Coming of Age in Postmodernity: Narratives of Intertextual Becoming
This dissertation investigates the act of writing and the role of intertextuality in
adolescent subject formation as it is depicted in Young Adult narratives. Focusing on the postmodern elements in contemporary coming-of-age narratives, such as the prevalence of intertextuality, the elaboration on social constructionism, and the complexity of social relativity, I argue that moving into the Lacanian symbolic order necessitates active communication with the realm of the social, only achieved through a reliance on the textual. In my analysis, I focus primarily on texts where self-writing, reference, pastiche, parody, and bricolage simultaneously emphasize but also attempt to assuage the disorienting effects of the current, fragmented, postmodern cultural landscape.
This dissertation accounts for the contention of many developmental theorists
who posit that the processes associated with coming-of-age today are more complex than perhaps ever before as a consequence of postmodernism as a social phenomenon. Because these processes associated with coming into adulthood differ for male and female protagonists in Young Adult literature, chapter one focuses on female protagonists who grapple with and/or resist normative prescriptions of womanhood through selfwriting while chapter two analyzes intertextuality in regard to masculine shame and subject formation. Chapter three discusses the pervasive thematic of death in YA literature and the relationship between representations of death and changing notions of selfhood in regard to the body. Lastly, the fourth and final chapter focuses on posthumanism and technofuturism in coming-of-age narratives where technology, by way of social network culture and mass media, complicates notions of selfhood and points toward the necessity for redefining coming into adulthood in our current, networked culture. The texts discussed in chapter four illustrate palpable anxieties pertaining to a loss of agency as a result of being inscribed by mass media. As a result, this dissertation concludes by emphasizing that what it means to come-of-age is drastically changing in the digital age. The anxiety stemming from changing conceptualizations of the self in chapter four speaks to the necessity to reconfigure how we think about the self in our current networked culture.