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  • 2019windphd

    Final published version, 3.76 MB, PDF document

    Embargo ends: 1/12/24

    Available under license: CC BY-NC-ND

  • 2019windphdinternal

    Final published version, 3.91 MB, PDF document

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Sexual identity labels in young adult novels featuring female same-sex attraction

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

Publication date2019
Number of pages563
Awarding Institution
  • Lancaster University
<mark>Original language</mark>English


In this thesis I investigate the usage and meanings of sexual identity labels in a corpus of contemporary fictional first-person narratives featuring female same-sex attraction written for teenagers. I focus on how the relationships between female characters and sexual identity labels are portrayed in these Young Adult novels. I developed my analytical approach from cognitive and corpus linguistics as well as Queer Discourse Studies. Based on the manual annotation of concordance lines and the clustering of the occurrences of the labels, I provide an overview of their usage patterns and a detailed account of their functioning in selected text passages.
My results indicate that, in these texts, acceptance of same-sex sexuality is discursively linked to gay and/or lesbian sexual identity. A prominent means in the construction of this link is the use of syntactically subordinated identity assignments to reflect upon implications of sexual identity. Furthermore, the texts in the corpus tend to discursively erase or suppress conceptualizations of a person’s sexual orientation as non-exclusive to one sex. Conversely, same-sex sexual activity, a relationship, and/or attraction is the crucial property in identification with a label denoting same-sex sexual identity; this applies especially to private self-identification. Overall, the portrayal of the characters exhibits internalization of social categorization including specifically female same-sex labelling.
A major contribution of the thesis is the development of a methodology for Discourse Analysis of fictional narratives which can elucidate the usage patterns of sexual identity labels. Hence, my approach has enabled tracing the indications for cognitive, semantic, and social structures manifest in the corpus investigated. In particular it has elucidated the normalized as well as the marginalized identities discursively constructed in a corpus of Anglophone realist Young Adult fiction about sexuality.