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Beyond the Image: Adolescent Girls, Reading, and Social Reality

Angela E. Hubler
NWSA Journal
Vol. 12, No. 1 (Spring, 2000), pp. 84-99
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/4316710
Page Count: 16
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Since scans are not currently available to screen readers, please contact JSTOR User Support for access. We'll provide a PDF copy for your screen reader.
Beyond the Image: Adolescent Girls, Reading, and Social Reality
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Abstract

While even some mass-market girls' fiction now depicts girls who triumph over sexism, the liberal feminism of many such novels presents a limited analysis of sexism. Like much feminist criticism of children's literature, the focus on positive images in these novels emerges from sex-role theory. Whether arguing that picture books socialize children into traditional roles or that children's literature can, by presenting nontraditional images, liberate them, the assumption that children simply mimic what they see fails to account for agency. I argue that feminist criticism of fiction for young readers must move beyond a focus on images to examine the way in which fiction allows readers to map social structure. Mildred Taylor's fiction does this, providing an analysis of racism and sexism as mutually constitutive and interdependent systems. The knowledge readers of such fiction might gain about social reality, even of structural determination, is paradoxically productive of individual agency, effective resistance, and even social transformation.

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