Death, Gender and Sexuality in Contemporary Adolescent Literature: 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Death, Gender and Sexuality in Contemporary Adolescent Literature

1st Edition

By Kathryn James


212 pages

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Knowledge about carnality and its limits provides the agenda for much of the fiction written for adolescent readers today, yet there exists little critical engagement with the ways in which it has been represented in the young adult novel in either discursive, ideological, or rhetorical forms. Death, Gender and Sexuality in Contemporary Adolescent Literature is a pioneering study that addresses these methodological and contextual gaps. Focusing on texts produced since the late-1980s, and drawing on a range of theoretical perspectives, Kathryn James shows how representations of death in young adult literature are invariably associated with issues of sexuality, gender, and power. Under particular scrutiny are the trope of woman/death, the eroticizing and sexualizing of death, and the ways in which the gendered subject is represented in dialogue with the processes of death, dying, and grief. Through close readings of historical literature, fantasy fictions, realistic novels, dead-narrator tales, and texts from genres including Gothic, horror, and post-disaster, James reveals not only how cultural discourses influence and are influenced by literary works, but how relevant the study of death is to adolescent fiction--the literature of "becoming."


"Death is universal and inevitable, which is precisely why James (Deakin Univ, Melbourne, Australia) believes its frequent appearance in adolescent literature, to date little studied, is a topic worthy of analysis…James makes a good case for the application of her ideas to other Anglophone literature, and without doubt she breaks new ground in the study of a topic widely represented in fiction for teens, yet not widely studied…Recommended."

-- Choice, June 2009

'Uncompromising in its refusal to sentimentalise either adolescent experience or its representation, Death, Gender and Sexuality in Contemporary Adolescent Literature forces its readers to confront what is at stake in the ideologies underlying fiction for young adults.' - Shelley King, Times Higher Education Supplement

Table of Contents

Series Editor’s Foreword


Introduction: Beginning with Endings: Death in Children’s Literature

Chapter One: Points of Departure: Death, Culture, Representation

Chapter Two: Matilda’s Last Dance: Death and Historical Fiction

Chapter Three: Verisimilitude: Representing Death "In the Real"

Chapter Four: Beyond Consensus Reality: Death and Fantasy Fiction

Chapter Five: Imagined Futures: Death and the Post-Disaster Novel

Conclusion: Mapping the Landscape: The Unknown Country




About the Author

Kathryn James teaches children's literature at Deakin University, Melbourne. Her publications have appeared in Papers: Explorations into Children’s Literature, Children’s Literature in Education, and New Talents 21C.

About the Series

Children's Literature and Culture

Founding Editor and Series Editor 1994-2011: Jack Zipes

Series Editor, 2011-2018: Philip Nel


Founded by Jack Zipes in 1994, Children's Literature and Culture is the longest-running series devoted to the study of children’s literature and culture from a national and international perspective. Dedicated to promoting original research in children’s literature and children’s culture, in 2011 the series expanded its focus to include childhood studies, and it seeks to explore the legal, historical, and philosophical conditions of different childhoods. An advocate for scholarship from around the globe, the series recognizes innovation and encourages interdisciplinarity. Children's Literature and Culture offers cutting-edge, upper-level scholarly studies and edited collections considering topics such as gender, race, picturebooks, childhood, nation, religion, technology, and many others. Titles are characterized by dynamic interventions into established subjects and innovative studies on emerging topics.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
LITERARY CRITICISM / Children's Literature