Author Archives: Kristi Fleetwood

Final Research Update–Kristi Fleetwood

In the beginning, I struggled to find adequate material on role model studies, but I eventually was able to use a combination of girlhood studies and first-hand accounts about Wonder Woman as a role model to construct my argument for powerless Diana Prince (1968-1972) as a feminist role model for young girls.

My interest in this time period came from the first issue of Ms., the feminism magazine created under the direction of noted feminist Gloria Steinem. On the July 1972 cover, a Godzilla-sized Wonder Woman stormed through a city street. Within the magazine, Joanne Edgar praised this version of Wonder Woman as an irresistible “role model” (Edgar 52), but the Wonder Woman on the cover, the Wonder Woman who would become closely tied to feminism, was not the Wonder Woman within the current comics. The Wonder Woman, drawn in replica from the original Wonder Woman of Edgar and Steinem’s childhood, had been absent from the comics since 1968 when Wonder Woman renounced her title, gave up her super powers, and returned to living among “man” as a powerless Diana Prince. To feminist of this time (and many scholars who have studied her), this meant Diana Prince was incapable of aligning with feminism. However, the evidence of this argument relies on surface level analysis of Diana Prince’s depiction. Using a feminist historical analysis of Diana Prince’s portrayal within the comics, I argue for her portrayal being a blossoming representation of the 1970’s Second Wave feminism.

My paper is doing two things. First, it argues Diana Prince as feminist. Second, it argues that because of this portrayal, Diana Prince can be considered a feminist girlhood role model. Within the second part of my argument, I feel I could have extra data research to bolster my argument. To continue this research further, I would like to get my hands on all the comic books from this time in their original form. There are three main things I want to look at: write-ins, surveys, and advertisements. The write-ins to see what girls, and boys, were saying about the change; I have three of the comics from the period, and not many girls’ letters were being published within the comics. The surveys to see how many girl readers were being polled, and finally, the advertisements to see whom the publishers thought their intended audience would be. I also want to see the circulation data to see if the sale numbers increased in the 1960s as much as people report it did. While DC does not have specified demographic data, the overall circulation numbers can represent how well the Diana Prince era was doing in comparison to the 1950s comics where Wonder Woman was being pulled further into the home and out of her uniform.



For this class, I also worked on revising a second project. I focused more of my attention on my Wonder Woman research, but I have being getting ready to sit down and actually begin restructuring the paper. Currently, it is a literary analysis with a lot of medical backing, but I am transitioning it to focus on close reading for trauma.


Here’s a little abstract of it I did for a conference submission:

In Freud in Oz (2011), Kenneth B. Kidd discusses the intersection of psychoanalysis and children’s and YA literature. He makes a case for the ways in which young adult literature begins to overlap with trauma literature, reading adolescence itself as a time of trauma. He also asserts that in young adult literature the expectations of gender and sexuality are intimately tied to the formation of an adolescent’s interior self. Using Kidd’s research as a jumping-off point, this paper offers a case study of Laurie Halse Anderson’s Wintergirls. In Wintergirls, the protagonist, Lia, copes with her best friend’s death and struggles with her body. She demonstrates repetitive self-mutilation syndrome as she alternates between anorexia and cutting.

Lia’s abjection (seen in her anorexia, cutting, and dissociation from reality) is couched in the language of trauma. The association between abjection and trauma leads to the formation of Lia’s interior self. My paper examines the ways in which Lia’s repetitive self-mutilation is a search for “control” of the disconnection from herself as well as others. I focus on the external and internal “balance” of Lia’s repetitive self-mutilation as well as the maternal influence on Lia’s abjection.



So to prepare to transition the paper, I’ve been reading resources that can help to support my argument, especially sources on trauma in children’s literature (any sources you can recommend, or think are interesting, even if it isn’t related to this specific paper would be great. I’m finding the trauma studies info extremely interesting, so recommend away). A lot of the sources I have read deal with trauma in association with war zones (a lot written on the Holocaust), but my study is more focused on the more every day type of trauma. And what it means for her abjection to be imbedded in this language of trauma, and how the two interact on this level.

I’m excited to work on this paper over break. I’m trying to figure out how exactly to go about re-writing it. While I have a current outline and have gone through and pinpointed what I need to keep and what I need to get rid of for my current argument, I still think it might be better to go through and re-write it completely, pulling from the old paper when needed.

Hope everyone is enjoying their break!



