This co-taught seminar explores the controversial cultural debates that have grown around the publishing phenomenon of Young Adult (YA) literature. Since the international success of Harry Potter, other blockbuster series – including The Hunger Games, Twilight, The Mortal Instruments and the Divergent series – have emerged. Their combined impact has radically changed the ways in which YA literature is written, produced, marketed, discussed and read by audiences spanning all age groups. In the wake of this development, critics and YA authors have begun to engage in a lively and often polemic debate about YA’s potential inclusion in the canon, about the definition of literary value, the role of fandoms and fan fiction, and about the function of social media both as a marketing tool and as a tool for serious critical engagement.
The course will consist of four parts, each of which introduces students to a different set of methods for studying YA literature as a literary and cultural phenomenon. Course parts are taught by Dr. Boehm unless otherwise noted. Part 1, “Theoretical Perspectives”, provides course participants with a theoretical toolkit for the study of the changing nature of the book market and of newly emerging roles for authors, readers and mediators (e.g. bloggers and vloggers). Part 2, “A Cultural History of Comics: Censorship and Youth Culture”, taught by Dr. Manuel Trummer (Kulturwissenschaft), takes a historical perspective and looks at pivotal 20th-century moments in which existing cultural definitions of “youth” came under pressure as conservative forces pushed for the censorship of certain groups of comics. Part 3, “YA, Literary Analysis and the Canon Debate”, reads two critically acclaimed YA texts (Margo Lanagan’s Tender Morsels and Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief) and uses these novels to think about the construction of literary value and the cultural forums that shape public opinion in this regard. Part 4, “Working in YA-Publishing”, consists of a co-taught workshop with YA-literature editor Emily Huggins (Ueberreuter Verlag, Berlin), who will discuss the entire process of editing, producing and marketing YA-novels with us. She will also talk about the influence of the British and American book markets on the German market. There will be a hands-on segment to the workshop as well where we will simulate individual steps in the production of a new YA-hit.