Mills and Fur: Feminism and Femininity in the Supernatural Romance

Western Sydney University
Publication year

Here's the abstract:

The contemporary supernatural romance genre is frequently dismissed as one dimensional and low quality; a genre for an undiscerning adolescent female audience that reproduces traditional and conservative ideologies of gender and sexuality. In this thesis I contest this dismissal of the supernatural romance, arguing that the genre contains multiple representations of femininity and female sexuality. These representations expose and rehearse the complex attitudes surrounding and held by adolescent girls regarding sexuality, femininity and romantic relationships in the early twenty-first century. My research focuses on analysis of Sisters Red by Jackson Pearce (2010), Low Red Moon by Ivy Devlin (2009), Red Riding Hood by Sarah Blakley-Cartwright (2011) and the Wolves of Mercy Falls series, Shiver, Linger, Forever and Sinner, by Maggie Stiefvater (2009, 2010, 2011, 2014). I argue that the texts feature progressive representations of adolescent female sexuality, presenting female sexual desire and pleasure as positive elements of adolescent girlhood. Simultaneously, however, traditional and repressive ideologies of femininity are reproduced, specifically the construction of women as inherently domestic as well as contemporary discourses on beauty, authenticity and effort. In doing so, the texts reveal contemporary ambiguity within attitudes surrounding adolescent girls and girlhood.

My analysis is organised around four main themes common to the texts: the representations of the supernatural, domesticity, scent and smell and food and feasting. I argue that these representations are determined by the contemporary supernatural romance’s location between or within not only the romance genre, but Young Adult (YA) fiction and the fairy tale tradition. Each of these genres explores liminal spaces that complicate binaries such as human/animal, masculine/feminine and real/supernatural. Within the texts studied, the influence of these genres on the four themes allows for complexity and contradictions within representations of femininity, female sexuality and (heterosexual) relationships. In conducting this research, I not only analyse the contemporary ambivalence surrounding adolescent girls and girlhood as it is represented within the texts but emphasise the importance of popular literature as a site in which these attitudes and anxieties can be explored, resisted and reproduced.