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Girls Beyond the Western Canon

Andrea Fernandez Garcia (University of Oviedo)
Decolonising Girlhood 

Drawing on decolonial and border thinking, this paper theorises the Bildungsroman by US Latina authors as a discursive space that brings about the decolonisation and redefinition of paradigms and concepts. In this sense, it will particularly draw on Emma Pérez’s concept of the ’decolonial imagery’ to elucidate the potential of this literary expression to rethink dominant paradigms in an attempt to claim the neglected theme of Latina girlhood. This entails the decolonisation of not only a patriarchal and Eurocentric literary tradition, but also the Western male-ordered notions of subjectivity and spatiality it conveys. Thus, in line with Michel Foucault’s claim that ’where there is power, there is resistance’, this paper will show how the current logic of power makes room for the destabilisation of a Euro-American worldview on the part of a youth group that is often rendered voiceless and denied the opportunity to see themselves reflected in a world where girls are becoming more and more visible.

Laura Leden
The Female Author Domesticated? – The Journey of L.M. Montgomery’s Emily Visualized in Cover Illustrations and Other Paratexts

L.M. Montgomery’s original Emily trilogy, written for a crossover audience, is a bildungsroman about Emily’s journey to become an author, whereas Swedish, Norwegian and Finnish translations published in the 1950s and 1960s, targeted for a younger audience, demote Emily’s identity as a female author in favour of a more domestic identity. This paper analyses the Nordic translations’ paratexts such as cover illustrations, titles, and other cover elements, which are the threshold to the books (Gérard Genette, Paratexts). An examination of how paratexts characterise Emily’s journey through the presence and absence of the empowering elements of nature and literature, both of which inspire creativity, shows that the Nordic cover illustrations depict Emily as moving from the outside world and nature to inside environments as she grows older. Many illustrations focus on domestic and romantic elements rather than on her writing and inspiration. Similarly, paratextual plot summaries focus on her relationships to relatives and friends rather than on her writing ambitions. The Nordic paratexts convey a domestic image of Emily as a role model for young female readers by de-emphasising the role of nature, writing, and creativity, which is more apparent the younger the target audience is.

All are welcome to attend this free event, which will be held online via Zoom at 18:00 GMT. You will need to register in advance to receive the online joining link. Please click on the Book Now button at the top of the page to register.
6 October – Seminar 1
Girlhood from Society to the Screen
13 October – Seminar 2
Girlhood from History to the Screen
20 October – Seminar 3
Girls on Paper
27 October – Seminar 4
Queering Girlhood
10 November – Seminar 5 - This seminar was cancelled. Giulia Blasi will now be part of the final roundtable taking place on Monday the 5th of December 2022
Writing as a Girl: Language, Generation and Trends
17 November – Seminar 6
Shaping the Girl-self on (Social) Media
24 November - Seminar 7 - This seminar has been rescheduled and will now take place on Monday 21 Nov 2022 from 6-7:30pm
Girls Beyond the Western Canon
5 December – Seminar 8
Girlhood Studies: New Perspectives

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Following the international success of Elena Ferrante’s My Brilliant Friend tetralogy (2011–2014) and the HBO series inspired by it, attention has intensified in the new media on the topic of girlhood and coming-of-age stories. At the same time, the #metoo campaign introduced aspects of feminist discourse into the mainstream, with girls becoming especially sensitised to the issues raised.

This seminar series offers a fresh focus on girlhood and asks how we might understand it today. Understood first as a liminal concept – a connection between childhood and womanhood –, girlhood gained more space and autonomy with the rising of mass society and thanks to specific trends of consumption and the recent introduction of social media. The debate around girlhood involves questions of gender, identity and representation which continue to evolve, and which demand renewed scrutiny. The social changes that occurred in the seventies in Western society invited us to rethink the very idea of ‘womanhood’, but how the concept of ‘girlhood’ evolved is yet to be fully addressed. 

The topic of girlhood in academia started to gain popularity in the 1990’s thanks to Angela McRobbie’s work, with a specific look at girls’ culture as a subculture in the international context (McRobbie 1991; McRobbie and Garber 1993). Studies on girls’ culture and the representation of girlhood related to magazines and new media such as Susan Driver’s Queer Girls and Popular Culture: Reading, Resisting, and Creating Media (2007), paved the way for a more developed analysis of the relationship between female youth, queer and feminist theories. Paola Bonifazio, Nicoletta Marini-Maio and Ellen Nerenberg published a very relevant study on the topic in the open access journal Gender/Sexuality/Italy in 2017, shedding light for the first time on girl cultures in Italy from early modern to late capitalism. Today Girlhood Studies are experiencing a productive and lively revival, as girlhood emerges as an autonomous field worthy of recognition. 

The cycle of seminars will explore the construction of the notion of ‘girlhood’ from a transnational and transmedial perspective, charting its development across contemporary Western culture. Building upon recent scholarship on genders as a cultural phenomenon, the series aims to isolate ‘divergent representations of girlhood’ (Hopkins, 2017) in history, literature, society and media. Each seminar brings into conversation scholars, researchers and practitioners working variously in the fields of literary, cultural, and publishing studies, the history of education, and gender and sexuality.