The dialogical imaginings of adolescent and youth: Discourses on gender, language, and power in student literary magazines from 1900 to 1929

Serena Shanken Skwersky, University of Pennsylvania


The central purpose of this thesis was to examine the images and discourses of gender and power in student-authored stories and to compare them to the images and discourses within adult literary constructions; in particular, those in advice books and polemics. What do youth and adolescent authored short stories tell us about gender, power and language? How did student authors between 1900 to 1929 define masculinities and femininities, how did they empower male and female characters, and how did they divide conversational space between conversers? I placed the gender analysis within context by comparing the students' concepts of gender, power, and language to the normative ones in advice books, and the radical ones of polemics. What was the process by which youths enter into dialogue with the various ideologies of their culture? What were the ways in which young people's stories reflected and rejected the dominant ideologies of their cultures? Working from the premise that there were many social dialects, which dialects influenced which groups of students? Students' forms were transformations of older forms. To what extent did the students' own youthful experiences take linguistic stylistic form, altering their heritage of older dialects? What can their stories tell us about process of the production and reproduction of ideologies? What were the generational shifts?^ A random sampling of 600 stories from six student literary magazines from the secondary and university/college level was the primary source of data for student discourses. One hundred and fifty advice books and polemics provided the normative contextual background.^ I uncovered dominant and muted discourses at the adult level. The former accented a sexually dichotomous world and the latter one resisted it. The school literary magazines varied in their transformations of adult discourses. All-male literary productions opted for the dominant message of sexual dichotomization. All-female productions drew on the muted discourse of advice books, emphasizing equal access to traits and strategies for both sexes. The coeducational literary production formed compromises between equalization and non-equalization. ^

Subject Area

Journalism|Women's Studies|Literature, American

Recommended Citation

Shanken Skwersky, Serena, "The dialogical imaginings of adolescent and youth: Discourses on gender, language, and power in student literary magazines from 1900 to 1929" (1988). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI8908392.