Reading Through the Doldrums: Engaging Adolescence Reparatively Through Contemporary Coming of Age Comic Texts
Miller, Michelle Marie
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In this dissertation, I explore the complicated emotional landscape of girls’ adolescence as represented in contemporary coming of age comic texts, to two ends. First, following the work of Eve Sedgwick, I seek to conduct and model reparative readings, which require the reader’s emotional investment in and vulnerability to her readings. In these readings, the reader stays open to surprise in making her interpretations; forgoing the knowledge she thinks she has on the subject at hand. Reading reparatively, adult educators have the ability to confer what Avery Gordon calls “complex personhood” on their research subjects, as well as part versions of themselves. Using psychoanalytic understandings of the work of adolescence, with DW Winnicott as my main interlocutor, I read growing up as difficult work, and adolescents’ acting out and expressing their bad feelings as evidence of that fact. Attending in turn to risk-taking and passionate love, hate and aggression, boredom and rejections of futurity and the relationship between reading and finding love both in and outside of the family, I read contemporary comic representations of girls growing up as offering adult readers valuable knowledge about both the self and the adolescents we encounter in our life and work. The dissertation ends on a call to incorporate comics in our educational practice; not exclusively as texts to teach young people, but for reading experiences in which we are ourselves implicated.