For my final project, I will be working on a part of my portfolio exam. Although the exam has 4 parts and I am hoping to be finished with at least 2 of them before the end of this semester, I will only be using one piece for workshop because that is all that I have had time to focus on so far.
The piece that I will be submitting for workshop is the draft of a 10 page conference paper. The entirety of my portfolio exam will be focusing on the topic of queerness in literature, but for the conference paper I am specifically focusing on Queer Young Adult literature. My idea for the paper is to trace the emergence of Queer YA fantasy novels, and what fantasy means when dealing with queer characters.
In the broadest sense, my interest in queer young adult fiction stems from my own lack of exposure to queer texts in my young adult years. Reading fictional stories was a large part of my own coming out experience, but I did not have any books to refer to. Instead, I had to rely on online stories and finding queer subtexts in classic texts like The Great Gatsby. I know that YA novels with gay and otherwise queer characters existed, but they were never made readily available to me. As such, I study this literature as a means of bringing it into the classroom so that others can be exposed to it.
While I am not entirely sure how the idea to focus on fantasy novels came to me, I think that part of me wanted to look at texts that I would not normally look at, and another part of me just wanted an excuse to read some of the books that have been on my reading list but that I haven’t felt like I had the time to read.
So far in my process, I have spent a great deal of time researching which books I should look at, and admittedly getting a little carried away in this part of the process. I have been reading as many q ueer YA books as I can get my hands on, starting from the book that is widely considered to be the first in the field. As I have been reading, I have been trying to find trends within queer YA books that might have led to the fantasy novels and thought about the interplay between queerness and fantasy.
If I am able to finish this essay, the other two parts of the portfolio exam that I am considering doing are: an annotated bibliography exploring queerness and gender-nonconformity since the Medieval era until now in order to show that you cannot ascribe the labels we use to identify gender and sexuality to figures from before the time that these terms were coined, and a syllabus focusing on the concept of coming out as any subversive identity, including but not necessarily related to gender or sexuality. Any suggestions for texts for either of these projects would also be greatly appreciated.