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Expand your 1870s knowledge through new, free online class

Free online course studying work of Laura Ingalls Wilder begins Sept. 22
Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Pioneer Girl cover artIn 1974, families in the United States became acquainted with the Ingalls family through NBC’s pop culture phenomenon “Little House on the Prairie.” Forty years later, the life and works of novelist Laura Ingalls Wilder – which the television series was loosely based upon – are still being studied, read and taught. Pamela Smith Hill, English faculty at Missouri State University, will begin a free online course “Laura Ingalls Wilder: Her Work and Writing Life” Sept. 22, and she will offer another course on Wilder’s later works in early 2015.

But for those who haven’t previously read Wilder’s books, Smith warns that the required reading for the course will deviate greatly from small screen adaptation.

“The book ‘Little House on The Prairie,’ for example, takes place on the Osage Diminished Indian Reserve in Kansas, not in Walnut Grove, Minn., where the TV series is set,” Hill said. “Neither the real nor the fictional Ingalls family settled in Walnut Grove.”

Hill grew up approximately 45 miles from Laura Ingalls Wilder’s home in Mansfield, Mo., and she – an aspiring author herself – was fascinated with the idea of a successful writer being from her own area of the world.

“I’d always thought writers were from New York or New England; I had no idea that someone who wrote books could live and work in the Missouri Ozarks. The Little House books inspired me to keep writing,” she said. “When I moved to South Dakota, where Wilder set five of her novels, I began to appreciate more keenly the depth of Wilder’s craft and her achievement in American children’s literature.”

The course will explore Wilder’s writing life and the first four books in the Little House series, and more specifically, the relationship between Wilder’s personal life and her fiction. Hill also hopes to answer many questions about the qualities that make Wilder’s work stand the test of time.

Hill currently lives in Portland, Ore., but she will be in Springfield July 24-29. To schedule an interview, contact Lacey Geiger, open-course coordinator, at (417) 836-8803 or LaceyGeiger@missouristate.edu.

How does the course work?

  • Enroll
  • Anyone can register – you don’t need to be a registered Missouri State student.
  • Course is offered free of charge to anyone interested.
  • Course content is available online.
  • No course credit is offered for completion.
  • Participants can enroll in the course at any point during the eight weeks.
  • Participants will need access to several of Wilder’s books (listed on site and should be widely available at local libraries).

This is Missouri State’s first semester offering MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) – a recent trend in higher education.

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Missouri State University is a public, comprehensive metropolitan system with a statewide mission in public affairs, whose purpose is to develop educated persons. The university’s identity is distinguished by its public affairs mission, which entails a campus-wide commitment to foster expertise and responsibility in ethical leadership, cultural competence and community engagement.

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