I'll be recapping each day of classes about two weeks after they happen. (Hence why this one is so belated from the start of my school year!) It's only because I set up blog posts in advance, though.
So every time you see a Young Adult Literature: The Class post, you should click on it, because it's looking at young adult literature as it should be looked at: a literary genre.
Let us begin.
"Young adult literature isn't a genre people take seriously, which will be our first obstacle to overcome."
First day spent going over the syllabus and being let out early? Not if you're in this class. We jumped straight into trying to define young adult literature!
Students came up to the board and wrote down what they thought each individual word meant in the phrase "young adult literature."
Young: new(er), not aged, developing, ignorant, knowledge without experience, naive, innocent, inexperienced
Adult: status of an individual above 18, next level of maturity beyond adolescence, matured, grown, responsible, socially obligated
Literature: work or text of writing designed to capture the human experience from a particular point of view, writing with a level of sophistication, writing that provokes emotion, canonical works of writing
A lot of discussion was had about who actually defines an adult. Sure, the government defines it as an eighteen year old, but not all adults are "matured" and "responsible." Eighteen year olds can go to war, smoke, vote and win the lotto - but is there that magical moment when they become adult? They're liberated from parents, but still obligated to society.
Perhaps young adult comes from teenagers no longer being completely ignorant and having that knowledge without experience. They might not know how to handle the world around them, but they're beginning to learn. They're no longer "innocent" - they're being exposed to sex, abuse, relationships, and things that wreck havoc with emotions.
And then, of course, all of this tied into literature.
Professor: "[YA is seen as] trash, an immature form of writing for immature students... we'll analyze things seriously that aren't taken seriously, and if you have a problem with that, get over it. I'm not going to pretend The Hunger Games is "Rime of the Ancient Mariner," because it's a different genre. But we're still going to analyze critically, because there is a great benefit to that."
You can see why I like her. (She also describes young adult lit as "plot driven narratives [that are] pretty engaging.")
The literature we'll be reading will be looked at both as a literature and as historical artifacts to trace the development of the genre from it's start during WWII to now, as well as who determines the genre and how they choose things.
Young adult history moment: The genre first emerged during WWII. It embodied the beginning of a psychological that students didn't just jump from children to adults. With more students staying in school due to the Great Depression, the youth culture emerged and the psychology along with it - and the demographic that started the genre.
Worthwhile Quotes from the Readings:
Fitzgerald, "Influence of Anxiety"
YA literature is, as one historian remarked, something of a secret garden, or a ghetto. Parents know about children's literature, but they don't often read their older kids' books.
YA literature is marvelously various - almost dizzingly so - but it has some distinct limitations. For one thing, publishers and librarians define YA literature not as all books that might appeal to teens but specifically as books with teen protagonists and teen perspectives.
In fact, fantasy seems to be the repository for all the story types that cannot, or simply do not, exist in other YA genres.
"We have to give kids hope," one YA specialist explained.
Sutton is surely right that kids read like adults.
Daniels, "Literary Theory and Young Adult Literature" [link]
Some still believe that YA literature is merely a secondary category of child-like storytelling - didactic in nature - and unworthy of serious literary evaluation, when, in fact, it is really an overlooked and underappreciated literary genre...
What would help in this regard would be not only for critics to recognize the difference between the genres, but to simply acknowledge that regardless of genre, both children's and YA works are literature.
"If we're going to call it literature, whether or not we preface the word with the young adult qualifier, then... we should hold it to the standards of literature."
Did you miss a class?:
Would you like me to keep doing these? I do have to take notes for the class anyway, so if you guys liked this, I'll keep going. If not, well... they may crop up anyway. I like making them. Hehehe.