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Suzanna E. Henshon Ph.D. '05

Sue HenshonSue Henshon Ph.D. '05 recently presented a paper at The University of Cambridge in England conference on The Emergent Adult, Adolescent Literature and Culture. She discussed the topic, "Popular Culture for Young People: A Look at Recent Trends" at a conference sponsored by Homerton College.


Popular Culture for Young People: A Look at Recent Trends

By Suzanna E. Henshon, Ph.D.

What are young people reading?  How do reading tastes reflect popular culture?  In recent years, teens have gravitated to stories from the dark side.  When you walk into the young adult section of many bookstores, you will discover that teens are fascinated by witches (Bras & Broomsticks), wizards (Harry Potter), and vampires (Twilight).  What does this "escapist" literature tell us about modern adolescence? 

Many young readers are enchanted by the dark side and love stories that some might consider to be "cult" books.  But these books are alternative realities; it's more exciting to attend the prom with a hot vampire than a sweaty-palmed teenage boy.  I will look at trends and consider where popular culture is heading next.  While some critics might believe that vampires, witches, and wizards are exiting the landscape of young adult literature, I will evaluate the "lasting power" of these trends and determine the long-term impact upon reading tastes.  It is important to note that many of these series have foundations in classic literature; Harry Potter was inspired by Tom Brown, and the Twilight series was inspired by classics like Wuthering Heights and Romeo & Juliet. While these figures might appear to be new and enchanting, their roots spring from the deepest fears of the imagination and classic story patterns.

Suzanna E. Henshon, Ph.D. finished her degree at The College of William & Mary in 2005 and teaches full-time at Florida Gulf Coast University.  Dr. Henshon is the author of several books for young adults, including Mildew on the Wall (2004) and Spiders on the Ceiling (2006).