Research Proposal

For my research paper I will be working with gothic young adult (YA) literature. The texts I will be reading in conjunction with my research are: The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster, Coraline by Neil Gaiman, and Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs. These works will help me explore the following research questions: (1) Why is gothic literature a popular genre among children? (2) How does gothic literature reflect the psychological struggles, conflicts, identity, and advancements of young adults? (3) How do portals, time loops, and other magical passages convey the “unknown”? (4) How are adults perceived in YA novels and how does this change with the passage through the unknown in each text?

My secondary sources will analyze the texts is a few ways. I will start by analyzing the genres that are prevalent to my research. I will navigate gothic literature using Elizabeth MacAndrew’s book, The Gothic Tradition in Fiction. This book will be specifically useful in analyzing the conventions of gothic fiction. In addition I will work with Farah Mendelson’s Rhetorics of Fiction to analyze the use portals in the texts. Michelle Pagni Stewert’s essay: “Joseph Bruchac’s “Dark” Novels: Confronting The Terror of Adolescence” will lay a strong foundation for my argument and allow me to connect gothic literature to children’s literature. While speaking about children’s literature I will use Professor Carrie Hintz’s textbook (written with Eric L. Tribunella) Reading Children’s Literature to discuss the conventions of children’s literature. I found some essays that discuss identity as well as the uncanny appeal found in the goth subculture and I will use these essays to develop the gothic YA structure formed in Gaiman’s book, as well as Riggs and Juster’s works (the essays are: “An Eye for an I: Neil Gaiman’s Coraline and Questions of Identity”, by David Rudd and “Kid Goth” by Dana Goodyear). To support the rite of passage idea, I will use Emily Stier Adler and Roger Clark’s essay “Adolescence: A literary Passage.” I will need to find more sources that speak about the effects of children’s literature and maybe some psychological sources that deal with the effects of combining fear and literature. (In addition I found a book called The Gothic in Children’s Literature: Haunting the Borders that is a compilation of essays but it is not available through online sources or the library, so I am not sure if I will use it yet). Through those sources I will attempt to create a thorough understanding of the underlying psychological and fantastical uses of gothic children’s literature.

Through my research I would like to explore the trope of the “unknown” in gothic YA literature that is used to create a rite of passage for the character(s) to pass through. This marks the metaphoric journey of the ambiguities associated with maturing. I would like to analyze the texts using sources on genre and discuss the books’ adherence to the conventions set forth by the genres. My research will explore the many conventions of YA literature, such as talking animals, the rite of passage, and the perception of adults as phonies. In addition, I believe it is important to address the texts from a psychological viewpoint. YA literature shapes the minds of many children around the world. With the dystopian genre on the rise it is curious why so many young adults are drawn to such dark literature. Therefore, it is important to understand and analyze the theory and purpose behind these texts.

2 thoughts on “Research Proposal”

  1. Hi Zahava!
    As a person who is in love with all of your primary sources, I can only wish you tons of luck! Your research questions feel very solid, and I’m particularly interested in the third and fourth questions. I feel that you and Kelly will be able to share a lot of sources. Kids are sort of drawn to portals and the darkness that lies behind such portals. I’m just wondering if the kids are the ones drawn to these works, or if books like this are written for kids, as it shows a rite of passage.
    One thing that I’m wondering about is your classification of Tollbooth as gothic. It’s got the feel, for sure, but what makes a novel gothic? I know it’s a mixture of time period, mood, and overall message, and I think that Tollbooth would fall under this, but I just don’t know how you plan on defining gothic. I look forward to finding out!
    I think that you’re extremely solid on your secondary sources (how did you find all of those? I am beyond impressed), and really think you’re onto something amazing! Good luck, and see you at the library! Be well.

  2. Hi Zahava!
    I really love your topic! I haven’t read any of the books you’ll be using as primary sources but from what you’ve written it seems like you’ll be researching and discussing some really interesting things!
    I think your questions are quite straightforward and well thought out. I also think the idea of the rite of passage in these novels being explored through the unknown is a very important question to explore and incorporate. It seems like you have a lot of secondary sources that cover just about everything you’ll be focusing on, which is great. Like me, you said you still need to find a few sources that discuss the psychological effects children may have to these kinds of books, or why (psychologically as well) gothic literature has become so popular in young audiences. I think these are important things to look into to really help you put your paper together.
    Like Chani said, it looks like you have a really solid foundation to get you started on your paper! Love what you have so far. Also, thanks for all your help and suggestions for my paper!

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