- Girls, Texts, Cultures ed. by Clare Bradford, and Mavis Reimer
In recent years, girls’ studies, building on the work of feminist cultural studies scholars, has emerged as an important field in its own right. In this substantial collection, editors Clare Bradford and Mavis Reimer emphasize [End Page 120] that girls’ studies is less a “discipline in itself than a set of questions about the cultural functions of girls” that are taken up by a range of scholars (4). Their introduction lucidly and persuasively traces the trajectory of two divergent fields, children’s literature and girls’ studies, affirming that they have much in common, not only in their marginalization from mainstream academic disciplines but also in the way that this marginalization relates to wider cultural ideas about girls. Crucially, this book aims to bring scholars in these fields together, emphasizing the diversity of girls’ experiences and the necessity of treating girlhood as more than a preliminary phase through which girls pass on the way to becoming women.
The title itself indicates just how expansive this book’s aims are. Girls, Texts, Cultures is meant to signal the collection’s “disciplinary and conceptual breadth” (8), and the editors frame their choice in title carefully. They have chosen the term “girls” rather than the potentially monolithic term “girlhood” in order to emphasize that, as Dawn Currie puts it in her self-reflective opening essay, young females “do girlhood” in ways that are “varying, unstable, and changeable” (18). Yet while the title allows for maximum flexibility, it also remains somewhat opaque and may seem too broad to be meaningful. A clearer articulation in the introduction of how essayists made their choice about what “counts” as a girl would be a helpful inclusion. What age marks the endpoint of girlhood to a given essayist? Is age the only factor? Might marital status or economic self-sufficiency also be important?
The essayists in this collection participated in a symposium hosted at the University of Winnipeg in 2010 and come mostly from Australia and Canada. (Two-thirds of the authors teach in Canada.) Only one teaches in England and just one other, while educated in Canada, currently teaches in the United States. This is not a problem per se—in fact, the absence of U.S. scholars might even be viewed as a corrective, given the way American culture and the work of American scholars can dominate some critical discussions—but it does seem to be an absence worth noting, particularly given the book’s inclusive title. It also is the case, with some articles, that despite very lengthy works cited pages, important scholarship being published in the United States and elsewhere on young adult fiction or on comics is not included. For example, Elizabeth Bullen’s work on girl desire, which discusses Gossip Girl, might have productively cited Amy Patee’s important 2006 piece on the series in Children’s Literature Association Quarterly.1 Kerry Mallan’s essay on secrets in fiction, while emphasizing theorists such as Nietzsche and Foucault, engages very little with the work of comics critics.2 (Pamela Knights’s thought-provoking essay on ballet novels might also fall into this category, although several of the recent articles on ballet were likely published after the book went to press.3) [End Page 121]
Crucially, the collection is wide-ranging in other ways. An essay by Sandrina de Finney and Johanne Saraceno that uses “participatory, action-centred methodological approaches” (118) reveals the ways that Indigenous girls have been silenced in Canadian society. The authors provide girls with the opportunity to interrogate the negative effect racialized and gendered stereotypes have had on their sense of self-worth; notably, the authors emphasize that girls themselves have presented research in videos, blogs, zines, and other venues. The collection also moves beyond the national boundaries of Canada and Australia to tackle British, Indian, Ethiopian, and American texts and contexts, among others. An essay by Kabita Chakraborty demonstrates how unmarried women in the bustees, or urban slums, of Kolkata use Bollywood as a guide for romantic love, while an...