Philip Nel > Courses > English 545: Literature for Adolescents (Fall 2013)

English 545: Literature for Adolescents
Required Texts
Message Board
Schedule of Assignments
Professor Philip Nel
Office Phone: 532-2165
Office: ECS 103
Office Hours: Tu & Th 1:30-3:00 pm, & by appointment.




Tu & Th 11:30 - 12:45 p.m.
ECS 017
Last updated Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Required Texts:


        This class will introduce you to a range of literature for adolescents, and 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 K-State 8 criterion of "Aesthetic Experience and Interpretive Understanding."

        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.

  Points Due
Quizzes 100 In class, day reading is due.
Class Participation & 200 Daily.
Message Board Weekly.
Midterm Exam 200 In class, Oct. 24.
Paper 1 100 In class, Sept. 19.
Paper 2 150 In class, Dec. 5.
Final Exam 250 In class, Dec. 20, 9:40-11:30 a.m.
Total 1000  

Requirements: Papers | Quizzes | Class Participation and Attendance | Technology | Message Board | Assignments

       Papers: The papers must be typed (word-processed) and double-spaced; include a title, your name, the date; and have numbered pages that are stapled together. Late papers will be penalized one grade (e.g., B+ to C+) for each day late.
Paper 1 (link to assignment)
Paper 2 (link to assignment)
        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. 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 questions, please ask. If you plagiarize, you will automatically fail this course. For more information on Kansas State University's Honor System, please visit <>.

        Quizzes: Approximately 12 times during the semester, there will be a quiz. Sometimes the quiz will be announced, and sometimes it won't. But the quiz will always address the reading for that day. Because everyone can have a bad day, I will 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 discussion for each assignment, you must have finished the reading and be ready to discuss it. "The reading" is all of the work assigned for that day. We make sense of literature by discussing it. For this reason, class participation will count for 20% of your final grade. Discussion will take place both in class and out of it, via the Message 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 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.
        If you have a medical reason for doing so, you may (if you provide documentation to me at the start of the term) use a portable computer for taking notes in class -- but that's all you may use it for. If you lack such a reason, then you must put your laptop away during class. Similarly, out of common courtesy, you may not text-message during class. And set your cell phone to vibrate or, better, turn it off.
        Technology is a component of the state licensure requirements, including the standards for English Language Arts. For this reason, we are meeting in ECS 017 (a technology classroom) and you will participate in an electronic message board. Our work with computers should serve not only as a forum for discussing our reading, but also as a way for you to sharpen your communication skills and web skills for an increasingly technological age.
       This syllabus is on-line, available through the "Courses" section of my homepage: <>. I have linked authors' names to relevant webpages, listed resources, and provided links to the paper assignments.

        Message Board: Post comments to the message board every other week (or more frequently, if you wish). An average posting should run 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 asses 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 your classmates' comments on the message board. Though extra postings to the message board will not automatically replace participation in class discussions, regular contributions above and beyond your weekly posting can improve your class participation grade.

       Access the message board via K-State On-Line.

  1. Log in to our class on K-State On-Line.
  2. At left, choose the "Message Board."

       Email: My email address is Please use the subject line. Due to the sheer volume of email I receive, messages without clear subject lines will be deleated unread. You can write with questions, send a thesis statement or outline for an essay, make an appointment to meet me in my office, or do anything else that could be handled with a quick exchange of messages. I check email several times daily, but I am not on-line at all times.


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"). Page numbers refer to the editions assigned.

Introduction: Some Traditions of Adolescence
August T 27 Introduction.
Th 29 Robert Cormier, The Chocolate War (1974), through Ch. 23 (p. 160); Lee A. Talley, "Young Adult" (2011) [CP]
September T 3 Cormier, The Chocolate War (1974), to end; Brian McMullen, "A Coming of Age Reading Checklist" (2003) [CP]; Peggy McIntosh, "White Privilege and Male Privilege: A Personal Account of Coming to See Correspondences Through Work in Women's Studies" (1998) [CP].
Beauty and the Beast: Realism, Fairy Tales, Magical Realism
  Th 5 Laurie Halse Anderson, Speak (1999), through "Third Marking Period" (p. 137).
  T 10 Anderson, Speak, to end.
  Th 12 four versions of "Beauty and the Beast" (18th and 19th centuries) [CP]; Francesca Lia Block, Weetzie Bat (1989).
T 17 Block, Weetzie Bat; Sara Ryan, Empress of the World (2001), through p. 133.
Th 19 Ryan, Empress of the World, to end. Paper #1 DUE.
T 24 Ernest Cline, Ready Player One (2011), through Chapter 0019 (p. 190).
Th 26 Cline, Ready Player One, to end.
October T 1 Nancy Farmer, The House of the Scorpion (2002), through p. 136.
  Th 3 Farmer, The House of the Scorpion, through p. 248.
  T 8 Farmer, The House of the Scorpion, to end; Larry Siems et al, "Dark Realities: What Can't Be Said in Children's Books" (2004) [CP].
And Here My Troubles Began: History, Poetry, and the Graphic Novel
Th 10 Karen Hesse, Out of the Dust (1997), through Winter 1935 (p. 149). Slide show: Photos from the 1930s (to be shown in class).
  Th 10 McCain Auditorium, 7-9 pm. A talk by author Ernest Cline.
T 15 Hesse, Out of the Dust, to end; Christopher Paul Curtis, Bud Not Buddy (1999), through Chapter 12.
Th 17 Curtis, Bud Not Buddy, to end. Guest lecture: Erica Morgenstern.
T 22 Art Spiegelman, Maus I: My Father Bleeds History (1986). Guest lecture: Shaun Baker.
Th 24 Midterm Exam
  T 29 Spiegelman, Maus II: And Here My Troubles Began (1991).
Narrative and Identity
Th 31 Walter Dean Myers, Monster (1999), through p. 151.
November T 5 Myers, Monster, to end.
  Th 7 Marjane Satrapi, Persepolis (2003).
Coming of Age
T 12 Kristin Cashore, Graceling (2008), through Part One (p. 170).
Th 14 Cashore, Graceling, through Chapter 28 (p. 328).
T 19 Cashore, Graceling, to end. Guest lecture: Karin Westman.
Th 21 Jacqueline Woodson, The House You Pass on the Way (1997)
  T 26 University Holiday
  Th 28 Thanksgiving
December T 3 Sherman Alexie, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian (2007), through "Thanksgiving" (p. 103).
  Th 5 Alexie, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian (2007), to end. Paper Due.
  T 10 Francisco X. Stork, Last Summer of the Death Warriors (2010), through Chapter 20 (p. 163).
Th 12 Stork, Last Summer of the Death Warriors, to end. Conclusion and Review.
  F 20 Final Exam, 9:40-11:30 a.m.

Literature for Adoescents is often BANNED or CHALLENGED. Here are some RESOURCES on that topic.


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This page was last updated on Wednesday, October 9, 2013 .