I have just finished reading The Panopticon by Jenni Fagan, but rather than jump right into a review, I want to think of this novel’s place in my inner list of fiction dealing with what it is to be a girl. Literature of the Girl is, most generally speaking, fiction which deals with coming-of-age, particularly from a female perspective. The term ‘girl’ is rather billowy, so as to encompass more years of development than are normally considered to be part of the experience of girlhood. I try to steer towards complex and poetic narratives, or especially searing ones.
Here is the caveat: I am aware that I am not an authority, given how narrow my reading has been and the lack of theory I’ve managed to push through. I wrote a little on the topic last year after reading Green Girl (see below) and I don’t think my perspective has really matured much since then. A few more books added, and that’s about it. But at any rate, if I were to design a university course of Literature of the Girl, here is what it would look like today:
1. The Tale of Genji (thinking particularly of ch5, ‘Wakamurasaki’) by Murasaki Shikibu
2. Green Girl by Kate Zambreno + Another Country by Anjali Joseph
3. The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark + The White Bird Passes by Jessie Kesson
4. The Panopticon by Jenni Fagan + How the Light Gets In by M.J. Hyland
5. The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
6. Humanimal: A Project for Future Children by Bhanu Kapil + Domestication Handbook by Kristen Stone
7. Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys + Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
8. I Await the Devil’s Coming by Mary MacLane
9. The Voyage Out by Virginia Woolf
10. A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing by Eimear McBride + I Have Blinded Myself Writing This by Jess Stoner
I have tried to pair like or unlike books that might create good friction. Where I could not think of a pairing, I left the book out on its own, hoping that one day I will think of something. As I said, I am painfully aware of the limits of my reach. I haven’t read Mary MacLane’s book, and I’ve only just started A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing but they seem to fit.
What essentials of Literature of the Girl am I missing? Whole swaths from Oceania and Africa and Asia. I am learning as I go. By the time I land a job as a lecturer, I hope I’ll have a more representative list in hand, with twenty or so titles on it. Who should I add?