Collection: Girl Talk: The Influence of Girls’ Series Fiction on American Popular Culture

full name / name of organization: 
LuElla D'Amico
contact email: 
ldamico@whitworth.edu

Since the mid nineteenth century, American girls have had books written especially for them, often featuring the same characters who begin to feel like their friends, enemies, and overall substitute social cliques. From the perfect, golden-haired Christian in Martha Finley’s nineteenth-century Elsie Dinsmore series to the imperfect high school beauties in Sara Shepard’s recent Pretty Little Liars series, the young female heroines in American series fiction have undergone dramatic changes in the past 150 years, changes which have both reflected and modeled standards of behavior for America’s tweens and teen girls. For generations, series books have helped define what it means to be an “All American Girl.” Through the use of stock characters and plotlines in these series, girls come to perceive and even enact their own experiences based on the beloved heroines and perhaps even more hated antagonists that appear in them. Critic Peter Stonely has suggested that girls’ series books present a sort of call to action to their readers—an urgent sense that girls must conform to the standards that series fiction sets out for them. He attests that these “narratives incite a strong motivation in the girl-reader: She had better make sure that she belongs” within the conventions of the fictional worlds she is reading, or else she will be made to feel like an outsider. Though these books are often derided for lacking in imagination and literary potency, that the majority of American girls have been exposed to girls’ series in some form, whether through books, tv, or other media, suggests that this genre needs to be studied further and that the development of the heroines that girls read about have created an impact that is worthy of a fresh critical lens. Thus, this collection seeks to explore how series books have influenced and shaped popular American culture and, in doing so, girls’ everyday experiences from the nineteenth century until now. The editor seeks submissions that interrogate the cultural work that is performed through the series genre, contemplating the messages these books relay about subjects including race, class, gender, education, family, romance, and friendship, and examine the trajectory of girl fiction within such contexts as material culture, geopolitics, socioeconomics, and feminism.

Note that for the purposes of this collection, series books will include any books featuring the same female protagonist/s for at least three volumes.

Interested contributors should send abstracts of 300-400 words (as an attachment in Word) and brief CV to LuElla D’Amico (ldamico@whitworth.edu). Abstracts are due by October 5, 2014, and authors will be notified of acceptance quickly after the deadline for submissions. Note that acceptance of the abstract does not guarantee acceptance of the article. First full drafts will be due April 10, 2015.

Possible Book Series to Consider Include:
Elsie Dinsmore
Three Vassar Girls
Little Women
Trixie Belden
Anne of Green Gables
Girl Scout Series
Nancy Drew
Baby-sitters Club
Sweet Valley
The Princess Diaries
Gossip Girl
Pretty Little Liars

cfp categories: 
african-american
american
bibliography_and_history_of_the_book
childrens_literature
cultural_studies_and_historical_approaches
ethnicity_and_national_identity
film_and_television
gender_studies_and_sexuality
journals_and_collections_of_essays
popular_culture
religion
romantic
twentieth_century_and_beyond