Girls Beyond the Western Canon
CCWW Writing Transnational Girlhoods across Literature, Media and Society (7): Girls Beyond the Western Canon

Girls beyond the Western Canon

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.

Laura Leden (Helsinki): 'The Female Author Domesticated? The Journey of L.M. Montgomery's Emily Visualised 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.