Eric Meyers

Associate Professor

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Graduate Student Supervision

Master's Student Supervision (2010 - 2020)
"The Goodbye Backpack": applying structural design principles to a picturebook (2020)

This hybrid creative thesis consists of two parts: a creative portion and an academic portion. The creative portion is a printed dummy of my original picturebook The Goodbye Backpack, which portrays the complex and challenging nuances of death and the grieving process. The dummy book includes the written text and four final illustrations. The academic portion of this thesis begins by investigating the prevalence of representations of death in children’s literature, as well as how picturebooks can be used to comfort children after they encounter death. Using the ten structural principles of composition defined by Molly Bang, it continues with a detailed examination of The Goodbye Backpack. By analyzing each spread in the dummy book, it explains how compositional choices—such as the directionality of the lines and the placement of visual elements—can provoke specific emotional responses from readers. This thesis aims to demonstrate the importance of including visual representations of death in children’s picturebooks and clarify how an understanding of death can make it less frightening. It also strives to shed light on the process of creating a visual connotative picturebook that heavily relies on structural principles to tell a story that is emotionally evocative and abstract.

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A story in three dimensions: theme parks as inhabitable story spaces and selected artwork and text from Verne's Journey (2020)

This hybrid thesis is a companion to the Pitch Bible for my creative project, ‘dark ride’, a narrative theme park attraction titled Verne’s Journey. Here I discuss the history and theories on themed narrative attractions, specifically with a focus on the role of narrative themes. I review audience engagement with these spaces, especially their participation in playful behaviours and interactions, and their acceptance of the imaginative nature of these rides as brief realities where they may go as far as to dress up and inhabit story spaces they have previously consumed in literature and/or other media.

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Heroes, adolescents, and artists: the quest of the adolescent female-identifying artist in young adult fantasy literature (2020)

This thesis is the academic companion to my original young adult fantasy novel, Writing Magic. I explore the impact of patriarchal discourse on hegemonic Western literature through a poststructural lens, focusing on stories centered around heroes, adolescents, and/or artists from the eighteenth century to the present day. Female-identifying characters have long been confined to narrow roles (temptress, mother, damsel, crone) within heroic narratives, both fantastical and artistic, if not altogether excluded. This has perpetuated the limited subject positions available for female-identifying characters in literature. Therefore, I propose the Kunstlerroman form (a novel foregrounding the development of the artist; related to the Bildungsroman, or coming-of-age story) as one possible method for centering female-identifying protagonists and their concerns, while also challenging the perceived universality of the male experience. By using evolving artistic practice as one vehicle through which the female-identifying protagonist can voice her own story, the Kunstlerroman novel has the potential to dismantle patriarchal language in fantasy from within. My 140 000-word novel, Writing Magic, serves as a creative inquiry into the effectiveness of the Kunstlerroman to these ends, with an eye toward possible bibliotherapeutic and pedagogical applications.

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"My name is Alice, not Alicia": a non-fiction picturebook biography (2019)

This hybrid creative thesis consists of two parts. The creative portion is a fully realized printed dummy of My Name Is Alice, Not Alicia my original picturebook biography of Alice Dixon Le Plongeon’s life and work, highlighting the period between 1873-1884 when she lived in Yucatán, México, exploring the Maya ruins. The dummy includes four final illustrations and the final written text.The academic portion of the thesis begins with a thorough description of the research done in preparation for writing and illustrating the story. It then follows with a detailed explanation of the intentions behind each layout and illustration in My Name Is Alice, Not Alicia.The goals of this thesis are to provide insights into the creation of a non-fiction picturebook biography with attention to the affordances of this narrative non-fiction picturebook genre. A further goal is the publication of My Name Is Alice, Not Alicia since it contributes to the body of stories about underrepresented groups. Hopefully its publication will inspire creators and publishers to bring other forgotten lives to light.My Name Is Alice, Not Alicia portrays the Yucatecan and Maya culture and its traditions, pays close attention to authenticity and historical accuracy thus offering readers an important book on Mexico and its Pre-Hispanic cultures. Furthermore, the story revendicates Alice Le Plongeon’s achievements and acknowledges her as an exemplary woman whose passionate interests fueled her ambition to pursue a professional career uncommon for women of that time. Her ideas were far ahead from those of the Victorian Era. She became the first woman to explore the Maya ruins, a prolific, published academic writer, and an active first-wave feminist.

