Skip to Content

College of Arts and Sciences

Faculty and Staff

Sara L. Schwebel

Title: Professor
Department: English Language and Literature
College of Arts and Sciences
Phone: 803-576-5891
Office: HUO 515
Resources: Curriculum Vitae [pdf]
English Language and Literature


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

Areas of Specialization 

    Children’s and Young Adult literature
    Historical Fiction
    Public History
    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 

    American Studies Association Garfinkel Prize in Digital Humanities, Honorable Mention, 2017
    University of South Carolina Distinguished Undergraduate Research Mentor, 2017
    National Heritage Maritime Grant, National Park Service, 2016
    American Library Association Carnegie Whitney Grant, 2016
    University of South Carolina Josephine Abney Award in Women’s and Gender Studies, 2015
   • 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 collaborating with partners at the Channel Islands National Park to complete a multimedia web resource and K-12 curriculum on Scott O’Dell’s landmark children’s book Island of the Blue Dolphins and the historical figure who inspired it, a California Indian (Nicoleño) who 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 “discovered” 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 life history as a Vanishing Indian tale.

Selected Publications 

Blue Dolphin BC      Child-Sized History
 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 National Park Service website on Scott O'Dell's book and the historical figure who inspired it.
   • 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.

    “Nicoleños in Los Angeles: Documenting the Fate of the Lone Woman’s Community,” Journal of California and Great Basin Anthropology 36, 1 (2016): 91-118.  (with Susan L. Morris, John R. Johnson, Steven J. Schwartz, René L. Vellanoweth, and Glenn J. Farris)
    “The Limits of Agency,” Jeunesse: Young People, Texts, Cultures 8, 1 (2016): 278-90.
    “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, 2015-17
    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