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Oziewicz

Marek Oziewicz

Professor, Literacy Education
Sidney and Marguerite Henry Professor of Children’s and Young Adult Literature

Curriculum and Instruction
Room 330A PeikH
159 Pillsbury Dr SE

Tel: 612/625-3310

Office hours:
Fall 2015: T and Th 1:00-2:00

Areas of Interest

I study the transformative power of literature for the young reader. Within children’s literature, my foci include speculative fiction, especially fantasy; global and multicultural books; and literature-based cognitive modeling for moral imagination, global citizenship, environmental awareness, and justice literacy.

I believe that any progressive change must first be imagined as a story. I believe that literature is a form of resistance to oppression and limitations. My work is grounded in cognitive science, especially its discovery that our brains are hardwired for narrative understanding. Since we are rapidly becoming a tightly interconnected planet, my interest lies in literature that helps us embrace this transition. I explore how speculative genres assist young readers in the formation of global consciousness built on inclusiveness and equality. I advocate for narrative fiction as a tool for developing justice literacy adequate to the current social, political, and environmental challenges. I study global and multicultural literature as sites where we learn to appreciate difference. I also look at how children’s literature reflects large-scale cultural trends. In all of these areas, I approach reading as an exercise in moral imagination that pollinates young people’s minds with ideas that will sustain them throughout life.

Research Interests

All of my work is about how literature empowers young people to reach their full potential so that they can respond to the challenges of the contemporary world in a holistic and ethical way.

My teaching and research are based on two premises. First: we are storytelling animals. From young children’s songstries to presidential speeches, we use stories to create our social world, engage with others, deepen our knowledge, and hone our understanding. Literature is a unique form of storytelling that simulates but at the same time prefigures life events. When read by young people, literature creates templates for experiences through which they find their identity and form their value systems. The other premise is that we are in the middle of a major transition from local to global humanity. This unprecedented transformation is a revolution in technology and in consciousness; it requires instruments for coping with new challenges on both levels. It is my belief that literature is one of the best tools we have to help young people develop capacities—including global consciousness, environmental awareness, and justice literacy—crucial for the future of our world.

I love learning and I love asking questions. The work I do reflects my passion for certain issues, which I share with my students and colleagues. Do talking animal stories function today as a form of affirmative action for animals and the natural world? Can justice be taught, and if so how can literature participate in this process? What cultural changes explain the recent explosion of fairy-tale retellings? Why is reading a book not the same as watching a film, and what happens when narratives are adapted from one format to another? What issues are better handled through realist fiction and which ones fit more with speculative fiction? Why do we need monsters, and what’s so appealing about zombies and vampires? Exploring such and similar questions, I have published 3 books, 5 co-edited collections, and over 50 articles and book chapters. My One Earth, One People (McFarland 2008), the winner of the 2010 Mythopoeic Scholarship Award in Myth and Fantasy Studies, describes what I identify as key reasons for the rise of fantasy. My most recent book, Justice in Young Adult Speculative Fiction (Routledge 2015), argues that YA speculative fiction is currently the largest conceptual forge of justice consciousness for the 21st-century world. I have three other large projects in the works, each more exciting than the others!

Courses:

Please note that not all of these courses are offered each semester.

CI 1904 “Picturebooks and Graphic Novels” A freshman seminar about these two formats as crucial to the development of young people’s visual literacy. What is so appealing in the combination of visual and textual storytelling, and what is the role of picturebooks and graphic novels in young people’s lives?

CI 1908W “Children and Other Talking Animals” A freshman seminar about animal tales in children’s literature as reflecting humanity’s never entirely suppressed memory of our kinship with animals. Why is the bulk of animal tales to be found in children’s literature?

CI 3401W “Diversity in Children’s Literature” An introductory course about the diversity of genres and forms of children’s literature as well as the diversity of voices and perspectives it embraces.

HSem 2325H “Fantasy: A Ghastly Wicked Introduction” An honors seminar about how fantasy literature draws the young audience into the realms of wonder and mystery, empowering them to create visions that will change the future. Students are tortured with novels, graphic novels, and films until they discover their own special powers.

CI 5402 “Introduction to Special Collections: the Kerlan” A semester-long investigation that allows you to engage in research and develop your own project based on primary sources housed in the Kerlan: the world’s largest special collection of archival materials in the field of children’s and young adult literature.

CI 5404 “Multicultural Literature for Children and Adolescents” An exploration of contemporary multicultural literature as a site where difference can be emphasized and appreciated rather than downplayed or muted. We study award-winning works of fiction and arrive at a definition of multicultural literature for the modern classroom.

