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College of Arts & Sciences
Department of English Language and Literature

Faculty and Staff Directory

Sara L. Schwebel

Associate Professor
Department of English Language and Literature

Phone Number: (803) 576-5891
Office: HUO 515


PhD, Harvard University, History of American Civilzation
BA, Yale University, History

Areas of Specialization 

   Children's and Young Adult literature
   American literature and culture
   American history/American literature as school curriculum

Recently Taught Courses 

ENGL 862       A Common Literary Tradition:  Reading Children's and Adult Literature in Unison
ENGL 285       Themes in American Literature
ENGL 431a     Children's Literature
ENGL 432       Young Adult Literature
ENGL 650S     The American Girl: Growing Up Female in The United States, 1830-2000 (Cross-listed with WGST 796S)

Professional Accolades 

   • University of South Carolina "Breakthrough Star," 2015
   Daughters of the American Revolution Special Projects Grant, 2015
   Children's Literature Association Article Award, Honorable Mention, 2015
   Walker Institute Faculty Research Grant, 2014
   Teacher of the Year, University of South Carolina Department of English, 2010-2011

Current Research Projects 

I am currently editing a print critical edition of Scott O'Dell's landmark children's novel Island of the Blue Dolphins (1960) and, in collaboration with partners including the National Park Service, Channel Islands National Park, and the USC Center for Digital Humanities, I am building a virtual museum and digital archive centered on the novel and the historical actor upon whom it is based, the so-called Lone Woman of San Nicolas Island. A Nicoleña/Tongva, the Lone Woman was isolated on the most remote of California’s Channel Islands between 1835-53 as a result of the international sea otter trade and Spanish policies of reducción; she was “rescued” and brought to Santa Barbara in 1853, dying seven weeks later.  The Lone Woman’s story circulated widely in the United States during the nineteenth and early twentieth century, with national magazines and local newspapers across the country narrating her tale.  The digital archive collects, transcribes, and annotates these articles, enabling readers to see how a mythic narrative of the "discovery" of the Lone Woman, who figures as a “girl Crusoe” and the “last of her tribe,” begins to cohere, ultimately informing Scott O’Dell’s novel Island of the Blue Dolphins—and rehearsing a settler colonial narrative for schoolchildren into the twenty-first century.

Selected Publications 


   • Island of the Blue Dolphins: The Complete Reader's Edition is part of a larger project that includes a digital archive tracing the 150-year-old history of telling the protagonist’s story (the nineteenth-century California Indian fictionalized as Karana in the novel) and a multimedia web resource on Scott O'Dell's book. The digital archive and web resource will launch on the Channel Islands National Park homepage in January 2017.
   • Child-Sized History: Fictions of the Past in U.S. Classrooms examines the historical novels comprising the classroom canon, tracing the relationship of books like Johnny Tremian, The Witch of Blackbird Pond, and Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry to contemporary politics and historiographical trends. Unlike textbooks subjected to cyclical replacement, historical novels circulate for decades, even as their interpreations of the past diverge from current sensibilities. The books' classroom endurance attests to the resiliency of heritage-based history instruction in K-12 schools. But it also creates unparalleled opportunity for students to learn about the ways in which the past is put to moral and ideological uses in the present.
The Student Teacher Handbook, 4th Edition. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2002. (with David C. Schwebel, Bernice L. Schwebel, and Carol R. Schwebel).
   Yale Daily News Guide to Summer Programs. New York: Kaplan Educational Services/Simon & Schuster, 1999, 2000, 2001.

   “Historical Fiction, the Common Core, and Disciplinary Habits of Mind,” Social Education (2014): 13-17.
   "Reading 9/11 from the American Revolution to U.S. Annexation of the Moon: M.T. Anderson's Feed and Octavian Nothing," Children's Literature 42 (2014): 197-223.
   "Taking Children's Literature Scholarship to the Public: A Manifesto," Children's Literature Association Quarterly 38, 3 (2013): 470-75.
   "Amos Fortune, Free Man: New Uses for a Children's Classic," Common-Place 12, 4 (2012):
   "Rewriting the Captivity Narrative for Contemporary Children: Speare, Bruchac, and the French & Indian War," New England Quarterly 84, 2 (2011): 318-46.
   "Historical Fiction and the Classroom: History and Myth in Elizabeth George Speare's The Witch of Blackbird Pond." Children's Literature in Education: An International Quarterly 34 (2003): 195-218.

Recent Presentations 

   • “Constructing Island of the Blue Dolphins’ Archive,” University of Florida, Baldwin Library of Historical Children’s Literature (co-sponsored by the Department of English and the Center for Children’s Literature and Culture), April 2015.
   • “Lone Woman and Last Indians: Island of the Blue Dolphins and its Digital Archive,” Russian Academy of Sciences, Institute of World History, International Roundtable: “Fort Ross: Russian-American Dialogue,” October 2014.
   “The Limits of Agency,” Children’s Literature Association, June 2014.
   "Battling for Opportunity: The Girl Soldiers of Shuttered Windows and Warriors Don't Cry," Modern Language Association, January 2013.
   "Novel History: Historical Fiction and the U.S. Classroom," History of Education Society, November 2012.
   "Lost Woman and Last Indians: Reading Island of the Blue Dolphins' Reception History," Eighth California Islands Symposium, October 2012.

Other Information 

   • Member, Board of Directors, Children’s Literature Association
   Inaugural member, Baldwin Library of Historical Children’s Literature Scholars Council
   Chair, Carolina Children's Literature Consortium:
   Consulting Faculty, Jewish Studies
   Affiliated Faculty, Southern Studies
   Affiliated Faculty, Public History
   Member, National Board of Directors, Girl Scouts of the USA, 2005-2011