Is Holden Caulfield Still Real?: the body of theory and practice in young adult literature

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Harold Bloom’s observation finds illustration in the literary comparisons, cultural allusions and passing references to J. D. Salinger’s ‘timeless’ hero, which abound in various discourses of adolescence. Holden Caulfield is portrayed as the archetypal teenager, just as The Catcher in the Rye (1951) is often considered to be an archetypal teenage novel; yet both these assumptions are, to some extent, inaccurate. I would argue that popular assumptions about the figure of Holden Caulfield are symptomatic of a wider tendency within the discursive field of adolescence, to unquestioningly conflate fact and fiction, theory and representation. This essay traces the discursive sphere in which Holden Caulfield functions, both as a universalised image of the teenager, and as a literary forbear for young adult fiction. This specific example serves to introduce broader issues of how fictional constructs are intimately bound to factual and theoretical discourses of adolescence.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationChildhood, Adulthood and Children’s Literature
EditorsSebastian Chapleau (ed.)
PublisherPied Piper Publishing
Publication statusPublished - 2004

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