In fact, our guest this week has posted before. This time, Jon Ostenson briefly explains his course and then describes a series of assignments that usher students in to discussion of Disciplinary Discourse using their experience as English and English Teaching majors. I will hand it over to Jon.
A second objective for the course is that students become familiar with issues and discussions in the field of adolescent literature and that they feel comfortable themselves engaging in the broader discourse in our field. This is perhaps a lot of ask of undergraduates, many of whom have been consuming a steady diet of canonical literature typical to the English major. But my students are up to the task, I think, and I have found an important way to scaffold their exposure to these disciplinary discussions and to give them a chance at entering the discussion themselves.
As we read, we look to understand not just the content of these essays but to also identify the genre expectations for these texts. We examine how authors seek to define the word while at the same time describing subtle differences that may emerge in how the word is used in certain contexts or by certain groups within a discipline. It is important that students understand how these essays help lay bare the debates and struggles within the discipline around the term. We also identify how the writers of these essays use specific examples (of literary texts or of scholarly writings) to help shed further light on the term’s use.
In the process of defining their term and then writing an essay about it, I encourage students to first look to traditional dictionary definitions for the word and then to consider the etymology and history of the word. This may prove helpful to students when the term (“romance” for example) has been in use for a long time and perhaps is only just recently being used in the context of adolescent literature studies. However, I caution students that these words are often used in specific and sometimes unique ways when we’re talking about adolescent literature and that their essays should reflect this.
To further explore their word, they look through scholarly journals (e.g., The ALAN Review, The Lion and the Unicorn, Children’s Literature Association Quarterly, SIGNAL Journal) for articles that are related to their term in order to get a sense for how the term is used in context in the scholarly field. And they select three young adult novels to read (as part of their elective reading) that have a meaningful connection to their term and can be used in their essay to support their thinking and discussion of the term.
Over the next couple of weeks we will be talking about developing and teaching YA courses, censorship and book approval, and we will be hearing from a couple of authors. If you liked this post, please share it with your colleagues and friends as well as teachers and librarians in your area.