When Life is a Fairytale

One Kent State professor's lessons in literature are going beyond the classroom

In Noelle Bowles’ classroom, fairytales come to life through the eyes of her students.  

As a third-generation college professor and the daughter of a film critic, Bowles has always been surrounded by stories and educators. Now, she lives to spread the magic of literature to learners from all walks of life as an associate professor of English at Kent State University at Trumbull.  

Noelle Bowles

“I've always loved stories,” Bowles said. “In going to graduate school and specializing in literature, I don't want to say it kills your love of reading, but you start to look at the literature differently. You're thinking more about the history and the themes and what kind of cultural values it's promoting, and so it complicates your reading rather than just ‘Oh, this is a really good book.’”

Years of experience teaching classes like Fairy Tales, Literature for Young Adults, Monsters in Literature and Film and Fantasy Literature and Film have given Bowles the opportunity to relive familiar fiction through the first-time reader’s perspective time and time again.

“It's like when you take your kids to Disney World,” Bowles said. “You're not that into it, but you can enjoy their enjoyment, right?”

Bowles enjoys teaching a wide variety of students ranging from the typical young adult to non-traditional learners.  

As part of Kent State’s Lifelong Learning Initiative, Bowles even has the unique opportunity to teach incarcerated individuals at the Trumbull Correctional Institution.

In a 2+2 partnership, Kent State Trumbull and LaunchNET Kent State join Sinclair Community College and various local foundations to offer incarcerated individuals the opportunity to earn a bachelor of technical and applied studies and an optional certificate of entrepreneurship while serving their sentences.

More than an academic requirement, Bowles’ English classes teach lessons that extend past the storybook and onto the pages of real life.

“I want the students, of course, to learn the material and to know the literature and the historical or cultural facts, but I also want them to be able to develop their own opinion,” Bowles said. “Some students come in and, depending on the classes they've taken, have never been asked for their opinion.”

For Bowles, cultivating critical-thinking skills is key to preparing students for success both inside and outside of the classroom.

“The philosophy is showing students the best path to support themselves and their goals for their careers, or for their lives and their own philosophies,” Bowles said. “Students, no matter where they are, they’ve got big opinions. So, it's teaching people not only to have a view, but to be able to support and sustain it because we’ve got a lot of opinions these days and not all of them are valid.”

Netflix' Nimona Poster

In her free time, Bowles avidly consumes literature, travels domestically and abroad to places like Ireland, spends time with her two dogs Leo and Emmy, and writes media reviews for the online magazine, “The Wild Hunt: Pagan News and Perspectives.”

Her latest review covered the Netflix animated film “Nimona,” which Bowles described as “... a story of fluid identity and queer acceptance.”

From teaching Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein” and leading discussions on graduate-level literature to equipping writers to grow in confidence and skill, it’s all about the students for Bowles.

“I love my Kent State students,” Bowles said. “There's such a special reward to watch folks make these connections, and it doesn't mean, ‘Oh, they got my lesson,’ but that they’re making connections with ideas and discovering things for themselves.”

Read more about the Lifelong Learning Initiative.

Read Bowles’ latest review.

POSTED: Thursday, October 12, 2023 10:14 AM
Updated: Thursday, October 12, 2023 11:36 AM
Caroline Willis, Flash Communications