‘Youth theory’: a response to aetonormativity
Seymour, J 2015, '‘Youth theory’: a response to aetonormativity', TEXT , vol. 32, Why ya?: researching, writing and publishing young adult fiction in Australia, special iss.
This paper proposes a ‘Youth Theory’ of analysis which constructs youth as a site of transition, rather than an ‘other’ figure, and examines the relationship that young people have with the dominant social discourse (adulthood). The theory is similar to Marxist theory, except instead of focusing on arbitrary class barriers, it focuses on a culturally determined age-based power hierarchy. Fiction for young readers is unusual in the publishing discourse because the target audience of the genre does not (usually) produce the texts they consume. Instead, Children’s and Young Adult fiction (YA) is produced by adult authors. This exclusion of the young readers’ voice can marginalise and (eventually) colonise young adults as readers because it privileges the voice of the ‘powerholders’, or adults. Young readers differ from other marginalised groups, such as women, people of colour, and LGBTQ+ people, because there is no youth-specific theory of textual analysis in the way that there is Feminism, Post-colonialism, and Queer theory. This paper addresses this gap in critical practice; it models the use of Youth Theory by analysing contemporary fiction for young readers through an agebased interpretive framework. It examines how aetonormativity is portrayed in fiction, and how young characters are shown reacting to it.