In the Nancy Drew mystery series, whenever the subject of marriage arises, Nancy interrupts the conversation or changes it altogether. Rather than discuss or confront issues of sexuality, Nancy forestalls any mention of marriage and the ensuing responsibilities (and identity shifts) that it—and mid-century womanhood in general—implies. Interruption, as both a conversational tactic and a social act, can be used by women to assert agency. Thus for Nancy, interruption is a means of holding off her impending womanhood and extending the enviable position she now maintains—that of girl sleuth.
Michael G. Cornelius
Capturing the Contradictions of Female Adolescence in the Nancy Drew Series
This article explores the construction of female adolescence in the first three texts of the Nancy Drew Mystery series: The Secret of the Old Clock (1930), The Hidden Staircase (1930), and The Bungalow Mystery (1930). It reviews, briefly, the development of the concept of adolescence and its gendered implications, particularly the association of female adolescent sexuality with delinquency. I argue that the Nancy Drew series rejects the construction of adolescence as a period of turmoil and emotional instability, as well as the prescription of constant adult supervision. The character of Nancy Drew also captures the contradictory messages of female adolescence in the 1930s when girls were represented as sexually attractive and aggressive but were denied sexual desire.
This Open Call issue of Girlhood Studies brings together a collection of articles from Canada, the US and Russia that address a range of themes of concern and interest to the study of contemporary girlhood. The issue opens with an article called “Little Girls on the Prairie and the Possibility of Subversive Reading” by Amy Singer as a way of signalling the importance of “differentiating between narratives that reinforce the status quo and narratives that challenge it.” As Singer points out, “a subversive story makes visible connections between social power and inequality.” Following this is Michael G. Cornelius’s “Sexuality, Interruption, and Nancy Drew.” In some of these stories, as Cornelius points out, we see a different kind of subversion of the status quo: “whenever the subject of marriage arises, Nancy interrupts the conversation or changes it altogether” so as to prevent any consideration of “marriage and the ensuing responsibilities (and identity shifts) that it—and mid-century womanhood in general—implies.”
there is about a year’s worth of them online. 9 Marshall argues that the Nancy Drew series’ representation of an empowered American heroine is founded upon a hierarchical representation of her in relationship to “exotic global girl strangers” (2012: 211