Genres that turn on you

by on Mar.29, 2011

I don’t at all like the label “young adult” literature—offspring of consumer capitalism, ever ready to classify and to categorize and to market. It’s a developmental psych marker that envisions a reader, reading time, and reading economy that’s linear, sequential, stable, straight, contained, controlled. But what if these want to contest sequentiality, and/or perform temporal drags, and/or anachronasm, and/or leak?

Margaret Anne Doody writes that it is “unfair” to keep the books of L.M. Montgomery, author of the Anne of Green Gables series, “pent up within categories marked Children’s Books and Female Books and Canadian Literature.” I found it very interesting that Montgomery unknowingly modelled her heroine after a picture of the artists’ model, Evelyn Nesbit. Nesbit’s husband allegedly abused her (their earliest sexual encounter, Wikipedia hints, was him forcing himself on her in an “isolated German castle”) and certainly killed her ex-lover, later divorcing Nesbit. The scandal caused by the murder case trial haunted Nesbit: suicide attempts, failed career.

Surely the narrative-world of Anne’s occult double (glam/awful) is one clue as to why Montgomery’s narrative-worlds must escape an accounting-for in the expected categories. Reader, take note. Young adult literature tied to its occult doubles can (will) become a channel for abnormalizing, paranormalizing genre practices.

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