"Burned, Sold, and Exiled: The Value of Young Adult Problem Novels in the Classroom"
Presented by Savannah Frelin
Young adult literature has many purposes: to enable readers to make sense of the world around them, to affirm readers so they do not feel marginalized, and to create a transition from reading for an academic purpose to reading for pleasure. Despite the controversy surrounding the contemporary novels Burned by Ellen Hopkins and Sold by Patricia McCormick, their themes, structures, and other literary elements allow them to serve fully the purpose of young adult literature. Their modern, realistic, and controversial themes have obscured their literary merit, yet these themes intrigue young adults and create a transaction between the reader and text. These problem novels verify that young adult fiction has depth and merit and can be analyzed with several literary theories. These novels’ literary merit is based on the following criteria: they possess the same literary devices as the “classics,” they have intricate narrative style and structure, and they clearly demonstrate the viability of transactional theory. Including contemporary young adult fiction in the secondary classroom alongside the “classic” texts allows readers to improve literary analysis skills and to choose the texts they engage, resulting in greater confidence and meaningful reading experiences. Furthermore, implementing reading workshops into the secondary classroom not only increases the level of transaction between readers and texts, but also stimulates literary analysis and interpretation of novels such as Burned and Sold. The literary theories my research employs to analyze these problem novels are Transactional Theory, Psychological criticism, and Border Theory. Transactional Theory describes the ways in which meaning is constructed when readers engage a text; Psychological criticism reveals the inner struggles of the main characters in Burned and Sold; lastly, Border Theory relates how the protagonists of these problem novels have been pushed to the fringes of society and culture, much like young adult fiction in general.
"The Harlem Renaissance: Three Women, Their Poetry and Overshadowed Dreams"
Presented by Precious Barber
When we think of the Harlem Renaissance period, we often think of the popular writers and poets of this time. Names such as Langston Hughes, Countee Cullen and even Claude McKay often spring to mind. However, what are unquestionably missing are the names of the women poets of this period. The women, whose numbers are quite larger than expected, are often left out of books and anthologies, and when they are including their contributions are minimal compared to the men. Writers such as Angelina Weld Grimke, Gwendolyn Bennett and Georgia Douglas Johnson are often overlooked and lay behind in the shadows of their male counterparts.
So, the real questions remain: Why are the women poets of The Harlem Renaissance period often left out of books and anthologies addressing the Harlem Renaissance? And why is their work often overshadowed by the men of this period?
Perhaps, the reasons for their neglect may be due to the publishing issues in the 1920’s or the fact that they were dominated by men’s publications such as Opportunity and The Crisis. Other reasons may include the disintegration of the women’s support system or that the themes and subjects of these women’s writing were often categorized as uncharacteristic of the Harlem Renaissance period. Whatever the reasons are, the important point is that if they are continually ignored or placed on the back burner, society will be forever cheated out of the opportunity to know the real Harlem Renaissance.
"H.G. Wells’s New Face of Salvation: Technology, Scientific Method, and Narrative"
Presented by Vicki Davis
The nineteenth century saw a revolution of technology unprecedented in the history of humankind. Although post offices, telescopes, balloons, and railroads had existed in previous eras, the Victorians embraced these innovations with renewed vigor and accessibility as tools for national progress. Additionally, new scientific advancements such as photography, X-rays, telegraphy, and psychology bolstered the Victorians’ strong national pride in their own technical superiority. Being educated in this era of a new technological awareness, H.G. Wells viewed scientific education as his own personal goal as well as the social responsibility of his fellow citizens. He had a natural proclivity toward scientific method and was a devotee of T.H. Huxley, a protégé of Darwin’s and “a fearless promoter of Scientific Truth who considered it his duty to change the way people thought and behaved” (Ruddick 17).1
In this paper, I explore the ways in which Wells applied the scientific method of his earlier interests and career to the Victorian adventure narrative. Unlike the traditional adventure narrative that worked backward toward a resolution, scientific method looks forward, generating questions without prescribed resolutions. As one of the progenitors of modern science fiction, utilizing what the distinguished nineteenth century physicist John Tyndall called “scientific imagination” (Zangwill 273),2 Wells’s fiction was modeled on scientific method to produce an engaging narrative process which included inventions and concepts that are extensions of innovations and cultural processes that already existed. In structural terms, Wells’s imaginative new world and inventions are a primary presence in the narrative rather than a supporting detail.
Like Wells himself, the Victorian mindset was characterized by a growing conviction that science would soon be able to answer any question, and men like Darwin, Huxley, and Wells galvanized the Victorian belief in England’s infallibility owing to their national technological superiority. Would society ask God its ultimate questions any more when men of science could be relied upon to inquire, investigate, and resolve? In The Time Machine, War of the Worlds, and The Island of Doctor Moreau, when Wells’s characters are faced with physical and ethical conflicts they turn to science, not religion for deliverance. Although science did not replace religion, the relocation of agency from divine intervention to human intervention was reflected in Wells’s literary construct representing a growing secularization of salvation.
1 Wells, H.G. The Time Machine: An Invention. Nicholas Ruddick, ed. Peterborough, ON: Broadview Literary Texts, 2001. Print.