The Arabic adolescent novel: tracing constructions of adolescence within texts and in the discourses of authors, publishers and readers

Abou Ghaida, Susanne (2020) The Arabic adolescent novel: tracing constructions of adolescence within texts and in the discourses of authors, publishers and readers. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

Due to Embargo and/or Third Party Copyright restrictions, this thesis is not available in this service.


Underpinned by a constructionist approach to adolescence, this doctoral thesis investigates the ways in which Arab adolescents are represented in the field of Arabic adolescent fiction. More specifically, it examines how they are spoken of in the publishing scene, how they are imagined as characters in novels labelled as adolescent fiction and how these ideas are received by young people themselves. The focus will be on contemporary realistic adolescent literature published since 2000.
The study adopted a multi-pronged research strategy that included interviews with ten authors and publishers of Arabic adolescent fiction, close reading of two selected novels and fieldwork with a class of adolescent readers in a state secondary school in Beirut, Lebanon to capture their responses to Arabic adolescent fiction. The constructs elaborated by these actors and within the novels were then examined in relation to wider discourses on adolescence and youth, including dominant developmental paradigms.
The authors and publishers interviewed engaged with several constructs of adolescence, such as the developmental adolescent, the adolescent as future citizen and the adolescent consumer with unprecedented access to the world of information and global culture. In turn, adolescent literature was envisioned as needing to appeal and address the needs of this target group while also fulfilling its socialising function in preparing young people for their future as mature adults and active citizens at home in their cultural identity.
Two Arabic adolescent novels selected by the research participants were analysed: Cappuccino by Fatima Sharafeddine (2017) and The Mystery of the Falcon Eye by Taghreed Najjar (2014). The novels presented different models of adolescence and charted the growth of the main protagonists towards greater comfort in their gender and national identities while they remained entrenched in relations of interdependence with family members, peers and community members. The novels also explored young people’s power negotiations with oppressive structures such as the patriarchy and military occupation, presenting avenues for resistance and societal change as well as drawing the limits of youthful agency.
Three main themes emerged from the fieldwork with adolescent readers, and they bore evidence to the cultural positioning of the students as well as the cultural content embedded in the texts, in line with Brooks & Browne’s (2012) theory of culturally situated reader response. To begin with, they engaged on an ethical level with the characters in the novels, and their moral evaluations were informed by ideologies of justice, age as well as models of social relationships that prioritised interdependence. Secondly, the students demonstrated an awareness of the links between larger societal and political structures and the personal struggles of characters through the issues raised by the novels. Finally, there was an intense debate around language variety, in particular the use of Colloquial Arabic in the novels. This discussion touched on the dual role of literature to educate and entertain, the links between standard Arabic and cultural identity and the existence of linguistic considerations specific to literature that targets adolescents.
By venturing into relatively under-studied fields, the study makes a case for more research into Arabic adolescent novels and adolescent readers’ engagement with literature as well as their increased visibility in the scholarship on international children’s literature, Arab literature, literacy and the cultural history of the region. In addition, it also advocates for research and teaching methodologies with the adolescent at their centre rather than in the margins.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Arabic adolescent fiction, constructions of adolescence, reader response.
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PI Oriental languages and literatures
P Language and Literature > PZ Childrens literature
Colleges/Schools: College of Social Sciences > School of Education > Creativity Culture and Faith
Supervisor's Name: McAdam, Dr. Julie and Arizpe, Professor Evelyn
Date of Award: 2020
Embargo Date: 11 July 2023
Depositing User: Dr Susanne Abou Ghaida
Unique ID: glathesis:2020-81515
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 13 Jul 2020 05:58
Last Modified: 13 Jul 2020 05:58

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item