Lesbian Love Stories in Young Adult Literature and Graphic Memoirs
: Narrative Constructions of Same-Sex Relationships Between Female Characters Across Genre and Form

  • Erica Gillingham

    Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


    This thesis examines the narrative constructions of same-sex relationships between
    female characters in lesbian love stories published for a young adult audience in the
    United States in English from 1976 to 2016. The thesis argues that there has been a
    significant shift in the portrayals of lesbian and female bisexual characters, and their
    same-sex relationships, during this period, as well as a dramatic increase in the diversity
    of these stories for a young adult audience. The interrogation of narrative and
    characterisation takes into consideration the ways these lesbian love stories participate
    in and are shaped by genre, discussing generic conventions from romance, fantasy,
    science fiction, and memoir and, to a lesser extent, magical realism and historical
    fiction. The investigation also privileges the idea of love, in its multitude of forms, as
    the central theme of the selected novels, and for the research project as a whole.
    Through the examination of the research corpus, the thesis, first, proposes three key
    narratives elements—the revelation (coming out), the first kiss, and the resolution—that
    serve a particular function in the representations of these characters and their romantic
    relationships in YA novels and graphic memoirs. The analysis then includes case
    studies on the work of two prominent authors of lesbian and bisexual young adult
    novels, Julie Anne Peters and Malinda Lo, in respective chapters. The thesis will next
    explore philosophically motivated fiction on the theme of love. Finally, a study of
    graphic memoirs will consider genre in the portrayals of lesbian love stories in the
    comics form. Overall, the thesis illustrates a spectrum of storytelling—from the
    conventional romance narrative to novels that are deeply invested in the depiction of
    love, in all its forms—through the depictions of same-sex relationships between female
    characters for a young adult audience.
    Date of Award26 Feb 2018
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • University of Roehampton
    SupervisorNicki Humble (Supervisor) & Alison Waller (Supervisor)

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