Danielle O'Connor

Danielle O

Introduce yourself:

I am in my fifth year of my PhD program in English and Film Studies. While I enjoy researching children's literature, my true love is teaching it, which I have had the opportunity to do over the past few years as a primary instructor of first-year English classes. I am originally from Newfoundland and I am very proud of my Newfoundland and Irish roots. When I am not teaching and researching, I volunteer on campus with Unitea, which focuses on building a campus community and student mental health, and also Waste Free Edmonton, where I am part of the education team who gives Waste Free 101 presentations to Grade 3-9 students.

What are you researching and what do you hope comes out of your research?

My research focuses on miniature people in children's literature, especially the encounter between big and miniature characters. These encounters bring up questions of power and representation. I have created a timeline of children's literature with miniature people characters. I use it to help me investigate how these characters and the messages their stories send reflect attitudes in Western politics and societies towards minority groups. I am also considering the issues that arise from having minority groups being connected to characters that are, in many ways, a miniature representation of the majority group. I hope my research will give a better understanding of varying attitudes towards minority groups throughout my timeline, but also give insights to adults suggesting books to children about the possible messages that different elements of these texts can give and also consider the consequences of them.

How did presenting a Three Minute Thesis (3MT) help explain your research?

I have always had difficulty articulating the "so what" of my research. Writing and presenting a 3MT has helped me to think about how my research is applicable outside my literary studies box. It can be very easy to focus on specific texts and little nuances so that the big picture feels very far away and unattainable. Going back to the basics and foundation of my research has helped me have a better understanding of where I want my research to go and what I hope it will do.

Define "For the Public Good" in your own words.

For me, "For the Public Good" means something that improves lives without harming lives. By harming, I do not mean inconveniencing people or making them uncomfortable. Discomfort is often a good thing and allows us to grow and re-assess how we live, think, and exist in the world. To improve the world for everyone, those with privilege - myself included - need to feel some discomfort so they realize that change needs to be made and actually make that change — that is not harmful for anyone.

What inspires you to do research?

Since I was a kid, I have loved to read and write fiction. As I grew older, I still found myself drawn to books, movies, TV shows, and games directed towards a child and young adult audience because I often found they were doing something interesting or new or asking kids (and me) to think. While their stories can be playful, they are often meaningful, and I do not think many adults realize that. Children's literature can challenge children and make them think about challenging topics. I want to highlight that and show that children's literature is important. We all have a children's book that we loved and that has an affect on us and our world.

If you have to dedicate your research to anyone from the past, present, or future, who would it be and why?

I would dedicate my research to my grandmother, Valerie O'Connor. She has been a constant source of encouragement throughout my life and fostered my love of reading and storytelling. Some of my favourite books were gifts from her and her skill as a storyteller has always been an inspiration. Throughout my life I have done my best, in both my research and creative writing, to tell stories in a way that is as compelling and engaging as the stories I heard from her about her own life and experiences.

3MT Keywords: miniature people; children's literature; encounters