I wrote an actual review for this for an academic journal, and here it is:
What exactly is happening at the crossroads between Young Adult fiction andI wrote an actual review for this for an academic journal, and here it is:
What exactly is happening at the crossroads between Young Adult fiction and Horror, and what are the cultural implications of the increasing number of works found there? These are the central questions that Pulliam tackles in Monstrous Bodies: Feminine Power in Young Adult Horror Fiction. Through her detailed survey of a wide array of contemporary novels, short stories, and films, Pulliam crafts a keen analysis of the intersection of YA fiction and the horror genre centered on young female protagonists, an intersection previously largely ignored in scholarly capacities. Reading this generic hybrid as a means of foregrounding a monstrous Other, Pulliam deftly teases out the gendered implications such works produce and the manner in which these works explore the means by which adolescent girls become gendered subjects. By examining fiction and films that feature teenage female protagonists developing supernatural abilities or undergoing paranormal experiences, Monstrous Bodies catalogues the systemic manner in which the “institutional forces” of patriarchal social conventions attempt to cow young women into tidy, culturally acceptable female subject positions and illustrates the ways that young adult horror fiction frustrates such attempts by empowering teen girls to subvert the ideals of a patriarchally-constructed femininity.
Structured in three chapters, the author codifies the most popular modes within the genre: that of the ghost story, of the werewolf, and of witches. In the first chapter, “Subversive Spirits,” ghosts are categorized as protecting these young women from the patriarchy. They are shown to be a means through which teen girls are able to discover (or rediscover) repressed or denied knowledge that empowers the girl in a significant way. Pulliam considers in detail works such as Jade Green by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor, Stir of Bones by Nina Kiriki Hoffman, and Katherine Reiss’s Dreadful Sorry, all novels in which a teenage girl is helped by a ghostly presence. Pulliam also makes the astute observation that many of these ghost stories are set in earlier historical periods as a means of foregrounding the cultural shifts regarding gender, a move that allows a contemporary audience to identify more acutely with the Othered figure of the young girl.
In Chapter Two, “Blood and Bitches,” Pulliam argues that the curse of lycanthropy in works such as Blood and Chocolate by Annette Curtis Klause, “Boobs” by Suzy McKee Charnas, and the films Blood Moon and Ginger Snaps reveals the pressures put upon adolescent females to conform to a culturally-constructed feminine ideal. As such, female iterations of the werewolf become more monstrous than their male counterparts, as the trappings of lycanthropy—increased appetites for both food and sex, hirsuteness, anger—are stereotypically masculine traits, whereas when applied to a female, these traits create a “heightened monstrosity” because they subvert the feminine ideals of meekness, hairlessness, and suppression of various appetites. The transformation of lycanthropy complicates the already unstable adolescent body, but it also grants these girls power to resist the cultural construction of appropriate gender behavior and appearance.
Chapter Three, “An ye harm none, do as ye will,” focuses on the contemporary figure of the witch, the ultimate Other in a patriarchal society. This Otherness is linked with an affinity for and association with the unruly natural world, and using works such as Julie Hearn’s The Minister’s Daughter, Libba Bray’s Gemma Doyle trilogy, and the 1996 cult classic film The Craft, Pulliam illuminates the manner in which these young women eschew traditional figurations of “feminine behavior” by expressing sexual desires and resisting subordination because their supernatural powers allow them the freedom to do so. Pulliam considers the witch the most powerful of the three figures she considers here, and the teenage witch’s greatest strength, she argues, “is her feminist worldview rather than her magical powers.”
Throughout this work, Pulliam engages actively with both classic and current scholarship regarding the Young Adult and Horror genre as well as works of psychology that positions her work as conversant with both theory and science in related fields. Monstrous Bodies is a significant contribution in a field often minimized or trivialized, and inherent in the text is a convincing argument for the importance of the work that it does. Pulliam does an excellent job of investigating the means through which the works in this hybrid genre portray common adolescent concerns with developing sexuality, position within a peer group, and the discovery and establishment of identity. She constructs the monstrous Other as a sort of double for the adolescent self, and the manner in which the Other threatens traditional social stability and order informs this figuration of the adolescent female Otherness. She sees these different types of stories—the ghost story, the lycanthrope, and the witch—as different models for resistance to the restrictions of patriarchal gender roles, and more importantly, she foregrounds the manner in which these restrictive roles are often made invisible, foregone conclusions that are confronted and illuminated by the fictions Pulliam discusses. This is not only an astute observation, but it is an important one, in a text that is filled with astute, important observations. Monstrous Bodies challenges the way society attempts to yoke young women into acceptable cultural ideals and demonstrates how young adult horror is a place that is actively working against this systematic subjection. It is a truly wonderful, well-written work that both expands and contributes significantly to the field of feminist horror scholarship. ...more
This is a truly excellent book, and not merely because the field is so fallow. A critical collection on the Southern Gothic is hard to come by, so thiThis is a truly excellent book, and not merely because the field is so fallow. A critical collection on the Southern Gothic is hard to come by, so this certainly delivers in that regard, but apart from that, it is a truly marvelous essay collection that both defines the field and investigates what it means in the contemporary world. Spanning from the classics such as Faulkner, Welty, and McCullers to more modern fare such as the rise of the southern zombie and the swampy romanticism of Swamp Thing and True Blood, the collection investigates the genre both past and present, recontextualizing the modern implications of the southern gothic tradition as both a paean to the past and a dark legacy for the future....more
I am putting more Barthes into my thesis than I would have ever expected. But he is so damned quotable. And since Sofia Coppola composes her films likI am putting more Barthes into my thesis than I would have ever expected. But he is so damned quotable. And since Sofia Coppola composes her films like photographs, including a book on photography makes sense, no?...more
Wonderful compendium of essays on and relating to cult film, including such classics as Sontag's "Notes on Camp" and Benjamin's "Work of Art in the AgWonderful compendium of essays on and relating to cult film, including such classics as Sontag's "Notes on Camp" and Benjamin's "Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction."...more