I Am the Monster: Self and the Monstrous Feminine in Contemporary Young Adult Literature

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2014-05-15

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Abstract

My dissertation surveys British, American, Australian, and New Zealand young adult texts of the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries featuring female protagonists who are fantastic monsters. Addressing such texts as Margaret Mahy?s The Changeover, Justine Larbalestier?s Liar, and Diana Wynne Jones?s The Time of the Ghost, I examine the metaphorical use of monstrosity in literature to address the ?problem? of female adolescence, specifically in relation to female physical development, sexuality, and agency. With chapters on witches, werewolves, and ghosts, I investigate the ways in which the characters? understanding of their monstrosity intersects with their emerging gender identity. I interrogate what these representations of monstrous young women reveal about social and cultural perspectives on femininity and the developing female body. As supernatural entities, monsters extend the possibilities of human experience, demonstrating physical and psychic powers that disturb the established order. Framing the female protagonist as a monster, however, indicates a fear of her potential to disturb and destroy. Thus, I argue that while the proliferation of monstrous female protagonists encourages female agency by making the monstrous powerful, familiar, and enticing, the trend simultaneously demonstrates the ways in which these seemingly subversive characters are contained within moral and social frameworks of femininity.

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