BEYOND THE BLOCKBUSTERS: THEMES AND TRENDS IN CONTEMPORARY YOUNG ADULT LITERATURE

deadline for submissions: 
July 14, 2017
full name / name of organization: 
SAMLA 89: High Art/Low Art Borders and Boundaries in Popular Culture

In the last two decades, Young Adult (YA) literature has become increasingly popular; both the YA fan base and YA publishing imprints have continued to grow at a time when many other subsets of book publishing are shrinking. Debates about whether YA literature qualifies as “High Art” or is always relegated beyond an arbitrary boundary to be “Low Art” are ongoing. Regardless of those debates, YA literature and its adaptations dominate popular culture. While YA continues to expand, it often appears that the corpus of texts that are taught, studied, and critically examined overlap with texts discussed in the popular media; this has created an increasingly small hypercanon of texts that are limited to the kinds of bestseller texts that make a huge impact on popular culture. To non-experts, the YA category is often considered to be synonymous with huge blockbuster fiction titles like Harry Potter, The Fault in Our Stars and The Hunger Games. These titles then often become the “High Art” of the YA literature canon, carrying a cultural stamp of approval borne out of media and academic embrasure.

This panel aims to expand the discussion of YA from these particular titles into a larger, meta-analysis of trends and sub-genres within the YA designation. What are the major motifs, themes, plot devices, narrative frames, or character types found in various sub-genres? This question helps academics theorize contemporary YA and analyze the larger implications of emerging sub-genres and trends. Presentations can address YA trends or mini-genres in terms of theoretical importance, cultural significance, pedagogical value, or combinations of these approaches. The panel asks participants to consider what academics and readers are missing when focusing on the “high art hypercanon” mentioned above.

By July 14, please send a 300-500 word abstract, brief bio, and AV requirements to Rachel Dean-Ruzicka, Georgia Institute of Technology, at rachel.dean-ruzicka@lmc.gatech.edu

SAMLA (South Atlantic Modern Language Association) takes place in Atlanta, Georiga November 3-5, 2017.