- Girls, Texts, Cultures ed. by Clare Bradford and Mavis Reimer
As an emerging field, girlhood studies draws on—but does not always bring together—a number of disciplines and critical frameworks, perhaps none more obviously than girls’ studies and children’s literature. In this exciting new collection, editors Clare Bradford and Mavis Reimer emphasize [End Page 99] these latter two discourses in order to highlight their shared interests and mutual usefulness, and the twelve essays gathered here largely succeed in illustrating the intersections, parallels, and connections that can be drawn. Combining clear methodologies, persuasive analysis, and useful considerations of the very nature of the research being done in girlhood studies, these essays ultimately present a strong argument in favor of embracing the field’s multidisciplinary and global nature. Children’s literature scholars, particularly those whose work spans disciplines and/or cultures, will find much of value here.
In a brief but thorough introduction, Bradford and Reimer outline the many contexts that inform this collection, tracing the development of both girls’ studies and children’s literature in ways that effectively highlight their shared qualities. In particular, the point that both of these fields have been marginalized due to their affiliations with young women is well taken and one with which many readers will identify. The editors also concisely but effectively articulate their titular focus on girls, texts, and cultures, including the important assertion that the collected authors “resist the idea that girlhood is merely a preliminary or transitional phase antecedent to womanhood” (8). Instead, as they ruminate on the ways in which texts and cultures interact to construct experiences and expectations of girlhood, the essays treat girls as worthy of investigation in their own right.
The collection’s first section, “Contemporary Girlhoods and Subjectivities,” focuses on the question of how texts (academic and literary alike) reinforce or challenge ideas about girlhood. Dawn H. Currie’s essay “From Girlhood, Girls, to Girls’ Studies: The Power of the Text” proves to be a powerful opener, as Currie’s own contributions to the field of girlhood studies play an important role in much of the work that has been done in the past few decades. Notably, Currie reviews and reflects upon her evolving ideas about and treatments of girls and girlhood, using her own work to consider the ways in which academic texts reify some versions of girlhood while obscuring others. The three essays that follow engage more explicitly with fictional texts but approach many of the same concerns and considerations. Both Kerry Mallan and Elizabeth Bullen offer intriguing and insightful readings of contemporary novels, though both essays could benefit from more thorough engagement with recent criticism in young adult literature, especially that relating to narrative theory. Pamela Knights’s “Still Centre Stage? Reframing Girls’ Cultures in New Generation Fictions of Performance” is a particularly impressive study, examining ballet novels as “significant symbolic holding space[s] for managing the conflicts” between conflicting versions of girlhood (77). While the topic of ballet stories seems a narrow one, Knights extends the conversation to consider subjectivity, contradiction, and girls’ experiences of their body, speech, and class identities more broadly.
In the second section, “The Politics of Girlhood,” global and transnational concerns are examined through a variety of lenses; while its four essays [End Page 100] employ a wide selection of critical frameworks, they generally share an interest in participatory research that understands girls as researchers who are themselves able to analyze their own and others’ words, images, and other media. This section is perhaps most notable for its consideration of girls from so many different cultures: Sandrina de Finney and Johanne Sara-ceno investigate Indigenous girlhoods in Canada; Claudia Mitchell discusses her work with African girls and visual media; Kristine Moruzi examines post–WWI fiction from England, the US, Canada, and Australia; and Kabita Chakraborty details the impact of Bollywood film on the romantic ideals of girls living in Indian slums. In this section in particular, the collection illustrates its investment in a view of girlhood that troubles assumptions and stereotypes about what it...