Date of Award:

2015

Document Type:

Dissertation

Degree Name:

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department:

Education

Advisor/Chair:

Amy Alexandra Wilson

Co-Advisor/Chair:

Sylvia Read

Abstract

This qualitative research study used a theoretical framework of third-wave feminism and reader response theory to examine two research questions: How do girls and women relate to the female protagonist in dystopian young adult literature (YAL)? and How are the responses to dystopian YAL similar and different for the targeted teen audience and the adult audience? A group of four teenaged girls and another group of three adult women read and discussed the YAL dystopian text Uglies. For this project, I collected participant journals and transcripts from individual interviews and book club discussions. I selected quotations from each data source that highlighted the participant’s reactions to the protagonist.

Data were analyzed in two phases. In phase one, I used discourse analysis, and in phase two I used constant comparative analysis. The analyses revealed that participants from both groups identified with the protagonist’s attempts to improve society, which aligns both groups’ responses with inclusive aspects of third-wave feminism. However, other aspects of feminism were incorporated into their answers as well. The women participants demonstrated a broader societal concern, such as those shared by second wave feminists. The girls, in contrast, were firmly situated within individualist aspects of third-wave feminism. Whereas, the women related to the protagonist on both a personal and broader societal level, the girls related only on a personal level. Findings from this research extend reader response theory by showing that responses to literature are strongly shaped by generational position.

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