CI 5442 “Adolescent Literature” A course about what adolescents read, what kind of “knowing” reading brings, and why—given adolescents’ developmental needs—honing literary understanding is a crucial aspect of adolescent growth.

CI 8400 “Special Topics in Children’s Literature: Speculative Fiction” A discussion seminar about speculative fiction for the young reader organized around current theories from the fields of affective psychology and cognitive literary studies. Why are we drawn to stories about things that don’t or couldn’t possibly exist? What at are the specifically human cognitive mechanisms that make speculative fiction possible?

Selected Publications

  1. Oziewicz, M. (2015). Justice in Young Adult Speculative Fiction: A Cognitive Reading. New York: Routledge. ISBN: 987-1-138-80943-7. 257 p.

  2. Oziewicz, M. and Hade, D.D. Eds. (2014). Crime and the Fantastic. A thematic issue of Fastitocalon: Studies in Fantasticism Ancient and Modern IV 1&2. Trier, DE: WVT Wissenschaftlicher Verlag Trier. ISSN 1869-960X, 104 p.

  3. Oziewicz, M. (2014). Sharing Stories in a Global World: Ruta Sepetys’ Between Shades of Gray. In Raciene, E. and Selmistraitis, L. (Eds.). Language in Different Contexts VI.1 part 2 (59-67). Vilnius, LT: Lithuanian University of Educational Science Publishing.

  4. Yang, G.L., Oziewicz, M. and Midkiff, E. (2014). The Asian Invasion: An Interview with Gene Luen Yang. The Lion and the Unicorn 38.1, 123-133.

  5. Oziewicz, M. (2013). Metaphors of Peace in Nancy Farmer’s The Saxon Saga. Extrapolation 54.3, 243-255.

  6. Oziewicz, M. and Hade, D.D. (2013). The Decline of Violence in Contemporary Fairy Tales. In K. Urba (Ed.) Freedom and Control in/of Children’s Literature (pp. 104-115). Vilnius, LT: Vilnius UP.

  7. Oziewicz, M.C. (2013). Children’s Literature in Eastern Europe: Trends, Themes and Authors since the Sixties. In G. Grilli (Ed.). Children’s Literature: Fifty Years of Books for Children Around the World. Bologna, IT: Bononia UP: 263-73.

  8. Oziewicz, M. (2011). Christian, Norse and Celtic: Metaphysical Belief Structures in Nancy Farmer’s The Saxon Saga. Mythlore 30:1/2 (Fall/Winter), 107-21.

  9. Oziewicz, M. (2011). Restorative Justice Scripts in Ursula K. Le Guin’s Voices. Children’s Literature in Education 42.1, 33-43.

  10. Oziewicz, M. (2010). Representations of Eastern Europe in Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials, Jonathan Stroud’s The Bartimaeus Trilogy, and J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter Series. International Research in Children’s Literature 3.1, 1-14.

  11. Oziewicz, M. and Hade, D.D. (2010). The Marriage of Heaven and Hell? Philip Pullman, C. S. Lewis, and the Fantasy Tradition. Mythlore 28.3-4, 39-54.

  12. Oziewicz, M. (2009). “We cooperate, or we die”: Sustainable Coexistence in Terry Pratchett’s The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents. Children’s Literature in Education 40.2, 85-94.  

  13. Oziewicz, M., Deszcz-Tryhubczak, J., and Zarzycka, A. Eds. (2009). Relevant across Cultures: Visions of Connectedness and Earth Citizenship in Modern Fantasy for Young Readers. Wroclaw: ATUT. ISBN: 978-83-7432-561-5. 262 p.

  14. Oziewicz, M. (2008). One Earth, One People: The Mythopoeic Fantasy Series of Ursula K. Le Guin, Lloyd Alexander, Madeleine L’Engle and Orson Scott Card. Jefferson, NC: McFarland. ISBN: 0786431350. 251 p.

  15. Oziewicz, M. and Deszcz-Tryhubczak, J. Eds. (2007). Considering Fantasy: Ethical, Didactic and Therapeutic Aspects of Fantasy in Literature and Film. Wroclaw: ATUT. ISBN: 978-83-7432-229-4. 254 p.

  16. Oziewicz, M. and Deszcz-Tryhubczak, J. Eds. (2006). Towards or Back to Human Values? Spiritual and Moral Dimension of Contemporary Fantasy. Newcastle UK: Cambridge Scholars Press. ISBN: 1904303730, 255 p.