'The Odds Are Never in Our Favor’: Constructions of Adolescence in Contemporary Young Adult Dystopian Fiction and Its Potential for the EFL Classroom
Supervisor: Prof. Dr. Maria Eisenmann
Young adult dystopian fiction has been experiencing an unprecedented wave of – critical and commercial – success in recent years. Combining thrilling coming-of-age tales, romance and adventure plots with pointed cultural and social critique of trends to be observed in our own society, these novels do not merely please and entertain readers. They also offer valuable lessons consistent with some of the central tenets of inter- and transcultural language learning. Engaging with “pressing global concerns [such as] liberty and self-determination, environmental destruction and looming catastrophe, questions of identity, and the increasingly fragile boundaries between technology and the self”, these novels have “the capacity to frighten and warn” (Basu, Broad & Hintz 2013, 1) and thus offer both, a form of imaginative escape and, at times very explicit, didacticism. It is this didacticism intrinsic to dystopian writing which offers enormous potential for any classroom context, including the EFL classroom.
One reason for the genre’s popularity with adolescent readers may be that dystopia can be read as a powerful metaphor for adolescence itself (cf. Hintz & Ostry 2003, 9): Both dystopia and adolescence have been conceptualized as precarious, liminal states of turmoil and crises and transitional phases of becoming. By addressing some of the concerns most pressing and challenging to contemporary teenagers and placing them in the wider social and political context of the dystopian society, young adult dystopias may thus speak to their intended readership in very specific ways.
The aim of this doctoral dissertation is to explore the implications of Hintz and Ostry’s metaphor for the EFL context. Through an analysis of selected textual examples from the genre, it seeks to demonstrate the benefits of implementing young adult dystopian fiction in the EFL classroom.