Longing for Longing: Girlhood, Narrative, and Nostalgia in American Literature for Children and Young Adults Pubblico

Friddle, Megan E. (2014)

Permanent URL: https://etd.library.emory.edu/concern/etds/xs55mc49j?locale=it
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Abstract

Girls' books--including Little Women, Maud Hart Lovelace's Betsy-Tacy series, the novels of Judy Blume, and beyond--are an underused resource for information about the experience of girlhood in American culture. These books offer a wealth of details about the changing parameters of what it means to be a girl, a woman, and an individual with a self-narrative. Through analysis of fictional and autobiographical texts--as well as archival documents, travel narratives, and museum spaces and promotional materials--this study investigates the shifting terrain of girlhood in the US and the role of memory and nostalgia in linking experiences of girlhood across time and space. Focusing primarily on fictional texts from the 1860s onward, the reception of these texts among critics and readers, and the fan clubs, societies, and online groups that connect their readers, "Longing for Longing" places the texts and related supplemental materials in a transhistorical conversation about memory and identity, desire and loss. At stake in this project is the centrality of narrative texts, specifically novels, in the processes of self-making and negotiating relations between individuals.

This study identifies several specific figures from classic books for girls, including the "Girl," the Diarist, the Patient, and the Tourist. These figures and their stories provide girls with the vocabulary to narrate experiences of physical and emotional pain as well as longing, pleasure, and loss. "Longing for Longing" traces the ways in which these figures and narratives persist, often in unexpected ways, in contemporary Young Adult (YA) novels, and argues for the necessity of historicizing contemporary YA novels in the context of earlier books for girls. Neither overtly subversive nor wholly conventional, the texts themselves offer complex readings of childhood, the passage to adulthood, and the available options for being in the world, all inflected by the larger historical and cultural concerns surrounding the period of each text's genesis and publication. This study illuminates the ways in which books for girls both adopt and interrogate discourses surrounding the physical and mental maturation of young women, and reflect larger cultural anxieties surrounding issues of girls' innocence, sexualization, and gender expression.

Table of Contents

Introduction ................................................................................................................ 1
Chapter 1: The Books: On Genre, Audience, and Culture ...................................................... 19
Chapter 2: Who--and What--Is a "Girl"?: The Tomboy, the Lesbian, and the Transgender Child ... 46
Chapter 3: The Diarist: Self-narrative and Adolescent Identity .............................................. 82
Chapter 4: The Girl-as-Patient: Illness, Disability, and the Vocabulary of Pain .......................... 115
Chapter 5: The Tourist .................................................................................................. 147
Epilogue ...................................................................................................................... 178
Notes ......................................................................................................................... 183
Works Cited ................................................................................................................. 204

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