulletin board primarily as a way for you to raise issues we haven't addressed -- or addressed fully or to your satisfaction -- during our regular class meetings. Though extra postings to the bulletin board will not automatically replace participation in our class discussions, regular contributions above and beyond your weekly posting can certainly improve your class participation grade.
        How to use the bulletin board:
  1. First, click on this sentence. If you receive a message like "Authorization Failed. Retry?" then click on "Retry."
  2. A window will pop up, asking for your username. Type engl545. (Be sure to use all lower-case letters.) Next, type in the password that I gave you in class.
  3. To see all the messages posted to date starting with the newest ones first, click on "Preferences" and set the options to "12 months" and "Mixed Threaded, Reversed." Click on the "View Messages Index" button. You should be able to see all the messages posted to the threaded bulletin board. (If a grey box pops up with the title "Security Information," just click "OK.")
  4. To post, choose to reply to a message or to post a new message. You will have to enter your name, your email address, and the subject of the message. You can preview your message before sending it; then, click "Post Message."
        Email: My email address is philnel@ksu.edu. Please use the subject line. Due to the increased volume of spam, messages without clear subject lines will be deleted unread. If you need help establishing an email account and learning to use email, please visit the Office of Telecommunications at 109 East Stadium or <www.telecom.ksu.edu/> to find out what you have to do. Although I do not require you to use email, I encourage you to use email as a way of touching base with me. You can write me with questions, send a thesis statement or outline for an essay, make an appointment to meet me in person, or do anything else that could be handled with a quick exchange of messages. I tend to check email several times a day, but please keep in mind that I am not on-line at all times. You can access email at the various computer labs around campus: 21 Nichols Hall, 22-25 Seaton Hall, 1-1A Dickens Hall, and 325 Justin Hall and in some residence halls (visit <http://rescomp.ksu.edu/info.htm> and scroll down to "Computing Labs" for more details about resident hall labs).

Schedule of Assignments
Subject to Change
[W] = Web. [CP] = Class Pack. [R] = On Reserve (at Hale Library).
Note: "through" means "to the end of" (not "up to").

"Rebels Without a Cause": Traditions of Adolescence


Th 21



Tu 26

Robert Cormier, The Chocolate War (1974).

Th 28

Stan Lee and Steve Ditko, Spider-Man comics (1962-63) [CP].



Tu 2

J. D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye (1951); Brian McMullen, "A Coming-of-Age Reading Checklist" (2003) [CP].

Th 4

Rebel Without a Cause (1955), directed by Nicholas Ray.


Tu 9

Rebel Without a Cause.

Th 11

Lynda Barry, One Hundred Demons (2002).


Tu 16

Peggy McIntosh, "White Privilege and Male Privilege: A Personal Account of Coming to See Correspondences Through Work in Women's Studies" (1988) [CP].


"Beauty and the Beast": Realism, Fairy Tales, & Magical Realism

Th 18

Laurie Halse Anderson, Speak (1999), to end.

September 20th through 27th is Banned Books Week (sponsored by the American Library Association). Learn more about Challenged and Banned Books by visiting the website.


Tu 23

Anderson, Speak.

Th 25

four versions of "Beauty and the Beast" (18th and 19th centuries) [CP]; Francesca Lia Block, Weetzie Bat (1989). Francesca Lia Block: Web Resources



Tu 30

Francesca Lia Block, Baby Be-Bop (1995).


"And Here My Troubles Began": History, Poetry, and the Graphic Novel


Th 2

Karen Hesse, Out of the Dust (1997). Slide show: Photos from the 1930s (to be shown in class).


Tu 7

Christopher Paul Curtis, Bud, Not Buddy (1999), through Chapter 12. Slide show: Photos from the 1930s (to be shown in class).

Th 9

Curtis, Bud, Not Buddy, to end.


Tu 14

Fall Break.

Th 16

Midterm Exam.


Tu 21

Art Spiegelman, Maus I: My Father Bleeds History (1986).

Th 23

Art Spiegelman, Maus II: And Here My Troubles Began (1991).

Coming of Age

Tu 27

Sandra Cisneros, The House on Mango Street (1983).

Th 30

Tomás Rivera, …y no se lo tragó la tierra / …And the Earth Did Not Devour Him (1971).



Tu 4

Robert Lipsyte, One Fat Summer (1977).

Th 6

Jerry Scott & Jim Borgman, "Zits" (2002) [CP].


Tu 11

Virginia Euwer Wolff, True Believer (2002).

Th 13

Virginia Euwer Wolff, True Believer.


Of Facts and Fantasies

Tu 18

Walter Dean Myers, Monster (1999), to end.

Th 20

Myers, Monster.


Tu 25

Philip Pullman, The Golden Compass (1995), through Part One.

Th 27




Tu 2

Pullman, The Golden Compass, through Part Two.

Th 4

Pullman, The Golden Compass; to end.


M 8

Paper DUE in my office (Denison 208) by 12 noon.

Tu 9

Conclusion and Review.


W 17

Final Exam, 9:40-11:30 a.m.
You must take the final exam on the day and at the time scheduled.

Recommended Resources

In the Library

  • Secondary Sources: Anita Silvey, Children's Books and Their Creators (1995); Humphrey Carpenter and Mari Prichard (editors), The Oxford Companion to Children's Literature (1984); Leonard S. Marcus, Author Talk (2000), and others; the Something About the Author series (1971-); the Dictionary of Literary Biography, Vols. 22, 42, 52, 61, 141, 160, 161, 163, and any other of the volumes devoted to Children's Literature (1983-); the Children's Literature Review series (1976-); the Junior Book of Authors series (1934-89); Barbara Rollock (editor), Black Authors and Illustrators of Children's Books: A Biographical Dictionary (1992); Althea K. Helbig and Agnes Regan Perkins, This Land Is Our Land: A Guide to Multicultural Literature for Children and Young Adults (1994).
  • Novels (in addition to those listed above): Louisa May Alcott, Little Women (1868-69); Avi, The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle (1990), Nothing But the Truth (1991); Lynda Barry, My Perfect Life (1992), Cruddy (1999); Edward Bloor, Tangerine (1997); Gillian Cross, Wolf (1990); Christopher Paul Curtis, The Watsons Go to Birmingham -- 1963 (1995); Nancy Farmer, The Eye, the Ear, and the Arm (1994); Karen Hesse, Witness (2001); Gail Carson Levine, Ella Enchanted (1997); Diana Wynne Jones, The Dark Lord of Derkholm (1998), The Year of the Griffin (2000); L. M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables (1908); Walter Dean Myers, Fallen Angels (1988); Philip Pullman, The Subtle Knife (1997), The Amber Spyglass (2000); Louis Sachar, Holes (1998); Tor Seidler, A Rat's Tale (1986); Mark Twain, The Aventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884).

On the Web


Required Texts | Objectives | Grading | Requirements | Bulletin Board | Schedule of Assignments | Recommended Resources


Philip Nel | Courses | Books | Blog | Crockett Johnson Homepage | Don DeLillo Society | Links | Self-Promotion | Site Map | FAQ
Program in Children's Literature | Department of English | Kansas State University

Copyright © 2003-2010 Philip Nel. Please read the Disclaimer.

This page was last updated August 1, 2010