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Title: "Girls who kick butt" : a cognitive interpretation of Tamora Pierce's adolescent feminist fantasy
Author: Day, Kathryn Dawn
ISNI:       0000 0004 7652 4441
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2018
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Recent empirical evidence supports the theoretical stance that fiction provides vicarious experiences of imagined spaces and situations that can help shape our perceptions of the real world, our social others, and the self. The implications for this are especially interesting for adolescents, as their brains undergo a restructuring during puberty, making them more responsive to change in executive function and social cognition. Few scholars have yet addressed how texts instruct young readers in how to use their developing cognition to assess characters' emotions and behavior, and how fiction can potentially affect these readers' cognitive and emotional development. This thesis analyzes the concept that potential adolescent readers can engage with a novel's characters' thoughts and behaviors by using their improving cognitive abilities to transmute what is on the page into real-life coping strategies. This phenomenon is especially compelling when considering the potential impact empowered female characters could have on adolescent girl readers, since their malleable brain around puberty makes them more receptive to accepting ideas - such as a person's gender not being a limitation. I examine what the primary texts themselves offer to potential readers, and analyze certain aspects of the texts that could be linked to potential readers' cognitive and affective engagement. The primary texts I have chosen are Tamora Pierce's two narrative quartets (The Song of the Lioness and Protector of the Small) that deal with characters from the fictional land of Tortall, as they focus closely on female characters in fantasy realms who are breaking gendered stereotypes by training to become knights. Pierce's books are representative of this adolescent feminist fantasy. I extrapolate that findings from this thesis will be applicable to other kinds of adolescent feminist fantasy texts; namely, that adolescent feminist fantasy fiction can beneficially change potential readers behavior and cognition.
Supervisor: Nikolajeva, Maria Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: children's literature ; cognitive narratology ; feminist literary theory ; fantasy fiction ; adolescent feminist fantasy fiction ; Tamora Pierce ; empathy ; cognitive empathy ; mind-modeling ; moral empathy ; empathic concern ; gender ; schema ; scripts ; potential reader