Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Naughty or not?: Exploring controversial content and core universal themes in contemporary young adult literature
by O'Bannion, Colette Marie, Ph.D., Chapman University, 2010, 251; 3398502
Abstract (Summary)

A reader might assume contemporary society has progressed beyond literary censorship. However, as recently as 2008, the Gossip Girl and Twilight young adult literature series both faced challenges in distinct sectors of United States society (American Library Association (ALA), 2009: Martindale, 2008). A number of concerned parents, community members, and school officials argue these series contain inappropriate material for young adult readers (Shrieves, 2005; Wolf, 2006). New readers have accepted invitations into the world of reading due to their connection with these series. Supporters of contemporary young adult literature are concerned readers might abandon their interest in literature because select members of society have deemed specific books unfit for young adult readers (Flanagan, 2008; George, 2007).

My research utilized grounded theory and coding to explore controversial content and core universal themes present in the Gossip Girl and Twilight series in an effort to define any remediating qualities in the literature. I pre-coded for frequency and type of controversial content using previously established categories for challenging literature. This resulted in a wide range of frequency and type of controversial content that needed to be investigated further. I coded deeper using contextual categories I created. Fansites and literature served as my frame of reference to explore the series for evidence of core universal themes. There was substantial evidence of multiple core universal themes throughout both series. Themes of love, choice, fitting in, and protector, were addressed with care, consideration, and humor. Through my research a theory emerged. Literary censorship rarely represents the contextual entirety of the literature in question.

This study will hopefully encourage those who question the appropriateness of literature to explore these and other controversial books with deeper contextual understanding. As supporters claim, young adult literature is able to offer young adults a safe place to explore and "develop wisdom about unsettling and possibly dangerous activities" they might face in the real world (Curry, 2001, p. 32). Young adult literature can provide an opportunity for readers to escape their reality, imagine lives different from their own, and gain multiple perspectives on how to handle what life might throw at them.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Wilson, Anna V.
Commitee: Ferguson, Phil, Madrid, Michael, Russo, Stacy, Tye, Barbara
School: Chapman University
Department: College of Education Studies
School Location: United States -- California
Source: DAI-A 71/04, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Modern literature, Literacy, Reading instruction, Sociology
Keywords: Censorship, Controversial content, Gossip Girl, Literature, Twilight, Universal themes, Young adult literature
Publication Number: 3398502
ISBN: 9781109716818
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