Books / Scholarship

Constructing the Island of the Blue Dolphins’ Archive: A talk by Dr. Sara Schwebel


Schwebel will discuss her most current project, a digital archive of materials related to Scott O’Dell’s Newbery award-winning children’s book Island of the Blue Dolphins, and how it relates to nature, historical narratives, and colonialism. The archive will be released in 2016 alongside the first-ever critical edition ofIsland of the Blue Dolphins.

This event is co-sponsored by the Baldwin Library of Historical Children’s Literature (George A. Smathers Libraries), the Center for Children’s Literature and Culture, and the Department of English as part of the Baldwin Library’s Annual Speaker Series. The event will take place on Monday, April 20, 2015, 4 p.m. in the Judaica Suite, located on the 2nd floor of Smathers Library (East).

“Constructing Island of the Blue Dolphins’ Archive.”

In this talk I will discuss my current Digital Humanities project on Scott O’Dell’s landmark children’s novel Island of the Blue Dolphins (1960) 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; she was then “rescued” and brought to Santa Barbara, California, dying seven weeks later.  The Lone Woman’s story circulated widely in the United States (and abroad) during the nineteenth and early twentieth century, with national magazines and local newspapers across the country narrating her tale.  My 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.  The digital archive is part of a larger website including a virtual museum and curricular materials that is being built in collaboration with the Channel Islands National Park.  It is scheduled for release in 2016, alongside the first-ever critical edition of Island of the Blue Dolphins.

Sara SchwebelAuthor Biography 

Sara L. Schwebel holds a Ph.D. in the History of American Civilization from Harvard University (2006) and a B.A. in History from Yale College (1998).  She has been a member of the University of South Carolina’s Department of English since 2008, where she teaches children’s, young adult, and American literature.  She is the author of Child-Sized History: Fictions of the Past in U.S. Classrooms (Vanderbilt University Press, 2011) and a number of academic articles about children’s historical fiction and history pedagogy.


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