Identifier

etd-06012010-231720

Degree

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

English

Document Type

Dissertation

Abstract

Young Adult horror fiction with female protagonists presents sympathetically the untenable situation of adolescent girls within society whereby they are increasingly pressured to embody a doll-like feminine ideal that deprives them of voice and agency. In Young Adult horror fiction, the monstrous Other problematizes what is presented to girls as “normal” and “natural” feminine behavior. As a double with a difference, the monstrous Other is an iteration of femininity whose similarity to the original implies the possibility of resisting restrictive gender roles. Because in Young Adult horror fiction the monstrous Other is nearly always a sympathetic character, it is fairly easy for the reader or viewer to identify with this character and thereby formulate her own strategies to resisting a restrictive gender role. Monstrous Bodies: Femininity and Agency in Young Adult Horror Fiction examines three types of monstrous Others, each offering a different model of resistance to feminine subordination. In Chapter 1, the figure of the ghost reacquaints girls with strengths they have repressed in order to be conventionally feminine. The teen female werewolves in Chapter 2 refuse restrictive gender roles by accepting as strong and beautiful the parts of themselves that are at odds with normative femininity. And in Chapter 3, teen witches resist subordination when they can view the world holistically and so reject their cultures’ hierarchal and oppressive model of knowledge. Young Adult horror fiction does not simply reproduce through the form of the monstrous Other sexist ideas about women. Rather, Young Adult horror fiction uses these tropes of horror to deconstruct sexist ideas about women’s supposed essential nature which have been used to justify feminine subordination. In this way, Young Adult horror fiction differs from mainstream horror fiction, which is as likely to affirm sexist ideas about women (as well as racist ideas about non-whites) as it is to challenge these ideas.

Date

2010

Document Availability at the Time of Submission

Release the entire work immediately for access worldwide.

Committee Chair

Roberts, Robin

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