Romancing the Dane : reviving (and revising) Ophelia in contemporary YA fiction
Hateley, Erica (2009) Romancing the Dane : reviving (and revising) Ophelia in contemporary YA fiction. In 2009 MLA Annual Convention, 27-30 December 2009, Philadelphia Marriott, Philadelphia, PA. (Unpublished)
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Shakespeare’s Ophelia has been circulated in recent times as a figure of the adolescent woman at risk. Mary Pipher’s best-selling and influential Reviving Ophelia (1994) argued that the “story of Ophelia […] shows the destructive forces that affect young women” (20). Without undermining Pipher’s project, this paper reads two contemporary YA romance novels—Lisa Fiedler’s Dating Hamlet (2002) and Lisa Klein’s Ophelia (2006)—in order to demonstrate that not only can Ophelia be appropriated as a figure of empowerment for young women today, but that such appropriations are, seemingly ironically, most powerfully rendered within the genre of romance; a genre long-maligned by feminists as recuperative of patriarchy.---------
These two novels stage interventions both into narratives of female adolescence as a time of being ‘at risk’ or ‘under threat’, and also into narratives of canonical literary patriarchy. Rather than a suicidal Ophelia, subject to the whims of men, these authors imagine Ophelias who take charge of their own destiny; who dictate their own romance and agency; who refuse to be subject to or subjected by, those scripts of cultural authority and heteronormative romance so often perceived as antithetical to female agency. In doing so, they force us to revise our own notions of the romance genre and the functions of canonical literary tradition in contemporary YA culture.
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