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Feminist Thought in YA Literature

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Colleen Mittag

on 13 December 2013

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Transcript of Feminist Thought in YA Literature

Feminist Thought in YA Literature
Our Critical Lens:
Feminist Theory

Feminist literary criticism engages with "...the ways in which literature (and other cultural productions) reinforce or undermine the economic, political, social and psychological oppression of women"(83). - Lois Tyson's "Critical Theory Today: A User-friendly Guide"
Ender's Game

They ran everything. They made all the choices. Only the game was left...that was all. Everything else was them and their rules and plans and lessons (Card 151).
Female as Second Class Citizen
“We sat there passing the bottles around and belching. I’m not too good at it—I mean, I’m good for a girl...but that doesn’t mean too much around here” (Murdock 87).
The night of the big game, Coach Jeff wanted to rile the team up. ”You’re playing like a bunch of girls out there!” he barked. “Like little girls! What do you have to say to that?” (Murdock 249)
Dairy Queen
Dairy Queen
“I’d be doing something. Something no other girl had ever done, no girl that I ever knew, anyway" (Murdock 132).
Ender's Game
"We may be young but we are not powerless. WE play by their rules long enough, and it becomes our game" (Card 237).
-Valentine to Ender

Myth Monsters Skit
Unclogging the critical lens:
Myths of Feminist Literary Theory

Ender's Game
So they boarded a starship and went from world to world. Wherever they stopped, he was always Andrew Wiggin, itinerant speaker for the dead, and she was always Valentine, historian errant, writing down the stories of the living while Ender spoke the stories of the dead (Card 323-324).
"Because if they think Dust is bad, it must be good."
The Golden Compass
Patriarchy Defines Reality and Morality
The Golden Compass
"Sacrifice is a rather dramatic way of putting it. What's done is for their own good as well as ours. And of course they all come to Mrs. Coulter willingly. That's why she's so valuable. They must want to take part, and what child could resist her? And if she's going to use you as well to bring them in, so much the better. I'm very pleased" (Pullman 95). - Lord Boreal to Lyra
Independence of thought and action
A little later...
"And we'd be all alone. Iorek Byrinson couldn't follow us or help. Nor could Farder Coram or Serafina Pekkala, or no one" (Pullman 398).
Lyra to Pan
"And now she that she was doing something difficult and familiar and never quite predictable, namely lying, she felt a sort of mastery again, the same sense of complexity and control that the alethiometer gave her." (Pullman 281)
The Golden Compass
Gift of Words
The Use of Language to Oppress Women

”[A Hawley player] came up behind me and gave my butt a squeeze and said “dyke” under his breath (245)”

Dairy Queen
Young Adult Literature
Ender's Game,
by Orson Scott Card
Persepolis: The Story of A Childhood,
by Marjane Satrapi
This book fits the YAL definition because it is told by an adolescent struggling to find her identity, and the feminist critical lens because it addresses issues of cultural marginalization of women, patriarchal domination and multiplicity in feminist expression.
The Golden Compass,
by Phillip Pullman
This fantasy novel fits into the YAL category because it is about an adolescent who while ostensibly on a quest to save her friend is really on a quest to find out who she is: her parentage, her gifts and her fate. Through the feminist critical lens, this novel becomes a tale of struggle to find agency against patriarchal forces that define reality and morality.
Dairy Queen, by
Catherine Gilbert Murdock
This book fits into the YAL category because it is centered around the life of a 15-year-old girl who is struggling to find her purpose and her voice. In terms of the feminist critical lens, this novel combats stereotypical gender roles, pushes against the patriarchies inherent in society, and resists the traditional gender binary system,
"The label 'young adult' refers to a story that tackles the difficult, and often adult, issues that arise during an adolescent's journey toward identity, a journey told through a distinctly teen voice" (Stephens 40-41).

“My father was not a hero, my mother wanted to kill people…so I went out to play in the street” (Satrapi 52).

Patriarchal Patterns in Persepolis
Persepolis: The Story of A Childhood
“No more university, and I wanted to study chemistry. I wanted to be like Marie Curie. I wanted to be an educated, liberated woman, and if the pursuit of knowledge meant getting cancer, so be it…and so another dream went up in smoke” (Satrapi 73)
Persepolis: The Story of A Childhood
"Multiple truths, multiple roles, and multiple realities are part of postmodernists' feminists' focus" (Ahmadi 48)
"When I got back to her room, she was crying. We were not in the same social class but at least we were in the same bed" (Satrapi 37).
I really don't know what to think about the veil. Deep down I was very religious, but as a family we were very modern and avant-garde" (Satrapi 6).
"Individuality as the potential route to...agency (the ability to make things happen)" (Parker 227).
Persepolis: The Story of A Chidhood
"Language...functioning as a mechanism of social control" (Ahmadi 48)
"Women's hair emanates rays that excite men. That's why women should cover their hair! If in fact it is really more civilized to go without the veil, then animals are more civilized than we are." (Satrapi 74)
"I didn't know what justice was. Now that the revolution was finally over once and for all, I abandoned the dialectical materialism of my comic strips. The only place I felt safe was in the arms of my friend" (Satrapi 53).
Lord Boreal
"Northern Lights"
"Lyra vs. Mrs. Coulter"
"Crazy poofy haired lady"
In the midst of patriarchal institutions, these young adult protagonists develop a sense of identity and agency.
Who has the power in language? French Feminism sees "predominant language as masculine, or phallogocentric, and they each try to imagine feminine alternatives to phallogocentric language" (Parker 145).
“Feminists sometimes call that habit of not taking women seriously…misogyny, and misogyny is part of the broader cultural history and practice of centering on men while underestimating women, which feminists dub patriarchy” (Parker 149).
Taking Control of Her Destiny
Ender's Game fits the young adult lit model because the book features a young adult protagonist who doesn't fit in, an other. Via the feminist lens Ender learns how to operate within the patriarchal military industrial complex, and thus comes to terms with his otherness.
the military industrial complex as the patriarchy

giving voice to the voiceless
subverting the dominant culture
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