Out of Reach: The Ideal Girl in American Girls’ Serial Literature traces the journey of the ideal girl through American girls’ series in the twentieth century. Who is the ideal girl? In what ways does the trope of the ideal girl rely on the exclusion and erasure of Othered girls? How does the trope retain its power through cultural shifts? Drawing from six popular girls’ series that span the twentieth century, Kate G. Harper explores the role of girls’ series in constructing a narrow ideal of girlhood, one that is out of reach for the average American girl reader. Girls’ series reveal how, over time, the ideal girl trope strengthens and becomes naturalized through constant reiteration. From the transitional girl at the turn of the century in Dorothy Dale to the "liberated" romantic of Sweet Valley High, these texts provide girls with an appealing model of girlhood, urging all girls to aspire to the unattainable ideal. Out of Reach illuminates the ways in which the ideal girl trope accommodates social changes, taking in that which makes it stronger and further solidifying its core.
Table of Contents
Introduction: An American Girl at Her Best
- A Girl of Today: Merging Models of Girlhood in Dorothy Dale
- Who Is Nancy Drew? The Arrival of the Great Girl Sleuth
- The Ideal Girl Goes to Work: Negotiating the Fractured Fifties
- The Baby-Sitters Club Sells Diversity
- Sweet Valley High Romances the Ideal Girl
Kate G. Harper holds a PhD (Arizona State University) and an MA (Georgia State University) in Women and Gender Studies. She has taught courses on gender in literature, popular culture, and daily life in the Departments of Women and Gender Studies at Arizona State University and the University of Colorado Boulder. She has previously published work on the Nancy Drew series in Girlhood Studies and is a coeditor of Girls’ Sexualities and the Media (2013).