The Absolutely True Diary of Part Time Indian–Methods

Somewhere along the way, children’s literature and ya lit got misunderstood as “fluff” for children, and it’s one-dimensional and can’t represent any real social problems that young adults face. Obviously. And even in the more complex contemporary literature, you do get less complex narratives because they are more focused on middle-class story (think The Fault in Our Stars, which I still managed to cry over like most other humans). But Alexie gives us more than the stereotype. There’s a disability narrative, a trauma narrative, a racial narrative, a poverty narrative, and the list goes on and on and on. He weaves all this into an endearing 14 year old kid who really highlights how excruciatingly painful it is for anyone that does not fit into the heteronormative, white, middle-class story has to endure more in order to find where he belongs.

Take Mr. P, he’s an older white man with a position of power (as a teacher). Through his interaction with Junior, we learn about Mr. P’s guilt for coming to the reservation originally to “kill the Indian culture” (Alexie 35), and he’s trying to redeem himself by forgiving Junior and encouraging him to have a better life. But this version of “better” is extremely skewed. Instead of showing up to class, taking an interest in teaching his students, fighting for an actual education system on the rez, Mr. P encourages Junior to leave the rez and go to an all white school. While he has stopped beating the children, he is still trying to “kill the Indian to save the child,” just in a new way. Instead of encouraging him to excel on the reservation, he is pushing him away form it into this white culture, as if the only way to be better is to get as close to “white” as possible.

Moments like this where he has this extra pressure on him to abandon his culture and community, a community he already has trouble feeling a part of, creates a lot of distress for Junior. One of the moments you really see it is when he’s talking about his brain flooding.   He’s at the powwow with Rowdy, but he “wanted no part of it” to begin with because “[t]hose rhythmless, talentless, tuneless Indians are most likely going to get drunk and beat the shit out of any available losers. And [Junior is] always the most available loser” (17).   This fear is realized when three adult men beat him up. When Rowdy is checking on him and his brain, Junior thinks about how if he had been punched in the skull, he could “have flooded out the entire powwow” (21). So this condition of his brain sets him apart already—and not just in the medical sense, he also appears far more intelligent than others he encounters on the reservation—but when it is emphasized that he isn’t a part of the community, like when the Andersons beat him up, he is worried his differences will destroy his ties to the community he was born into, and leave him with nothing to connect him.

Junior also uses this “flooding” imagery to describe why he draws: “I think the world is a series of broken dams and floods, and my cartoons are tiny little lifeboats” (6). If the world is flooded because he struggles to connect with his community, he uses these drawings to understand and communicate because words fail him. He already has an established connection to the community through drawings because of Rowdy. One of the main components of their friendship is comic books, and Rowdy is much more, in Junior’s mind, the stereotypical Indian who lives on the reservation. By having drawings connect him to Rowdy, he has a concrete connection to life on the reservation. Granted, that connection is temporarily lost, but he is able to find it again.


Tribunella’s Birth of Gay Children’s Literature (Primary)

I really enjoyed reading Eric Tribuenlla’s “Between Boys: Edward Stevenson’s Left to Themselves (1891) and the Birth of Gay Children’s Literature.” This was my second (and much more in-depth) introduction into gay children’s literature. My first was (surprisingly) with Eric when he had our class read The Boy Who Cried Fabulous. Left to Themselves and The Boy Who Cried Fabulous deal with very different topics in queer studies. As Eric points out, Left to Themselves is much more focused on the building of a homosexual and homosocial relationship, whereas The Boy Who Cried Fabulous is more focused on the acceptance of childhood queerness.

Tribunella’s response focused more on “queering the canon,” as Kidd and Abate would say. One thing I kept thinking about while reading it is how far LGBT literature has come in contemporary literature. From the article, it seems  that gay children’s literature was originally more nuanced and subtle, relying heavily on the homosocial bonds and less on the actual physical/sexual relationship. For this response, I’m want to touch on some openly LGBT children and young adult books and end with a brief discussion of Adam Smith’s Grasshopper Jungle.

First, there’s this genre of picture books for the LGBT community that focus on explaining to children why their family is not heteronormative and that it is okay that theirs isn’t.

