Philip Nel > Courses > English 545: Literature for Adolescents (Fall 2002)
English 545, Secs. A & B: Literature for Adolescents
Sec. A: Tues. & Thurs., 12:30 - 1:45 p.m.
Sec. B: Tues. & Thurs., 2:05 - 3:20 p.m.
Eisenhower 021
Professor Philip Nel.
Office Phone: 532-2165.   Office: 208 Denison Hall.
Office Hours: Thurs., 3:30-5:30 p.m. & by appointment.
Virtual Office Hours:
Syllabus last updated on Wed, Aug 16, 2006.
Paper Assignment | Bulletin board for 545-A or 545-B

Required Texts | Objectives | Grading | Requirements | Bulletin Board | Schedule of Assignments | Recommended Resources
Required Texts:
David Almond, Kit's Wilderness.
Laurie Halse Anderson, Speak.
Avi, Nothing But the Truth.
Francesca Lia Block, Weetzie Bat.
Francesca Lia Block, Baby Be-Bop.
Sandra Cisneros, The House on Mango Street.
Robert Cormier, The Chocolate War.
Christopher Paul Curtis, Bud, Not Buddy.
Karen Hesse, Out of the Dust.
Robert Lipsyte, One Fat Summer.
Walter Dean Myers, Monster.
Philip Pullman, The Golden Compass.
J. D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye.
Tor Siedler, The Wainscott Weasel.
Art Spiegelman, Maus I: My Father Bleeds History.
Art Spiegelman, Maus II: And Here My Troubles Began.
Class Pack for English 545 (available in EH 11).
        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. 15th.



In my office (Denison 208) by 12 noon, Dec. 9th.

Final Exam


In class, 9:40-11:30 a.m., Dec. 18th (Sec. B) or Dec. 19th (Sec. A).



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. And 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 <>.
        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 <> and click on "Courses." I have linked authors' names to relevant webpages, listed web and library resources, and I plan to provide 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 either Section A (the 12:30 group) or Section B (the 2:05 group). If you receive a message like "Authorization Failed. Retry?" then click on "Retry."
  2. A window will pop up, asking for your username. If you're in the 12:30 section, then type engl545a. If you're in the 2:05 section, then type engl545b. (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 Please use the subject line; emails with absent or vague subjects 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 <> 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 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 <> 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


Tu 27


Th 29
Robert Cormier, The Chocolate War (1974).


Tu 3

T. S. Eliot, "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" (1917) [CP].

Th 5
J. D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye (1951).

Tu 10

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

Th 12
Rebel Without a Cause (1955), directed by Nicholas Ray.
Tu 17
Rebel Without a Cause.
"Beauty and the Beast": Realism, Fairy Tales, Magical Realism
Th 19
Lynda Barry, excerpt from My Perfect Life (1992) [CP]; Laurie Halse Anderson, Speak (1999), to end.
September 21st through 28th is Banned Books Week (sponsored by the American Library Association). Learn more about Challenged and Banned Books by visiting the website.

Tu 24

Anderson, Speak.

Th 26
four versions of "Beauty and the Beast" (18th and 19th centuries) [CP]; Francesca Lia Block, Weetzie Bat (1989).
Tu 1
Francesca Lia Block, Baby Be-Bop (1995).
"And Here My Troubles Began": History, Poetry, and the Graphic Novel

Th 3

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

Th 3
7 p.m., Forum Hall: Michael Kimmel, "Mars and Venus or Planet Earth? Men and Women in the New Millennium." Highly recommended.

Tu 8

Christopher Paul Curtis, Bud, Not Buddy (1999), through Chapter 12.

Th 10
Curtis, Bud, Not Buddy, to end.

Tu 15

Midterm Exam.

Th 17
Art Spiegelman, Maus I: My Father Bleeds History (1986).
Tu 22
Art Spiegelman, Maus II: And Here My Troubles Began (1991).
"I Wish I Could Make Sense of It": Truth, Lies and Narrative
Th 24
Matt Groening, "Life in Hell" comics (1983-88) [CP]; Avi, Nothing But the Truth (1991), to end.

Tu 29

Avi, Nothing But the Truth.

Th 31
Walter Dean Myers, Monster (1999), to end.
Tu 5
Myers, Monster.
Coming of Age
Th 7
Sandra Cisneros, The House on Mango Street (1983).

Tu 12

Robert Lipsyte, One Fat Summer (1977).

Th 14
No class. Work on your papers.

Tu 19

Tor Seidler, The Wainscott Weasel (1993), through "The Swans" (p. 94).

Th 21
Seidler, Wainscott Weasel, to end.
"Dark Materials": Of Facts and Fantasies

Tu 26

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

Th 28


Tu 3

Pullman, The Golden Compass, through Part Two

Th 5

Pullman, The Golden Compass; to end. Pullman, "The Dark Side of Narnia" (1998) [CP].

M 9
Paper DUE in my office (Denison 208) by 12 noon.

Tu 10

David Almond, Kit's Wilderness (1999).

Th 12
Conclusion and Review.

W 18

Final Exam, 9:40-11:30 a.m., for Sec. B (the 2:05 group).

Th 19

Final Exam, 9:40-11:30 a.m., for Sec. A (the 12:30 group).
You must take the final exam on the day and at the time scheduled for your section.

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); 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).

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


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