Death, Gender and Sexuality in Contemporary Adolescent Literature
Routledge – 2009 – 208 pages
Knowledge about carnality and its limits provides the agenda for much of the fiction written for adolescent readers today, yet there exists little critical engagement with the ways in which it has been represented in the young adult novel in either discursive, ideological, or rhetorical forms. Death, Gender and Sexuality in Contemporary Adolescent Literature is a pioneering study that addresses these methodological and contextual gaps. Focusing on texts produced since the late-1980s, and drawing on a range of theoretical perspectives, Kathryn James shows how representations of death in young adult literature are invariably associated with issues of sexuality, gender, and power. Under particular scrutiny are the trope of woman/death, the eroticizing and sexualizing of death, and the ways in which the gendered subject is represented in dialogue with the processes of death, dying, and grief. Through close readings of historical literature, fantasy fictions, realistic novels, dead-narrator tales, and texts from genres including Gothic, horror, and post-disaster, James reveals not only how cultural discourses influence and are influenced by literary works, but how relevant the study of death is to adolescent fiction--the literature of "becoming."
"Death is universal and inevitable, which is precisely why James (Deakin Univ, Melbourne, Australia) believes its frequent appearance in adolescent literature, to date little studied, is a topic worthy of analysis…James makes a good case for the application of her ideas to other Anglophone literature, and without doubt she breaks new ground in the study of a topic widely represented in fiction for teens, yet not widely studied…Recommended."
-- Choice, June 2009
'Uncompromising in its refusal to sentimentalise either adolescent experience or its representation, Death, Gender and Sexuality in Contemporary Adolescent Literature forces its readers to confront what is at stake in the ideologies underlying fiction for young adults.' - Shelley King, Times Higher Education Supplement
Series Editor’s Foreword
Introduction: Beginning with Endings: Death in Children’s Literature
Chapter One: Points of Departure: Death, Culture, Representation
Chapter Two: Matilda’s Last Dance: Death and Historical Fiction
Chapter Three: Verisimilitude: Representing Death "In the Real"
Chapter Four: Beyond Consensus Reality: Death and Fantasy Fiction
Chapter Five: Imagined Futures: Death and the Post-Disaster Novel
Conclusion: Mapping the Landscape: The Unknown Country
Kathryn James teaches children's literature at Deakin University, Melbourne. Her publications have appeared in Papers: Explorations into Children’s Literature, Children’s Literature in Education, and New Talents 21C.