Portland State University. Department of Social Science
Date of Publication
Master of Science in Teaching (M.S.T.) in Social Science
American historical fiction -- study and teaching, American children's literature -- study and teaching
1 online resource (215 p.)
The use of American historical fiction in an eighth grade social studies or language arts class has not been fully explored, so its literary and social science value is questionable. In order to establish its worth and methods for its use, research into desirable 1iterary goals for adolescents, implications and purposes of historical fiction in general and for youth in particular, a bibliography of novels, and an evaluative survey of specific novels written for youth needed to be done.
The research indicates that some critics believe that most junior novels have little to offer youth and that they are poorly written. A minority find that they are useful as an example of a literary genre and as a model for the exploration of adolescent problems, frustrations, and decision making alternatives.
Opinions on the value of historical fiction also vary. Some writers conclude that it is largely romantic and a reflection of contemporary times in historical dress, while others have indicated that it conveys an emotional and spiritual feeling for an era through its presentation of historical figures and events and student involvement.
Many writers on the subject are ambitious when they consider what junior novels and junior historical novels should accomplish. They list a variety of personal, literary, and conceptual goals. They itemize suitable aims for students such as character building, personal problem solving, an understanding of the mechanics of plot and characterization, an understanding of historical events, and the motivations of figures involved in them, a "feeling" for an era, knowledge of our democratic heritage, even an understanding of what history means.
This survey and analysis of specific novels chosen from different American historical eras explores the pertinence of these opinions and goals to novels and briefly verifies the historical accuracy. Part Three handles the problem of methods of use and adaptation in the classroom by specifying alternatives for teachers' consideration.
The survey determines that junior American historical fiction is useful to study as a literary genre, though imperfect. If it is used, students must be aware of the imperfections; principally shallow character development or inadequate and overly romantic plots. As a model of personal relevance to youth, historical fiction is not outstanding even though nearly half of the novels contain obvious efforts to build character and several have a theme about growing up.
The historical value in these novels varies; most are largely romantic with contemporary main characters who cannot control their situations but can control their destinies. Some provide historical data that gives the reader an insight into specific events, historical figures, or the emotional feelings prevalent during an era. The themes in half the novels stress the issues of the times in which they are set. The surveyed novels include examples of political, social, psychological, economic, religious, cultural, and great man interpretations of history. Social and psychological interpretations predominate, and a majority imply that societies rather than people make history.
This survey concludes that junior American historical fiction is relevant for classroom use. Teacher familiarity with the novels and his continuing exploration of divergent applications for use by individual students or classes can make them successful, informative, and enhance student interest in history.
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Pelinka, Darlene, "The use of junior historical fiction in the classroom" (1972). Dissertations and Theses. Paper 1599.