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“People see stories everywhere […] We take random events and we put them together in a
pattern so we can comfort ourselves with a story, no matter how much it obviously isn’t true.”
- Patrick Ness, More Than This (2013)
What do young adult novels have to say about the status of literature and narrative in
contemporary society? Can a book be self-aware of its existence as a literary object? Can young
adult novels challenge or thwart the relationship between a reader and a text? Recently, novels
written for adolescents have been interested in addressing these questions—thus leading to a
boom in young adult metafiction: books that explore the nature and function of literature, that
question the parallels between reality and fiction, and that overtly scrutinize the affiliation
between audience and text. In this course, we will investigate how contemporary young adult
novels use metafictional techniques in order to deliberate the importance and value of literature,
narrative, and language in the imagined lives of teenagers. Furthermore, we will assess the role
of metanarrative and form in disrupting the divide between “low” and “high” literature. We will
read novels written by authors such as Lemony Snicket, John Green, and Andrew Smith.
This syllabus is subject to change and may be amended during the course
of the semester in order to correct unintended errors, comply with the
established course objectives, and/or respond to contingencies.
It is believed that these scaled-down, low-resolution images of the covers
of Andrew Smith’s Winger, Patrick Ness’s More Than This, Cornelia
Funke’s Inkheart, and John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars qualify for fair
use under U.S. copyright law. No copyright infringement is intended.
CLASS HOURS: TBD
MAIL BOX: TBD
OFFICE HOURS: TBD
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After completing this course:
You will be able to identify, appreciate, and assess competing interpretations of a text.
You will think critically about yourself and about your place in culture and society.
You will be able to detect, understand, and appreciate the (meta) literariness of a text.
You will be able to conduct intricate and sophisticated literary criticism by developing an
understanding of concepts and literary movements such as narratology, meta(fiction/narrative),
postmodernity, the young adult renaissance, and paratext.
You will understand how the implementation of metafictional techniques affects the distribution,
readership, content, and perception of young adult novels.
You will develop an understanding of the complex relationship between author, text, and audience by
using young adult fiction as a case study.
You will understand how young adult literature disrupts constructed literary divides, such as the divide
between literature written for children and literature written for adults, and the divide between “low,”
“middlebrow,” and “high” literature.
COURSE TEXTS AND RESOURCES
You are expected to purchase copies of the following eight novels and bring them to class when they
are assigned. Given that we are interested in exploring the material, metafictional, and paratextual
aspects of these texts, please make sure to purchase either paperback or hardback copies of these books.
1. Funke, Cornelia. Inkheart. New York: Scholastic Paperbacks, 2005. Print.
2. Green, John. The Fault in Our Stars. New York: Penguin Books, 2014. Print.
3. Haddon, Mark. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. New York: Vintage
Books, 2004. Print.
4. Ness, Patrick. More Than This. Somerville: Candlewick Press, 2014. Print.
5. Smith, Andrew. Winger. New York: Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2014.
6. Snicket, Lemony. The Bad Beginning: Or, Orphans! (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book
1). New York: HarperCollins, 2007. Print.
7. Wittlinger, Ellen. Hard Love. New York: Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers,
8. Zusak, Markus. The Book Thief. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2007. Print.
Additional readings—such as critical articles, chapters and handouts—will be sent to your email
accounts. With the exception of e-readers, all other electronic devices (such as laptop computers) will
only be allowed in the classroom under my discretion.
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Your grade is primarily based on a series of assignments that will progressively increase in depth and
complexity. The chart below lists the distinct assignments that will be given in this course, and the total
of points that these assignments represent:
(Meta)Literary Analysis Essay
Comparative Analysis Essay
Short Writing Assignments (SWAs)
Presentation on Context and Background
Participation and Performance
TOTAL: 1,000 POINTS (100%)
DESCRIPTION OF ASSIGNMENTS
The following section will give you a brief description of the assignments that will be taken into
consideration when giving you a grade. These descriptions are only meant to give you a loose idea of
the assignment at hand. More detailed instructions will be given to you during the semester.
(Meta)Fictional Analysis Essay: You will develop an argumentative essay in which you examine a
specific metafictional element or technique found in one of the novels discussed in class. The goal
of this essay is to draw a conclusion about the effects, meanings, or interpretations that this
metafictional element or technique produces when approaching the novel as a whole.
Comparative Literature Essay: You will select two novels and examine their metafictional
parallels with the goal of defending an explicit interpretation of their themes, characters, plots, or
purposes. Your analysis will depend on close-reading rather than on outside research. The goal of
this essay is not to summarize the novels, but rather, to think critically about the metaliterary
elements in your selected works and to draw a broad conclusion through the process of establishing
connections and patterns found across two texts.
Short Writing Assignments (SWAs): These are focused writing exercises designed to help you
recognize and use metaliterary analysis techniques and tools. SWAs are usually 1-2 pages in length
(including quotes and passages). Possible SWAs may include: close-reading a passage, creating a
theoretical framework, interpreting a passage using a particular theoretical lens, or readerresponses, among others.
Presentation on Context and Background: You and a group of two to three peers will introduce a
young adult novel or a critical work in class, focusing specifically on the work’s historical
background and context. You will distribute a handout where you offer background information of
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the novel or work, in addition to a list of questions that you want to discuss with the class. Your
presentation should address questions such as: What books or events influenced this novel? When
was the novel published? What role do the metafictional and metanarrative elements play in the
novel? What is the argument or overall goal of the book? Was the book distributed with different
covers? What is the target audience of the book?
Exams: A midterm exam will be given during the class before fall break, and a final exam will be
given during the designated exam period. Exams will be divided into two parts. In the first part of
this exam, you will be asked to identify, contextualize, and discuss some quotes extracted from the
novels discussed in class. For the second part, you will be asked to develop an insightful response
to a question/prompt that addresses a broad issue in the field of (metafictional) young adult
literature. For this second part of the exam, you will be given a choice of three questions/prompts.
For the final exam, you may be asked to answer two questions instead of one. Success on these
exams will depend on how well you engaged with the primary texts discussed in class.
Participation and Performance: A holistic score based on your preparation for class, your active
participation in class discussions, and your compliance with the course policies mentioned in this
syllabus. Small assignments, quizzes, and tasks will also be taken into consideration for this grade.
Note that visits during my office hours are also taken into consideration for this evaluation
component, for they demonstrate active engagement and interest in the course.
100 - 95%
A94.9 - 90%
89.9 - 87%
86.9 - 83%
B82.9 – 80%
79.9 - 77%
76.9 - 73%
C72.9 - 70%
69.9 - 60%
59.9 - 0%
Disclaimer: Students should keep in mind that an A (100 – 95%) is a grade that is only assigned for
insightful, original, and thought-provoking work. It is also a grade given to work that vastly exceeds the
expectations of the assignment.
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