As I mentioned earlier, there are picture books like The Boy Who Cried Fabulous (Book Trailer: that aim at teaching children, and adults, to accept all aspects of the child. Forgive me, I don’t’ have a copy with me so I can’t quote things specifically, but I’ll do my best. In the book, the boy thinks everything is “fabulous,” and adults begin to try and correct and “normalize” his behavior to something less flamboyant. While this text does stereotype gay children as effeminate, it does work to preach acceptance for people’s differences and to not judge them for being different than you.

Overall, there’s a lot more young literature today that is openly dealing with LGBT teenagers and their relationships: Chris Beam’s I am J; John Green and David Leviathan’s Will Grayson, Will Grayson; Maureen Johnson’s The Bermudez Triangle; and David Levithan’s Every Day. Of course, our society has come a long way since Left to Themselves was written. However, there are still texts with not openly gay characters. Andrew Smith’s Grasshopper Jungle comes to mind. (It’s a really weird/great book if you’ve never read it.)

Grasshopper Jungle focuses on the life of three teenagers in the days leading up to the “end” of the world. Austin and Robby are inseparable friends. When Austin and his girlfriend Shannon go on dates, it is always Robby who drives them places. The first sexual experience that Austin and Shannon have is in the backseat of Robby’s car on top of his clothes, and he inadvertently becomes a major participant in Austin’s first sexual encounter. The book implies the possibility of them being much more than friends when they get drunk one night, but the reader it is never truly confirmed. And even though Austin and Shannon have a makeshift relationship at the end of the book, it is Robby and Austin who spend weeks on end exploring the destroyed world alone, together.





Trites, “Margaret Mahy: Embodying Feminism” (Method)

Trites analysis of Margaret Mahy’s The Changeover (1984), Dangerous Spaces (1991), and Katiangata Twitch (2005) focuses on the way that Mahy depicts the complex understanding of the relationship between thought and body through her characters. Trites uses the analysis to highlight how Mahy changes the interaction between feminist thought and the female body as the larger feminist conversation on embodiment changed over the course of twenty years.

I was really excited to start reading this article because Trites seemed to be doing a feminist historical analysis. I find myself often falling back on that methodology with my own research. It provides an understanding of the text through the feminism in which it was produced as opposed to the feminism of today. The two are rarely similar. Philosophies change, and the way change is approached is usually vastly different as the decades passed. While approaching form a modern feminist analysis is still useful, the value of the text as feminist or not is much easier understood with this feminist historical analysis. And it seems that Trites wants to understand the *feminist value* of these texts, and in order to do that, she is contextualizing Mahy’s characters and ideas within the feminist philosophies during the books’ publications.

Before she begins discussing the novels, she contextualizes the larger feminist ideas on female embodiment. Then, she parallels Mahy’s text with the feminist philosophy during the years surrounding the publication of each text until she begins analyzing Katiangata Twitch. At this point, she switches her methodology to queer theory. This creates a strange imbalance, and it is one of the many things that make her argument feel underdeveloped. Don’t get me wrong, I thought some of her conclusions in this section were the most interesting, but the way she approaches the text is so fundamentally different than the rest of the article that it almost does not seem to fit. The only saving grace is the similar approaches and ideas that the two theories have. If there was more historicizing like in previous sections, I might not have found the section so problematic.

Speaking of problematic, I had a really hard time liking this article. At times, her analysis feels superficial. She does align her work in conversations with other scholars who have researched embodiment in Mahy’s texts, but she relies too heavily on summarizing their arguments and summarizing the text. It feels like the summarization gets far more page space than Trites own ideas and conclusions, which is disappointing. I was interested in what Trites had to say, and I often wanted her to develop her train of thought more. Take her analysis of Sorry touching Laura in The Changeover:

Laura’s laughing response acknowledges sexual desire as a “disease,” with her body still the object of his somewhat ominous sexuality: “Laura felt his left hand, his sinister hand, between her dress and her skin. ‘You probably won’t get a very bad attack,’ she said, nervous but enchanted” (204). She is both “nervous” and “enchanted,” Mahy implies, because sexuality is powerful, dangerous—and fun. (Mahy 142).

After describing how “Sorry preys upon Laura, ogling her breasts, demanding rather than asking for their first kiss, touching her breasts without invitation” and using a quote where Sorry’s hand is referred to as “sinister,” Trites concludes that Mahy is depicting sexuality as “fun.” I understand the powerful and the dangerous, but I feel like Trites is reading something that I am not in these sentences because she reads it as “fun.” This is the last word in a paragraph about “undermining” feminist assertions and repeated depictions of predators, I feel like Trites needs to explain where she is seeing the “fun” part of sexuality. I believe her when she says it is there, I just am not seeing it in the material that she is presenting here.

