Representations of Female Adolescence

Both of the etexts we have read for today hint at issues with female puberty and female adolescence. The issues with female adolescence and the way it is represented are almost explicitly stated in Shelley Jackson’s “My Body & a Wunderkammer,” and although these issues are much more nuanced in Michael Joyce’s “Twelve Blue” they are not necessarily any less relevant to shaping an interpretation to the text.

Although I may simply be biased because of a personal investment in the importance of representations of adolescence, especially gender-specific ones, because of my background in Children’s Literature, the way that adolescence is looked at as a culturally constructed idea is certainly relevant for these “adult” texts as well. By looking at critical approaches to gendered adolescence in children’s literature, we can apply the same ideas to our readings of Jackson and Joyce.

Building off of Judith Butler’s ideas that gender is culturally constructed (it is much less a “natural fact” than it is enforced social behaviors), female adolescence / puberty is a complicated idea, theorized by Catherine Driscoll “no more a bodily change than an educational space where an already but incompletely gendered subject learns which gender norms are available for what kinds of citation and what body styles are acceptable or possible” (86). Driscoll argues that it is more an issue of feminine, rather than female, puberty.

Despite that fact that there are concrete physical changes happening to the female’s body during puberty, fetishistic ideas about the budding female bod abound, often exaggerating sexual tensions and internal conflicts about “becoming a woman.” In this way, the teen-aged female is forced into the world of the heterosexuality, allowing us to ogle and exploit her “sexual confusion”.

We see issues with the conflict between representations and the reality of female puberty in Jackson’s “My Body…,” especially when she is describing her breasts, hips, vagina, and arms.

Source: http://muse.jhu.edu/journals/childrens_literature_association_quarterly/v027/27.4.marshall.html

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~ by hlrypngr on February 1, 2010.

One Response to “Representations of Female Adolescence”

  1. The scenes in which her tail becomes an object of sexual pleasure/perversion/closeness certainly add to this reading (or maybe complicate it by expanding ideas of possible sexuality). To watch her polarity concerning the popular ‘feminine’ throughout the text in conjunction with the anonymity and intimacy of its presentation was a big part of my reading–how can I know more about this person? But I must admit, it wasn’t my principle reading; I was more drawn to her meditations in the tree-tops or in the pool, but I suppose even those examples are spliced with the sexual tension you mentioned. Did the work strike you as true? As in–did you go along with her ride, or did you manage to keep an objective eye outside of the text?
    –josh

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