Dawn Thompson

  • B.A. (Alberta)
  • Ph. D. (UBC)

Canadian/Quebec Literatures, Comparative Literature, Literary Theory, First Nations Literatures and Pedagogy, Children’s Literature, Gay and Lesbian Young Adult Fiction. 

I’ve known I wanted to teach since grade two, when my friend, Sue, asked me for help with a new arithmetic concept (subtraction, perhaps?). The look on her face when she finally understood the concept filled me with such a sense of satisfaction that my career goals shifted from farmer to teacher in that moment. Now, my math skills peaked shortly thereafter, but at that time I was also being introduced to the world of books, and so I found two of my most profound passions at around the age of seven.

My teaching philosophy has developed slowly over the years, as I have taken what I have learned from my students and combined it with what I have learned about myself and my discipline. One of the things I have learned is that for me, in this discipline, the acquisition of skills is far more important than that of information. I am much less concerned with imparting information and testing students on what they know about a text or its context than in exploring the myriad of things we can do with a text. My teaching practice follows from this. I encourage students to be actively engaged in reading in class, speculating, taking risks, creating meaning together. I find teaching and learning in this manner to be both challenging and exciting, and my hope is that my students do too. I think it serves them well when they encounter any new text in any situation. And I still look for – and often see – that look I saw on Sue’s face a long time ago!

My research interests inform my teaching at all levels, and vice versa. One of my most recent publications isKnowing Their Place? Intersections of Identity and Space in Children’s Literature (Cambridge Scholars 2011) co-edited with my colleague Terri Doughty, which includes a chapter I wrote entitled “Educational Decisions: “Traplines” in The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian.” This essay is as much about what I have learned from my students as it is about what I know about literature. I’m also working on a series of papers on gay and lesbian young adult fiction, the most recently published being “Dance on my Grave: Ambiguity, Ambivalence, and Queer Adolescents,” in Papers: Explorations into Children’s Literature (2010). The one I am currently working on looks specifically at literary attempts to counter the negative effects of internalized homophobia, or write it out of existence, and the impossibility of doing so.  I am also working on developing a Field School to London, UK, for which my course will be “The City in Literature: London Calling.” Students interested in any of these projects are welcome to drop by my office (345/202) to chat about them.


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