Undergraduate Honors Theses

Thesis Defended

Fall 2015

Document Type

Thesis

Type of Thesis

Departmental Honors

Department

English

First Advisor

Mary Klages

Second Advisor

Rolf Norgaard

Third Advisor

Benjamin Robertson

Fourth Advisor

sj Miller

Abstract

Young Adult (YA) fiction is a remarkably ubiquitous genre that has flooded the literary market in the last several decades. This genre may have a particularly potent effect on the conceptualization of personal identity for developing adolescent readers, and it may also influence general cultural norms surrounding constructs such as gender. If gender can be considered as performance, and if gender performance acts in real life enforce a gender binary via repetition and exposure, then performance acts in literature do the same as models of what society is or should/should not be. Romance, which functions as a cornerstone for YA literature, is one of the places in which gendered behaviors are most explicitly demonstrated—and within romantic situations, readers find either healthy models or harmful stories. Without multiple stories to choose from and imitate in performance, readers may find themselves enacting deeply problematic gender roles in their real lives and relationships.

This study includes analyses of three novels: Twilight, The Hunger Games, Looking for Alaska. The analyses serve as a starting point for assessing what kinds of social discourses about gender and romance are being presented in highly-popular contemporary YA literature. The study uses the tools of literary theory, pedagogical and psychological research, close-reading analysis, and a newly-proposed method of gathering descriptive summary statistics in books.

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