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Between metaphors; a documentary: reimagining war and violence in Colombia through picturebooks (2019)

Colombian children have grown up in a country where there has been a constant internal conflict for more than five decades. Part of this conflict came to an end in 2016 with a signed peace agreement between the FARC-AP (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia – Peoples Army) and the Colombian government. In the present, the country is going through a post-conflict phase and trying to negotiate peace with other armed groups that are still active. This reality makes children from both rural and urban areas aware of the conflict, and either they or their family members have been directly or indirectly affected by it. Picturebooks are one way that youth and their families can have conversations on the challenges of war and the consequences that come from it, provided that these texts are carefully crafted. This thesis investigates picturebooks in Colombia that depict types of violence brought about by internal conflict. Limited academic research has interrogated the role of picturebooks in this specific region and addressing this conflict. Knowledge of this area is critically important to understand the possible benefits and difficulties that such books bring to Colombian children and beyond. With this in mind—by analysing the six interviews that form the basis of a documentary film entitled Entre metáforas: re-imaginando la guerra y violencia en Colombia a partir del libro album (Between Metaphors: reimagining war and violence in Colombia through picturebooks)—I sought to answer: how are picturebooks that focus on the violence in Colombia published? How are these picturebooks received by their readers, based on the experiences of the booksellers, authors and illustrators? Finally, what are the perspectives of Colombian children’s book specialists on this subject?This thesis is both a qualitative analysis of the process of creating picturebooks about the Colombian experience from the perspective of authors, illustrators, and editors, as well as an act of research creation, as the documentary film provides an alternate entry to this knowledge for diverse stakeholders, including educators, creative professionals, and scholars of children’s literature.

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Making tomorrow's stories: the commercial viability and material demands of transmedia narratives for children (2019)

This project aims to explore the exciting new trends in multimedia storytelling through an economic lens. Although strongly enthused by the theoretical possibilities of digital technology in multimodal narratives, the academic world seems to turn a blind eye to the harsh material limitations of such artistic endeavors. The apparent discrepancy between the academic conversation on transmedia narratives and the latter’s (lack of) commercial success reveals a significant gap between the literary and media theories surrounding multimedia storytelling and the economics of their production and marketing. This thesis offers to bridge these two realities through an exploratory analysis of the resources needed in the production and promotion of a transmedia narrative designed for children. The project is divided in three stages: a case study of the commercialization of Inanimate Alice as a transmedia narrative for children, an original design of a multimedia narrative for middle grade children, and an assessment of the resources— material, human, and financial—the design would require for its production. The resources assessment at the core of this exploratory research is based on the creative design for a transmedia narrative this project proposes, as a hypothetical commercial and material production. Through the analysis of production concerns for an existing transmedia story as well as a supposed one, this work identifies the array of financial and human challenges that are specific to the transmedia medium. Using Jenkins’ definition of “transmedia narratives” and the current academic discussions on transmedia, this project assesses the resources needed to produce, distribute, and sell a specific transmedia narrative, in order to paint a clearer portrait of the material realities and production challenges faced by transmedia content creators.

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Ah, music, a magic beyond all we do here: an analysis of Matilda the Musical and its application in creating musical adaptations of children's novels; selected songs from The Boy Who Lived: a musical adaptation of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (2018)

This thesis explores the world of adaptation and the transformation from book to musical theater stage. I study adaptation by examining adaptation theory, as seen through Linda Hutcheon’s text A Theory of Adaptation and an exploration of the adaptation from book to stage according to Vincent Murphy’s Page to Stage. Using these texts and theories, I explored the adaptation of children’s literature to the stage, with a close reading and analysis of Tim Minchin and Dennis Kelly’s Matilda the Musical, an adaptation of Dahl’s children’s novel, Matilda. With insight from Gilles Deleuze’s work on repetition, difference, and rhizome, this analysis into the adaptation process guided me in producing an original musical adaptation of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone entitled The Boy Who Lived. The analysis and my own adaptation process revealed the key components for creating musical stage adaptations of children’s novels, with further insights into the reader and audience’s role in the success of the adaptation.

