Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in English (PhD)

Degree Level





David A. Jolliffe

Committee Member

Sean Connors

Second Committee Member

Sean Dempsey


adolescence, adolescent literature, composition pedagogy, english education, literacy, young adult literature


There is a substantial and growing body of critical theory on young adult literature (YAL), and there are a multitude of publications dealing with how secondary English/ELA teachers incorporate YAL in their classroom. From a curricular perspective, however, YAL is still most often considered inferior to canonical novels (i.e., “classics” or “great books”); thus, there has been no substantive or concerted movement to include YAL in secondary English/ELA at a curricular level, particularly in grades ten, eleven, and twelve. While the scholarship on YAL is extensive, discussion of YAL is most often devoted to pedagogy or literary theory, as if the two are mutually exclusive. Some works approach YAL from a critical perspective, using various theoretical lenses to interrogate YAL as one would with any other type of literature. Other works are devoted to demonstrating to pre-service or active teachers how to appropriately incorporate children’s literature and YAL into the classroom.

This project interrogates the current curricular environment that does not value YAL adequately, examines novels written for adolescents through multiple theoretical lenses, and demonstrates a context in which YAL can be meaningfully incorporated in the classroom. The goal of this project is not only to simply create connections that historicize YAL to justify its existence but also to firmly establish the role of YAL in high school English/ELA instruction. To do so, this project examines the Advanced Placement Literature and Composition curriculum as well as the Common Core State Standards for English/ELA, the works of YAL authors J.K. Rowling and John Green, and the implementation of a first-year composition course (FYC) that features YAL examined through the lens of adolescent identity. The guiding principles behind this project are the consideration of adolescence as a social construct—including discussions of brain science and cognition—and the incorporation of interpreting YAL through various critical lenses.

By providing multiple entry points to a discussion about how literacy and YAL can be approached together, this project brings literary theorists and secondary English/ELA teachers into a critical conversation about what the overarching goal of secondary literacy education is now and what it should be.

Available for download on Saturday, June 03, 2023