Ultimately, I think I would have enjoyed this article so much more if it had a narrower focus on one book of Mahy’s OR she developed her points further. I enjoyed what she had to say, to the point that I wanted more of it, but it just wasn’t there.




And I’m going to leave this as a question/idea for the class: I know little to nothing about New Zealand’s feminist movement, but in theory, there is a chance that philosophies trends were different in New Zealand (where the books were published and Mahy was writing). The feminist authors/philosophers Trites references are from a variety of places: Lorde is Caribbean-American; Cixous, French; Susan Bordo, American; Elizabeth Grosz, Australian. However, she does not reference any specific New Zealand feminist philosophies, and it might be that New Zealand followed the “popular” trends in feminism. I was just curious about how that might influence the text, and if anyone actually knew the answer.

Mitzi Meyer’s “Socializing Rosamond: Educational Ideology and Fictional Form”

Categorizing children’s literature often creates rifts in the way that literature is viewed, especially within the academic community. The three articles this week all deal with a different version of categorizing children’s literature, from its origins, to genres, to what part of children’s texts can be studied as true literature. Mitzi Meyer’s “Socializing Rosamond: Educational Ideology and Fictional Form” does not trying to categorizing children’s literature, instead, she makes a plea to the academic community for the inclusion of a type of children’s literature into revisionist (similar to the new historical/cultural criticism of literary studies) scholarship.

Normally, revisionists have previously concentrated on “fantasy” texts in children’s literature, but Meyers defends the use of more “historical mimetic tales” (Meyers 56). While her article leaves room for a broader interpretation of what historical mimetic tales might mean, her study seems to focus on women writers and educational tales. Often in the article, these educational tales translate into the overarching genre of didactic literature, especially since the primary text Meyers focuses on is Maria Edgeworth’s “The Purple Jar,” a classic (and more well-known) example of didactic children’s fiction.

“The Purple Jar” provides an ideal case-study for Meyers due to Edgeworth’s notable pedagogical background. Edgeworth’s Practical Educataion, a collaboration with her father, was one of the most well received texts on pedagogy “between Locke and the mid-Victorian period,” a time line of over one hundred and thirty years (53). One of the main points of the Edgeworths educational theory was that education was a lifelong journey, and that the texts being used could be informative and entertaining.   This emphasis on didacticism was well-received during Edgeworth’s time, as Meyers notes through various reviews from the period. This praise only highlights the shift to contemporary critics’ dismissal of didactic literature because “[they] usually assume, it must be intellectually unproblematic and literarily uninteresting, especially if it is rationale, realistic, and domestic.” However, Meyers is swift to point out that fault in this statement: “a strong case can be made for the position that juvenile literature is inevitably and rightly ‘didactic’—that adults do, must, and should teach values to their child audience. But we moderns like our teaching camouflaged.” In this, Meyers claims that even the fantasy literature that revisionist scholars favor is didactic in some way.

While I am not going to go in-depth into Meyer’s justification didactic literatures’ historical mimetic nature, I believe she successfully proves her point through aligning points in “The Purple Jar” to the historical and cultural context of the tale. Through this example, Meyers is able to prove that women writers’ educational tales can be used in revisionist studies. However, I think it is wrong to limit “The Purple Jar,” and Meyers study, just to women’s educational tales. By broadening her argument to all of didactic children’s literature, Meyers would provide a vast number of texts to reference in future studies, without the limitation of women writers. Part of her point is that women wrote the majority of educational texts, but there was didactic literature beyond this small sampling.

She also uses an extremely small sample to defend her argument: only one text. While this is an article, it is very short, and there is still plenty of room to include two or three different works that would have aided Meyers in her argument, further validating a revisionist analysis of women’s educational texts.

As much as I wish she had expanded her own call for inclusion, I do appreciate the structure in which Meyers goes about demonstrating her argument.   While my own area of interest is not primarily aligned with the texts Meyers works with, I appreciate the flow of her argument and possibly even go as far as to suggest it as an example for how people can go about arguing for inclusions of genres/subgenres/ /authors/texts/etcetera into their specific literary canon. For someone actually in her specific field of study, this article would serve as an inspiration to expand past fantasy and didactic and possible include even more categories of children’s literature in revisionist studies.

–Kristi Fleetwood