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Tenets of Selected Picturebook Scholarship Applied to the Practice of the Adaptation of the Picturebook, The King Has Goat Ears, to a Picturebook App (2016)

This hybrid creative study distills concepts from picturebook scholarship, and writings on audiobooks, sound semiotics, multimodality, and reading as a form of play to create a set of guiding questions for the creation of a story app called The King's Ears. Three important concepts foreground the inquiry. Firstly, picturebook stories are played multimodally through the combined contributions of words and pictures. Shaping the app's modes of sound, interaction, and animation to interrelate with the words and pictures, and with each other to tell the story was the central challenge of the app design. The second significant idea that governs this design-based approach is that children read picturebooks differently than adults do. The third principle is that the interactions, sounds, animations, and navigation of the picturebook app should be child-controlled and replayable. From a process of iterative cycles of design, enactment, analysis, and redesign to develop an original media artifact, a framework emerged that can be used to guide the development and assessment of picturebook apps, as well as sharable theories that can inform the work of other designers.

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Systemic Oppression in Children's Portal-Quest Fantasy Literature (2015)

This thesis investigates the representation of systemic oppression in Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. Employing Foucauldian poststructuralism and critical discourse analysis, this research identifies how the social systems of the fantasy texts construct hierarchies based on race and gender, and social norms based on sexuality and disability. Privilege and oppression are identified as the results of the relaying of power relations by social institutions through strategies such as dominant discourses. This study questions the historically understood role of children’s and fantasy literature as socialization tools, and the potential negative consequences of this.

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The Hunger Games Fanfiction as a Community of Practice: Forming Identities in Online Communities (2015)

This research investigates expressions of identity and formation of identity found in an online fanfiction forum based on the young adult novel, The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins. Using Wenger’s neo-Vygotskian socio-cultural learning theorem from his book, Communities of Practice I observed, then coded posts by authors and respondents using a rubric I operationalized from Wenger’s five characteristics of identity in practice. I employed a deductive coding scheme and used Wenger’s community of practice as a framework. During the coding process, I found many examples of what seem to be expressions of identity in practice and what appear to be examples of identity in formation. I discuss how this online fanfiction forum operates as a community of practice and consider how this fanfiction space informs other educational applications. There are different instructional strategies that could be gleaned from the coding and analysis process that practicing teachers and librarians could implement into their current online or offline practices. This fanfiction forum is an example of a self-selected online activity with a high level of reading and writing engagement. There are many exciting signs of educational and developmental activities occurring in this fanfiction forum, which suggests further investigation is needed.

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Playfulness in e-Picturebooks: How the Element of Play Manifests in Transmediated and Born-Digital Picturebook Apps (2014)

This thesis analyzes how playfulness is expressed in eight picturebook apps available for the iPad, four of them being born-digital picturebook apps and the other four picturebooks being transmediated into apps from print counterparts. These works of digital literature, aimed at children between 3 and 8 years old, underwent a close reading through the lenses of social semiotics, as presented by Gunther Kress and Theo Van Leeuwen, and its manifestation in picturebook theory, as presented by David Lewis’ ecology of the picturebook. Playfulness was analyzed according to the three categories proposed by Nikolajeva: through the interanimation among modes, through metafiction and through performance–implicit and explicit. One born-digital and one transmediated app was selected among a sample of 100 picturebook apps as quintessential examples of that type of playfulness, although all apps manifested on different levels all kinds of playfulness. The multimodal analysis of these picturebook apps revealed that each app is unique in the way modes both individually and in combination work as a multimodal text in expressing playfulness. The different modes may work in counterpoint to generate irony, or they may complement each other building signs that are ironic in contrast with other signs inside the narrative. The inclusion of interactivity makes possible new combinations of modes that integrate reader inputs and various forms of participation. Participation is an important element in the construction of metafiction since, as interactive narratives, most texts manifest an overt recognition of the reader as a participant.The differences between born-digital and transmediated apps are subtle, but this sample suggested that the counterpart among modes is used as a playful resource more significantly in transmediated apps, while the born-digital apps count more on interactivity and performance to generate playfulness. Half of the transmediated apps manifested covert metafiction, while all of the born-digital texts manifested overt metafiction. Finally, in terms of performance, the born-digital apps showed highly theatricalized participation of the reader and also promoted reader participation in co-authoring, which was not seen in the transmediated apps.

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