College of Liberal Arts & Social Sciences Theses and Dissertations

Graduation Date


Document Type


Department/Program Conferring Degree

Women & Gender Studies


preadolescent literature, girls/girlhood, tomboyism, body, identity


Children’s literature has long been an influential historical, social and cultural discursive site of gender identity and gender appropriate behavior. Currently, there is great deal of research and analysis of children’s literature and young adult fiction, examining literature’s role in children’s and young adults’ process of identity formation, as well as their conceptualizations about gender identity and gender appropriate behavior. There is little research and interrogation, however, of the presence of traditional binary gender roles and representations of gender appropriate behavior in girls’ preadolescent novels, aimed at 8- through 12-year-olds. For much of the existing research, preadolescent novels are lumped into children’s literature or forced into the arena of young adult fiction where its themes are not as effectual. This gap is further augmented by little research that addresses representations of the preadolescent feminine body within preadolescent girls’ literature or ideas about developing sexual identities. The preadolescent novel is an important historical, social and cultural discursive site of gender identity, gender appropriate behavior, conceptions about the female body and sexuality at a time that is critical in the identity formation and development for preadolescent girls. Therefore, in this study, I examine how the female protagonists, as well as some supporting characters, in select preadolescent novels for girls adhere to or subvert the traditional binaric gender roles, gender appropriate behavior, and notions of body and space. In addition, I interrogate how each female protagonist conforms to dominant discursive constructs surrounding heteronormativity.