Wednesday, August 24, 2011
So here's what I'm thinking...
I've been feeling a little self-pressure lately to come up with a capstone project (i.e. the not-quite-a-thesis-but-similar-to-a-thesis required for my program). I strongly lean towards some kind of YA Lit project, though I get the feeling that YA is not widely respected throughout the department. I guess you could make the argument that any concentration is subject to disapproval, depending on a certain PhD's preferences. However, I'm particularly sensitive to the looks I get when I mention YA, and these looks are decidedly different from the looks given to someone who is interested in gender studies of 18th century poetry. Or whatever.
One thought I've had stems from the issue of the very name of the genre itself: Young Adult Literature. Is there any other genre that is so defined by its audience? All other genres are descriptions of a book's content: Fiction, NonFiction, Fantasy, Satire, Tragedy, etc. When picking up a novel based on those genre descriptions, you have certain expectations, certain tropes particular to that genre you expect to see. Young Adult Literature, however, is defined by its intended audience; within the "young adult" section, you might find any genre of fiction, from paranormal romance to crime dramas. I find that fascinating and wonder if YAL is more shaped by its audience than other genres, and if so what does that mean for this particular niche of literature?
I also wonder about this idea of YAL as being a "gateway" for young people to other "classic" literature. Honestly, that idea rather bugs me because the statement indicates that YAL doesn't have much substance to it on its own, it is merely a signifier pointing to something else, something "greater" beyond it. I want to know what are the merits of this genre on its own, and what is its place in our idea of literature if that is so.
And then my final thought goes back to this issue of audience in YAL. A connection to this might be a discussion on serialized novels: since serial novels enabled the audience to read and respond to the work in medias res, to what extent were they shaping the novel's progression, and can we see similar patterns in YAL, which, although not serialized, is a genre defined by its audience.
Some of these questions may not have any answers or they may even be too big of an issue to try and tackle in a 25-35 paper.