I have made the decision to return to school in an attempt to cut out my own little chunk of academia. I think I’m going to paint it with a coat of candy colour, drown it in a fruity booze beverage of some kind, and taking it shoe shopping. In case it isn’t clear, this is my way of saying I plan on studying chick lit. Academically.
I realize this sounds a bit silly to some people and as it stands this genre of women’s literature isn’t really embraced in an academic setting. If you think chick lit is derided socially or in literary circles, try suggesting that you want to study Confessions of a Shopoholic at university! Currently, there is little academic work that can be found in peer-reviewed scholarly journals and as far as I know I own the two books that take the time to evaluate, theorize, and discuss the greater implications of chick lit as it relates to a history of women’s literature and feminist theory.
And yet, this is what is so exciting about this topic for me… it is new. It has places to go and supporters to find. Today I was excited to discover this essay, ‘The Case for Chick Lit in Academic Libraries’ by Stephanie Davis-Kahl written to encourage academic librarians to embrace chick lit. She writes that
Dismissing chick lit as unimportant diminishes the authors’ voices, perspectives, and their experiences to the point of exclusion. Further, libraries are the place where users can immerse themselves in the development of new and emerging genres. Chick lit firmly belongs in the history and evolution of fiction – fiction in general and fiction by women – because of its popularity, its accessibility to the reader, and because it represents issues that modern women face.
I am sure that part of the reason chick lit is academically maligned is due to the perceived notion of such books as being “easy reading” or poorly written and how this goes hand in hand with a long history of belittling women’s literary work. In the two years since I started to read and pay more attention to this genre I have yet to come across work that is purely vapid and would be representative of the entire genre. Instead, I have been moved by the intricacies of women’s stories and provoked to evaluate author, audience, and characters.
When I read Bridget Jones’s Diary for the first time I begged the unseen Feminist Theory Goddess to never allow me to remove my feminist lens – to never turn my brain off, as so many have suggested I do to enjoy pop-culture (I ask too many questions and make too many observations, you see). Ever since that day I have never been able to read chick lit without thinking about it and that is what I will keep encouraging others to do.