Commentary: The Literary Teens

‘The Literary Teens’ is a project which explores how adolescence is represented in media, specifically books. It will presented in the forms of articles and reviews on https://theliteraryteens.wordpress.com/ , podcasts onhttps://soundcloud.com/welcome-to-the-dollhouse and additional content on Twitter (https://twitter.com/theliteraryteen). The reason I wanted to embark on this project is that it seems that the teenager is only portrayed in one way in modern literature; they’re living in a dystopian world and fighting for their lives. As fun as this sounds, I went looking for more variety. because ‘YA books present the teenage perspective in a fundamentally uncritical way’.[1]
Cindy Lou Daniels writes ‘Some still believe that YA literature is merely a secondary category of childlike storytelling—didactic in nature—and unworthy of serious literary evaluation’[2] but his pigeonholing is damaging because it doesn’t allow room for exploration. This genre-shaming means that even though some of the books, such as Divergent by Veronica Roth, are the most successful on the publishing market, the stigma surrounding those influences reviews and criticism. I wanted this project to serve as a reminder as to how important and influential teenage characters actually are. The criticism of the YA novel was already being discussed back in 1961, when the ‘junior novel’ as it was called, was a relatively new concept — ‘The remedy is not to kill the genre, but to find more competent criticism for it, quicker recognition and stronger support for the books that do present true values and good literature, and sounder evaluation of character and style’.[3]

The WordPress website serves as the centre of my projects, where I will upload articles about anything and everything to do with teenagers and books. With a fun and informal tone, tongue-in-cheek writing, the website will be a place for discovery and debate.

There have been many literary adaptations done successfully online but an amassed retrospective on one subject could continue to grow because it is not tied down to one text/subject. With teenage literature, there is an infinite amount of material to explore and theories to discuss so the conversation will be able to continue. Also, as long as the publishing industry does not decide to stop producing teen fiction, there will always be new material for the project. In the long term, it would be sensible for my project to use crowdsourcing and build a community which can contribute reviews and articles to the website. This would allow for a variety opinions and encourage debate. It would also means that a larger amount content could be produced because, as one person, it is impossible for me to read all the Young Adult books out there. At the moment, I am encouraging interactivity on Twitter, asking questions about people’s favourite books and using this as a source of inspiration on what I should write about next. Looking at the success of pynchonwiki.com, which provides detailed Wikipedia analysis of all of Thomas Pynchon’s work[4], I feel The Literary Teens could replicate it. On pynchonwiki.com, all of the content is provided by super-fan contributors who are willing to dedicate their time. With YA fiction having such a huge following, there will definitely be people out there willing to write about their favourite books. However, the Pynchon Wiki contributors are moderated and chosen based on their answer to the question ‘Why do you want to become an editor/contributor of Pynchon Wiki?’. I would have develop my own application form to make sure my contributors were appropriate. On the Reviews sections of the website, there will also be a ‘Guest’ tab to distinguish the contributions from my own.

Doing a podcast was my way of doing something a bit different; the medium is entering its golden age at the moment and they are great way of conveying information. The positives are that they are fluid and lively, listening to someone talk passionately about something is more engaging than reading about it and also, they don’t necessarily have to be that long. The negative is that it is difficult to do them alone. I found having no one to discuss with and create a flowing conversation made my podcast seem a little flat and one-sided. Next time I would find a partner who is interested in my project to help me debate and discuss. Using multimedia as part of my project allows me to be more entertaining while still getting my points across. John A. Walsh writes that using multimedia creates ‘opportunities to create dynamic scholarship that updates and changes as the scholar’s ideas change and evolve, abandoning the constraints of the static monograph’.[5] Looking at other literary digital adaptions, such The Lizzie Bennett Diaries[6] and I Didn’t Write This[7], I was inspired to create an entertaining and versatile project that could grow with the audience. The Lizzie Bennett Diaries had weekly videos but you could also follow all the characters on Twitter and the companies in the fictional universe even had real websites to visit. ‘Reading an article or book is very effective but listening to someone talk to you, hearing their voice talking to you about something you are interested in increases engagement. The archived podcast also allows people to go back and listen at their convenience’.[8] To further the audible addition to my project, I also created a series of mixtapes, which were playlists made on Spotify. I would pick a character or a book and choose some songs that I thought would best tell the story or create an appropriate atmosphere.

I felt it was necessary to add a social media channel, in addition to my website, because it would allow more growth and interaction with a community. I could connect with my readers and then organic relationships could grow. It also gave me a free space to advertise my writing. Twitter allowed me to retweet other articles of interest, quotes, pictures and I knew that this is where I would find my target demographic.

My aim to create a hub for people who love Young Adult fiction and teenage characters, with never-ending reviews and interesting articles. I also wanted explore some unchartered territory in the literary world because there some YA books outs there that aren’t given the kudos they deserve because they are literary fiction, such as The Catcher in the Rye or The Outsiders.

 

 

 

[1] Graham, Ruth ‘Against YA’. Slate Book review. June 5th 2014 [Online] Available from: http://www.slate.com/articles/arts/books/2014/06/against_ya_adults_should_be_embarrassed_to_read_children_s_books.html [12/05/16]

[2] Daniels, Cindy Lou ‘Literary Theory and Young Adult Literature: The Open Frontier in Critical Studies’. The ALAN Review, Winter, 2006, pp. 78-84

[3] Alice Krahn, Marjorie Hoke, Anne Emery and James L. Summers, “Junior Novel –Pro and Con” Top of the News, XVII (May 1961) pp. 26-27

[4] Pynchon Wiki A Literary Wiki Exploring the Novels of Thomas Pynchon 16/05/16, Available from: http://pynchonwiki.com/ [Online] [Accessed 17 May 2016]

[5] A Companion to Digital Literary Studies, ed. Susan Schreibman and Ray Siemens. Oxford: Blackwell, 2008. http://www.digital humanities.org/companionDLS/) Essay 6.

 

[6] The Lizzie Bennett Diaries, 2012, [Online] Available from: https://www.youtube.com/user/LizzieBennet [Accessed 10 May 2016]

[7] I Didn’t Write This, 2014. [Online] Available from: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL9KxVMEYAaYJzVKZ8QWvhoT7_GZuxhBiF [Accessed 10 May 2016]

[8] Shane, Deborah ‘Buzz Suggests That Podcasting is Becoming More Popular’ Small Business Trends 2012. [Online] Available from: http://smallbiztrends.com/2012/10/podcasting-is-becoming-more-popular.html [12/05/16]

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