Monday, September 6th, 2010
Over the past weekend, academics gathered in Cambridge to discuss the neurological effects of current popular young-adult literature on adolescent minds. The Emergent Adult – Adolescent Literature and Culture saw participants coming from as far afield as Malaysia, Finland, Slovenia and South Africa, as well as from all over the United Kingdom to speak on a variety of subjects ranging from representations of gay and lesbian characters in YA fiction to portrayals of footbinding children’s literature.
It was an interdisciplinary conference, with speakers coming from neuroscience, sociological, education, and literary theory and criticism backgrounds. The keynote speakers were linguistic anthropologist Professor Shirley Brice Heath, from Brown University in the United States and British young-adult author Meg Rosoff.
Some of the papers focused on recent trends in young-adult literature, such as Stephenie Meyer’s immensely popular Twilight series (‘What is it about good girls and vampires’ by Anna Birketveit of University College Bergen, in Norway, ‘‘Vampire Craze’: Beyond the confines of the textual saga’ by Ghada Al-Yaqout of the University of Cambridge) and dystopian fiction such as Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games trilogy. Conference organiser Professor Maria Nikolajeva argued that the rise in post-apocalyptic fiction for young adults is connected to events such as the September 11th attacks in the US.