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1 Renegotiating the Heroine: Postfeminism on the Speculative Screen L.A. Heatwole A thesis submitted in fulfilment of requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy Faculty of Arts and Sciences University of Sydney 2015
2 Abstract This thesis examines postfeminism as a multi-faceted cultural phenomenon and considers its lasting impact on understandings of girlhood. Its particular focus is a discussion of speculative fiction texts (literature, television series and films) oriented towards young adults, pursuing the idea that, in the postfeminist context, girl heroes are ideally placed to imagine both the future and the past. Considering the striking popularity of speculative fiction centrally featuring girls, and often addressed to them, this thesis considers the central concerns of postfeminism as it has been conceived in feminist criticism since the 1990s from a contemporary perspective. This thesis offers three key hypotheses: first, that speculative fiction offers a privileged space in which gender identity is interrogated, most often with a central focus on girls; second, that postfeminism marks a cultural shift in which some key elements of feminism are integrated with the culture industry and thus available to be consumed in forms that especially appeal to girls in a complex and at times problematic way; and third, that our contemporary understanding of girlhood as a concept and girls as a category also crucially changed during this period, heavily influenced by media representations of postfeminism. Built on these hypotheses is a thesis that discourse surrounding postfeminism is currently shifting, and issues traditionally associated with postfeminism are being reconsidered within contemporary media.