Nancy Drew and Company: Culture, Gender, and Girls' Series

Nancy Drew and Company: Culture, Gender, and Girls' Series

Nancy Drew and Company: Culture, Gender, and Girls' Series

Nancy Drew and Company: Culture, Gender, and Girls' Series

Synopsis

This intriguing anthology brings together a broad range of critical essays on girls' series fiction from established scholars such as Chamberlain, Johnson, and Romalov, along with emerging scholars Katrine Poe, Maureen Reed, and Deborah Siegel. Topics include: Anne of Green Gables, the Isabel Carleton series, early twentieth-century girls' automobile series, girls' scouting novels, 1910-1935, Cherry Ames in World War II, Nancy Drew, and Judy Bolton.

Excerpt

You can't escape them. They are everywhere. In bookstore after bookstore, girls' series books crowd the shelves, competing for space. Whether Sweet Valley High books, Outdoor Girl adventures, Nancy Drew mysteries, Cherry Ames nursing stories, or hundreds of other books, girls' series books have been a dominant presence in children's literature throughout this century, a trend that shows no sign of abating. The names of the heroines change; they drive different cars and pursue different adventures, but the plots are essentially formulaic. The leading character (with or without her pals) is remarkably capable, gorgeous, and far more intelligent than any adult. Because of her innate ability, this paragon is able to solve mysteries, fly planes, cure the ill, and perform many other exploits with incredible ease, not even breaking into a sweat. Although there are some variations to this dominant character, the heroines of girls' series are similar in many ways.

What explains the long-lasting allure of girls' series and their heroines ? Why have these books been phenomenally popular throughout the century? What messages about societal values do the books contain? How do the books help socialize young women? These are a few of the questions that the essays in this collection try to answer, as we attempt to decipher clues that might baffle anyone (except Nancy Drew).

Despite their prevalence in the twentieth century, girls' series have been studied with less frequency than one might expect. Girls' reading has long been considered unimportant when compared to adult reading. Girls' series books have been quadruple outcasts from critical circles because they are written for young readers, are targeted at girls, are popular reading, and, even worse, are series books, which often have been regarded with disdain by literary critics. This situation is slowly changing as a greater number of scholars, many of them influenced by feminist philosophies, recognize that studying girls' reading is an important building block in understanding how girls are socialized. As critical theory plays an ever-increasing role in the study of children's literature, a greater number of scholars are scrutinizing how popular reading reinforces cultural ideologies. Many of these critics also recognize that girls' interests have too long been marginalized as less significant than those of boys. Despite the current 1990s upswing in studying girls' cul-

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