More than escapism : environmentalism and feminism in the young adult fantasy novels of Tamora Pierce
Hancock, Michael James
Fantasy literature is often dismissed as inferior work, whose primary purpose is to provide an escapist text for its readers. The purpose of this project is twofold: to show that fantasy actively engages social issues and to investigate how this engagement occurs, using the texts of young adult fantasy writer Tamora Pierce. Pierce’s works demonstrate how conventions of fantasy can be used and broken in order to create new perspectives on modern concerns. My study begins with an examination of fantasy literature and research, with emphases on J. R. R. Tolkien and Tzvetan Todrov. From there, I move on to discuss at length the three social issues most prevalent in Pierce’s work: environmentalism, feminism, and didacticism. In terms of environmentalism, animals are elevated above modern status, alien species create analogies to human affairs, and magic becomes a metaphor for responsible management and understanding of natural forces. Pierce’s treatment of feminism, through the portrayals of young female protagonists, has been challenged by critics for perpetuating the male-dominated system. However, a detailed study demonstrates a variety of different reactions and approaches to feminism that cannot be dismissed so easily. Both the environmentalism and the feminism in these novels suggest a desire on Pierce’s part to impart a didactic message to her young adult audience. While this message may not always be one that Pierce appears to intend, her nuanced approach to the often oversimplified fantasy binary of good and evil creates a worldview more compatible to that of her readers. Through Pierce and her work, fantasy is more than just escape- it fosters revitalization and reconsideration of the modern world.
DegreeMaster of Arts (M.A.)
CommitteeThorpe, Douglas; Relke, Diana M. A.; Muri, Allison; Vargo, Lisa
young adult literature