The Thaumaturgy Department

(It's dramaturgy, not thaumaturgy.)


Main Entry: thau·ma·turg
Pronunciation: \ˈthȯ-mə-ˌtərj\
Function: noun
Etymology: French, from New Latin thaumaturgus, from Greek thaumatourgos working miracles, from thaumat-, thauma miracle + ergon work — more at Theater, Work

2014-2015 Season:
Next to Normal
It's A Wonderful Life
One Night in Miami
Herzog Rep
After the Revolution
4000 Miles
Play Labs

The official blog of the Dramaturgy Department at Baltimore's CENTERSTAGE. For posts related to our current and upcoming shows, click the links to the right. Alternatively, you could begin at the beginning, and explore our posts in chronological order.


Young women coming of age in literature…

Thinking about The Wiz, and of course its ultimate source material and ur-text in The Wizard of Oz, you start to think about the class of stories this fits into. Sure, it shows elements of the monomyths and Jungian archetypes Joseph Campbell and others have written about. And there’s an intriguing flurry of contemporary books and movies, especially in the fantasy and sci-fi universe, that have more than a passing resemblance to core elements of the story. But aside from these, which I hope to riff on in another post and on the show microsite, time allowing, there is something rootedly American about Dorothy and her saga, no matter the setting or what groovy tracks get set on it. Very much an American tale of the coming of age of an American young woman. In her article Journey or Destination: Female Voices in Youth Literature,author Kay Vandergrift explores some of this literature and legacy, and its occasional limits:

American literature is rich in both young adult novels and in

our own versions of the bildungsroman, the novel of education or

of initiation in which the central character learns about the

world while growing up and into that world. In fact, as a young

country, many of our classic stories are about rebellion, loss of

innocence, and coming of age, the staples of young adult literature.

One will note, however, that from The Adventures of Huckleberry

Finn to The Catcher in the Rye to A Separate Peace to The Rule

of Bone, most of the protagonists in these books are male. Even

The Outsiders, considered one of the foundations of contemporary

young adult literature, has a basically all-male cast of characters,

although it was written by a young adult female.  


One of the most critical and most fascinating elements … for those who work

with young adults is obviously that of coming of age. Readers

look to stories for confirmation and illumination of their own

life experiences and for vicarious experiences very different

from their own reality but that, nonetheless, extend their perceptions

of the world and their understandings of those who share

that world. In Heilbrun’s words, these are “stories to live by,”

stories that portray strong models for young women coming of

age in difficult times and difficult circumstances.

One might posit that almost all young adult literature is coming

of age literature; that is, it is a literature in which young

protagonists are engaged in the process of separating from

childhood, of making the transition from the security of family

and then from peers to independence and maturity, and ultimately

of integrating their lives into a community of adults. Of

course, not all young adult books include the entire range of this

process. Younger young adults, approximately ages ten to

twelve, often read stories that focus on young characters

rebelling against parental authority as they develop new interests

in the opposite sex and in their own appearance and establish

strong ties with peer groups. In real life this is a dangerous

time for girls … In the literature, however, the real

physical and emotional changes facing young girls are seldom

dealt with. While boys are breaking boundaries with rebellious

adventures, girls are most often featured in stories in which an

animal character has co-billing or those which perpetuate the

paradigms of male power.

In the transition stage, both male and female characters usually

go on a journey and face some sort of isolation, either physical

or psychological. For girls, the journeys and isolation are

frequently internal as they face the personal tragedy of being

different, while the conflicts faced by young men are most often

physical ones. As indicated earlier in this chapter, most of the

novels young people read in schools are male coming of age stories

and require the resistance of female readers to avoid that

crisis of consciousness all too commonly experienced by young

females. It is at the third stage, as young people take their

places in the adult community, when we have traditionally seen

the most dramatic differences between male and female characters.

While young men are portrayed as establishing separate

identities, beginning careers, and embarking on life’s journeys;

females are pictured as reconciling themselves to their circumstances,

assuming new responsibilities, and settling in as if at

the end of a journey.

Click your heels, Dorothy….

Comments (View)

Bookmark and Share
blog comments powered by Disqus