Exploring Urban Spaces in the Young Imagination: Untersuchungen Zur Großstadt in Der Kinder- Und Jugendliteratur Nach 2000
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Exploring Urban Spaces in the Young Imagination makes the case for taking seriously children's and young adult fiction as a topic worthy of scholarly analysis beyond a purely didactic focus. The recent explosion of interest in this literature among adult readers and the blurring of boundaries between adult and youth media demonstrate that it has become a powerful influence on popular culture and has captured the collective imagination. As the future inhabitants of urban spaces, paying close attention to children’s and youth perspectives can provide fresh lenses, with which to view the cultural construction of cityscapes. This dissertation examines post-millennium children’s and YA fiction and film. Drawing on theories of the spatial turn, my research provides five case studies on a variety of topics related to the contemporary metropolis – ranging from cognitive disability to environmental concerns. Specifically, it pays close attention to the inherent connections between the developing perceptions of metropolises and the various protagonists’ processes of identity formation. Beginning with Berlin, as portrayed in Andreas Steinhöfel’s popular Rico-und-Oskar-trilogy, my analysis explores the protagonist’s shifting perceptions of his urban surroundings while overcoming the limitations of his learning disability. Furthermore, my research shows how Steinhöfel’s Der mechanische Prinz utilizes the cityscape as a mirror for the protagonist’s psyche and how his knowledge of the Berlin subway system contributes to his self-healing. In contrast, China Miéville’s Un Lun Dun explores the ecocritical implications of London’s urban ‘other’, UnLondon. Katherine Marsh’s The Night Tourist and its sequel The Twilight Tourist illustrate the literary construction of New York City as a ‘mediascape’ and modern myth. Finally, I focus on alternative family structures and their connection to urban spaces, specifically Venice in Cornelia Funke’s Herr der Diebe, and Paris in Brian Selznick’s The Invention of Hugo Cabret. The study concludes with an examination of these novels’ filmic versions and their respective romanticisations of Venice and Paris. The dissertation contributes to the fields of child and youth studies and urban geographies by exposing the manifold symbiotic constructions of cityscapes and youth in post-2000 children’s and YA fiction that shape identities and spaces alike.