I am Rebekah Fitzsimmons and as you know, I am the instructor for this course. I am a PhD candidate in the English department and I have been at UF for 5.5 years. This is the first time I have taught Lit 4334, but I have taught many other classes, including ENC 1101, ENC 1102, AML 2070 and AML 2410. I specialize in children’s literature, cultural studies and American literature.
I am originally from New England: I was born in Connecticut and went to high school in Pleasantville, NY (and no, it is nothing like the movie.) For my undergrad, I attended Emory University in Atlanta, GA. I majored in English and Creative Writing. After I graduated, I worked for their Office of International Affairs as an event coordinator before applying to graduate school.
My masters thesis was on best seller lists and the “Harry Potter effect” in 2000, when the New York Times created a separate children’s literature best seller list because Harry Potter 1, 2, 3 and 4 were taking up too much space on the “real” best seller list. My dissertation is (so far) about the ways in which experts in the publishing and child rearing industries have changed the definition of children’s literature in order to suit their own needs. My aim is to graduate with a PhD in Children’s Literature in the spring of 2014, then go on to teach English and Children’s literature at the university level.
The major question on my mind while I designed the syllabus for the class was: “Who gets to decide which books become a classic?” The Golden Age of Children’s literature is generally thought of as a time of immense production of literature aimed at children but many of the books that we consider to be children’s literature classics were written during this time. I am curious to think though some questions about the canonization process, social hierarchies and various forms of expertise that allow an individual or an organization (like the American Library Association) to give awards, recommend texts and deem a book to be “a classic.” Over the course of the semester, I hope we will question the meaning of that very word, “classic” and come to understand what people really mean when they use it to describe a work of children’s literature.
Just as you all have goals for your writing, I am also working towards some very serious writing goals. I have been working on an academic article about The Hunger Games for a year or so, and I am hoping to submit it for publication this year. I am also working on the second chapter of my dissertation. I am very much looking forward to this semester, as I hope you are too!