English 166

Special Topics: The Rise of the Young Adult

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Session Course Areas
2 Summer 2022 Baker-Gibbs, Ariel
TWTh 4-6:30 222 Wheeler D


How can the young adult be a figure of propaganda and a deeply subversive figure? And what does it do today? The adolescent has been at the crux of the American national imaginary for a century now, leveraged for its political power, its physical limitations, and its oddly slippery agency. This course will be a historical examination of young adult literature beginning with the post-WWII conceptions and anxieties around the newly coined “teenager” and youth cultures. We will look through the different renditions of the young adult through—for example—the "problem novels" of the 1960s and 70s, the chick lit and “sick lit” of the 80s, 90s and 00s, and the quick expansion of the YA marketing category at the turn of the millennium into YA dystopian fiction juggernauts such as The Hunger Games. We’ll end with a collaborative view on the genre and the form of the young adult as we might interpret it today in the 2020s. We will explore how the “young adult” figure and genre has been used both as a tool of indoctrination and as a subversive form of social critique—and some really fun rides! We’ll be working with a multimedia mixture of novels, films, episodes of television shows, social media and some critical readings.


Seventeenth Summer by Maureen Daly (1942)

This One Summer by Jill and Mariko Tamaki (2014)

The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton (1967)

Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret by Judy Blume (1970)

Chlorine Sky by Mahogany Browne  (2021)

The Changeover by Margaret Mahy (1984)

A Time To Die: One Last Wish by Lurlene McDaniel (1992)

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green (2012)

Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon (2015)

The Firekeeper’s Daughter by Angeline Boulley (2021)


Rebel Without A Cause (1955) --streamed via Lumière

Footloose (1984) --streamed via Lumière

Pen15 (2020) “Vendy Wiccany” (S2E3)

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