My doctoral work contested the dominant, hegemonic narratives of female adolescence, by engaging the heroic, female bodies available in the mythopoeic YA fantasy of Tamora Pierce and Marissa Meyer. Through popular and media culture’s heavily stylised and always-edited images, the adolescent girl is offered not only a very narrow and limited means of becoming self but the possibilities of that self are even narrower, restricted to superficial appearance at the expense of the body’s fleshiness. This refusal of the body transpires because of a structure of binary oppositions that refuse liminality, as that which is “in between” is structurally impossible; it threatens the opposition by occupying the space between.
Through the sometimes-fantastical transformations of the body in Pierce and Meyer’s fantasy, my thesis focuses on liminality, on the liminality of the adolescent (between child/adult), the body (between self/other), and young adult literature (YAL) (between children’s/adult literature). Drawing from a variety of fields: YAL and feminist theory, studies of myth and folklore as well as popular culture and cultural anthropology, it speaks to and from the places between oppositions, and does so in order to refuse the individuality and isolation required by hegemonic models, while also offering a re-mapping of the body’s curves and contours, one that takes “lumps,” “bumps,” and “scars” into account.
To counter the dominant framework of adolescence, the thesis concludes by offering a model of interdependency and relation, through a metaphor of “the Pack.” By focusing on repetition and connection through touch, this model frustrates the economy of opposition, while also taking into account the body’s raised and irregular surfaces and demonstrating how individuals may be “scored into uniqueness,” through relationality. Crucially, this model also counters the linearity of hegemonic developmental models. As a symptom of binary structures, linearity relies on development and competition thus excluding the adolescent girl who is seen to deviate from such patterning.
Dr Rachel Moseley
Dr Chantel Wright