Young Adults and the Contemporary Gothic

Authored by: Hannah Priest

The Gothic World

Print publication date:  October  2013
Online publication date:  October  2013

Print ISBN: 9780415637442
eBook ISBN: 9780203490013
Adobe ISBN: 9781135053062


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This chapter offers a critical analysis of the use of what might be termed Gothic tropes, motifs and themes in the newly emergent genre of young adult (YA) “dark” or “paranormal” romance (Wood and Stone 2011). As I will show, Stephenie Meyer's Twilight series, comprising Twilight (2005), New Moon (2006), Eclipse (2007) and Breaking Dawn (2008), is often situated as a locus classicus by other texts within the genre; as such, my examination will be led by a consideration of Meyer's vampire series and its filmic adaptations. However, I will offer other examples from the genre, to illustrate the ways in which central concepts are handled across texts and to offer some sense of generic convention. The defining terms of this chapter — “young adult” and “contemporary” — are guided by marketing labels rather than critical or cultural theory. Alison Waller has indicated some of the issues inherent in the term “young adults”: “the label is not often recognised and usually refers less to the age, experience or social group, and more to the products and lifestyle aimed at that sector” (Waller 2009: 9). Chris Richards argues for an even more contextually specific understanding of the term: although the “category has some continuing, if confused, meaning in book publishing,” there are “no ‘young adult’ films and TV shows” (Richards 2008: 8). Further confusion is added by the abbreviation of “young adult” to YA, thus removing any clear indicator of either youth or adulthood, and the lack of clarity regarding the intended audience of YA or “teen” narratives. As such, my use of the term “young adult” is determined by the generic descriptors used by the publishing industry, rather than with reference to an intended readership. Given the centrality of Meyer's vampire series to this genre, my use of “contemporary” is based on the publication date of Meyer's Twilight.

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