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Document Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)

Degree Program

Education (also CAGS)

Year Degree Awarded

2016

Month Degree Awarded

May

First Advisor

Dr. Denise K. Ives

Subject Categories

Education

Abstract

READING POWER: FEMALE SEXUALITY, BULLYING AND POWER RELATIONS IN YOUNG ADULT LITERATURE

CARA CRANDALL, B.S., MASSACHUSETTS COLLEGE OF LIBERAL ARTS

M.F.A., EMERSON COLLEGE

Ed.D., UNIVERSITY OF MASSACHUSETTS AMHERST

Directed by: Professor Denise K. Ives

Over the last thirty years, American society and schools have struggled to understand and respond to bullying and harassment by young people. In that time, scholars and policy makers have worked not only to understand this phenomenon but to also create interventions that can prevent such incidents because the consequences of bullying have been shown to be so detrimental for all involved. Adult concerns with peer aggression has led to a proliferation of young adult (YA) novels that take bullying as their narrative focus. Such novels are popular among young people as part of their personal reading practices and increasingly are being integrated into English curricula in American schools for a variety of reasons. However, not only has YA literature previously not been seen as worthy for inclusion in the classroom, but also the genre has been largely ignored by literary critics. This theoretical gap is especially true of novels about bullying.

In this dissertation I report findings from an analysis of seven YA novels. I completed both a narrative analysis of these novels as well as a discourse analysis using poststructural feminism and feminist critical discourse analysis. In order to understand contemporary discourses on bullying, female sexuality, and power relations within each novel, I employed modes of address as an analytic tool to identify and discuss the subject positions afforded readers within the text and how these subject positions reflect discourses at work in the real world. My findings include discourses on the problematic nature of adolescents, and female friendships in particular. My findings also explore discourses of sexuality and romantic partnership that follow a heteronormative script and depict both as dangerous for young women. I then outline implications for English language arts teachers, researchers, and adults in light of these findings with an emphasis on the critical approach needed to identity and disrupt hegemonic discourses around adolescence, female sexuality, and power.

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