"'In-betweenness in Adolescent Literature" 4/7-11/2010; 9/30/2009

full name / name of organization: 
Dr. Lisa Perdigao, Northeast Modern Language Association (NeMLA), 2010 conference, Montreal, Quebec
contact email: 

In The Case of Peter Pan, or, The Impossibility of Children's Fiction, Jacqueline Rose states that "Children's fiction sets up a world in which the adult comes first (author, maker, giver) and the child comes after (reader, product, receiver), but where neither of them enter the space in between" (1-2). While Rose discusses the space in between the child and adult, her terms highlight what is at work in adolescent literature, as the liminal space between children's literature and literature for adults. As the critical work surrounding the literature highlights the problems and possibilities of defining the genre, seen even in the competing names adolescent literature and Young Adult fiction, the adolescents represented within the novels also struggle with definitions; they are defined by (and within) the institutions that they are enmeshed in.

In The Adolescent Idea, Patricia Meyer Spacks' argument is that "The perception of adolescents as outsiders with the capacity either to deny or to confirm their societies by choosing or not choosing to enter the inside helps to account for one of the few clear trends emerging from this survey of writing about the young… " (290, 294). As the adolescents in the novels are initially disempowered, some are able to find a voice and self-definition while others fail in the quest. This situation might apply to adolescents in their everyday lives or depict another sense of liminality—as adolescents cross the line between reality and fantasy, into other worlds, led by fairies, vampires, witches, and visions of the future.

This panel will explore critical constructions of adolescent literature, and adolescence more generally, as it is defined within and between the novels. Papers might explore the trajectory of children's/adolescent/adult literature, considering the distinctions between the categories through readings of individual works and/or surveys of the fields. Papers might also focus on how adolescent characters utilize this liminal space, finding or losing themselves in the process in the quest for self-discovery. Please send 500 word abstracts to Dr. Lisa Perdigao at lperdiga@fit.edu by September 30, 2009.