The Girl with a Spoon for a Soul

This thesis project is comprised of two parts, a creative project and accompanying analytical essay. The creative portion, a full-length, middle grade juvenile novel, is entitled The Girl with Spoon for a Soul and chronicles the adventures of a young girl named Nerma Lee, whose struggles to fit into her new suburban neighborhood send her through a magic portal and into the topsy-turvy, gothic-inspired town of Small Hours. There, she encounters a society in which the rules for normativity have been turned upside down, and she must not only come to terms with what it means to be “different” but what it means to actively choose one’s own path and take responsibility for the world around her. In the analytical portion of the thesis, entitled “‘Beware the Stranger’: Normativity, Misfitting, and Transformation in The Girl with a Spoon for a Soul,” I use the lenses of social history and theory, disability studies, phenomenology, and the philosophy of imagination to explore the connections between conformity, ableist ideologies, and transformation. First, I look briefly at what I call “the monster descends” archetype that frequently appears in narratives centered around disabled figures, a model I have chosen to use in writing my own novel but from which I intentionally deviate in the effort to dispel stereotypes of disability. I next examine the construction of Suburbia, its role in shaping and propagating the myth of the American Ideal, and its systematic exclusion of the Other. This leads into a discussion rooted in disability studies and phenomenology in which I apply disability theorist Rosemarie Garland-Thomson’s concept of misfit to show how environment influences the lived experiences of my characters. I then use the philosophy of imagination to argue that the trauma of misfit must be addressed not only exteriorly but interiorly through transformative imagination. Finally, I discuss the role of literature in transforming or solidifying previously held notions for the young reader.

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Work Title The Girl with a Spoon for a Soul
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Penn State
Creators
  1. Iva M. Viddal
Keyword
  1. juvenile fiction
  2. suburbia
  3. fantasy
  4. Humanities
  5. disability studies
  6. phenomenology
  7. middle grade novel
License All rights reserved
Work Type Masters Thesis
Deposited April 15, 2020

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