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

Abstract

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)

Cite this

Lesbian Love Stories in Young Adult Literature and Graphic Memoirs : Narrative Constructions of Same-Sex Relationships Between Female Characters Across Genre and Form
Gillingham, E. (Author). 26 Feb 2018

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis