Telling Girlhood: Girls' Studies, Reparative Trauma And 20Th Century U.S. Popular Culture

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This project is meant to be a contribution to the fields of girls' studies and feminism and media studies. Girls' studies, in its current iteration, is partially a response to a boom in the 1990s of interest in girls as a market for media and advertising. Girls' studies is largely concerned with girls' relationships to or representations in the media, as well as their and culture's methods of policing their emergence into womanhood. Many texts concern themselves with representations of girlhood and the question of which type of girl is allowed to be depicted and why, or what girls are learning about gender roles, feminism, and body image from media. My intervention in the field of girls' studies is the argument that the same belief system that generates the woefully homogenous images of the "good girl" covers up a deep-rooted fear of girls and their lived experiences. I incorporate Eve Sedgwick's notion of "reparative reading" and revise it into what I call reparative narration or reparative telling, in order to name the way girls' narratives, real and fictional, show   iii   the listener/viewer/reader that their attachment to their own naïveté is an impediment to girls' empowerment and healing. In order to make a case about the prevailing notions and limitations of girlhood in popular American culture, my dissertation discusses a wide range of texts and media including fiction, television, film, and sociological studies. Works that challenge what American girlhood signifies are meant to show their readers that it is their own "innocence" that is eroded by undesirable depictions of girlhood. The rejection of popular American notions of girlhood through female protagonists who tell stories of rape, abuse, rage, and depression allows for what I call "reparative narration," wherein a girl narrator does not cater to the perceived naïveté of the audience.   iv

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feminism; girls studies; childhood studies


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Samuels,Shirley R

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Juffer,Jane A.

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English Language and Literature

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Ph. D., English Language and Literature

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Doctor of Philosophy

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dissertation or thesis

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