Future girls: revolutionary adolescence in young adult dystopian fiction 2005-2018


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Donnelly, Sean Daniel (2019). Future girls: revolutionary adolescence in young adult dystopian fiction 2005-2018. University of Birmingham. Ph.D.

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This thesis analyses Young Adult Dystopian Fiction (YADF) published between 2005 and 2018. It develops a theory of the female protagonists featured in these texts, identifying them as a recurring literary type which I name ‘the dystopian girl’. I define the dystopian girl as encoding the hegemonic ideologies of this time period, particularly postfeminism, post- racial colour-blindness, and neoliberal subjectivity. My reading is enacted against the grain of the texts, which project the dystopian girl as a revolutionary hero, and intervenes in critical debates which have either lionised this figure as a feminist icon, or disparaged YADF as an inferior form of the dystopian genre.

This thesis argues that the dystopian girl is an intrinsically ambivalent and latently utopian figure, who encodes an understanding of girlhood as a site of political agency, and who occasionally undermines normative narratives of adolescent development. I argue that YADF is an important site of contemporary political imagining, and that the dystopian girl encompasses a contradictory range of social and political desires. I also trace how delineations of this figure have shifted over the course of a decade, in a manner which registers the re-emergence of feminism and social justice movements in the western cultural mainstream.

I identify Scott Westerfeld's Uglies trilogy (2005-2007), Suzanne Collins' The Hunger Games trilogy (2008-2010) and Veronica Roth's Divergent trilogy (2011-2013) as epitomising the dominant mould of the dystopian girl type, while also analysing other examples, including Saci Lloyd's The Carbon Diaries duology (2009-2010), Teri Terry's Slated trilogy (2012-2014), the television adaptation of Kass Morgan's The 100 (2013-2015) and Kiera Cass's The Selection trilogy (2012-2014). In the final chapter, I identify how this now established type is complicated and critiqued in more recent novels, primarily Naomi Alderman's The Power (2017) and Anna Day's The Fandom (2018).

Type of Work: Thesis (Doctorates > Ph.D.)
Award Type: Doctorates > Ph.D.
Licence: All rights reserved
College/Faculty: Colleges (2008 onwards) > College of Arts & Law
School or Department: Department of English Literature
Funders: Arts and Humanities Research Council
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General) > PN0080 Criticism
URI: http://etheses.bham.ac.uk/id/eprint/9051


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