Contemporary Feminine Aesthetics After Postfeminism
My research investigates the relationship between 1990s-early 2000s postfeminist discourses of empowerment and constructions of female subjectivity in contemporary fictional genres aimed at women and girls. First, I explore the loss, disillusionment and failure that permeates narratives such as Girls (Dunham 2012–2017), which focuses on women in their late twenties whose embodiment of freedom through their spending power, unlimited choice of consumer products and performance of an “up for it” sexuality has not produced the anticipated happiness or self-fulfilment. Second, I focus on girlhood coming-of-age narratives like The Hunger Games (Collins 2008–2010), which are increasingly producing young femininity using the language and aesthetics of resilience, constructing girls as capable of overcoming and adapting to bleak and unforgiving social conditions. An acute disconnect exists between the media-reported failures of an older millennial generation to adapt to social circumstances radically altered by the 2008 global and financial crisis, and the fictional successes of girls constructed as capable of overcoming much harsher obstacles. Therefore, the primary aim of the thesis is to better understand the impact of postfeminist empowerment discourse on women whose coming of age coincided with the height of its cultural ubiquity, and to explore the continuing postfeminist legacy in girlhood coming-of-age genres. To do this, I focus on the shifting affective registers of postfeminist culture and the role feelings and emotions play in constituting female subjectivity.
The geographical island is a recurring setting for narrative fictions. Within a number of literary narratives the island presents a space at a remove from the behaviour, landscape and culture of the central character’s homeland where familiar structures are readily heightened, critiqued or subverted.