Material Feminism, Adolescent “Becoming,” and Libba Bray’s Beauty Queens

Roberta Seelinger TritesIllinois State University
Vol. 36, No. 2 (Fall 2017), 379-400

This article interrogates the ways that material feminism can expand literary understandings of materiality, adolescence, and gender in the female young adult novel. Drawing from such theorists as Karen Barad and Rosi Braidotti, the article defines “mattering,” “becoming,” and “knowing in being” as forces that affect how adolescence is depicted in the young adult novel Beauty Queens (2011) by Libba Bray. Specifically, material feminism invites scholars to interrogate the mutually implicating relationships between the discursive and the material world of adolescence. Additionally, material feminism considers how the material world affects discourses about the female teenager in the overlapping areas of the body, technology, physical artifacts, and the natural world. In this formulation, identity is not a purely discursive function; it is formed in part through interactions with the material. Furthermore, philosophical interrogations of representationality elucidate the ontological gap between that which is enacted and its representation. These philosophical concepts are applied to Beauty Queens to position it as a material feminist novel.

Mary Wollstonecraft Sojourner Truth Margaret Atwood Abigail Adams Amy Tan H.D. Simone de Beauvoir Zora Neale Hurston Frances Burney Virginia Woolf

"The white saxifrage with the indented leafe is moste commended for the breakinge of the Stone."

— Turner, Herbal, III, 68 [1568]