PhD student researches history of teen reading

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PhD student researches history of teen reading


Lynette Maguire

17 July 2012

17 July 2012

An historic overview of popular teenage books read between 1931 and 2008 is being compiled, thanks to new research at the University of the Sunshine Coast.

PhD student Lynette Maguire said her research into “Values and ideologies in young adult literature in Australia” would involve analysing the reading habits of teenagers from each decade and the societal changes demonstrated through popular literature.

“So, for example, a genre that is quite popular these days is called grunge fiction,” she said. “These books may be set on a Melbourne suburban street and mention things like molestation – something that wouldn’t have appeared in books in the 1930s.

“We know that literature has changed over the years, but I am trying to determine if literature informs society or if society informs literature.”

Mrs Maguire is seeking study participants, aged between 18 and 90, who are willing to take a trip down memory lane and recall the books they were reading when they were about 15 years old.

“We will look at what these books teach us about individual behaviours, beliefs and moral decision-making, along with society’s acceptance of these,” she said. “We may find there is a relationship between people’s background and what they read when they were teenagers.”

Mrs Maguire said a similar study was conducted in the 1970s by New South Wales researcher Dr Ken Watson, who examined the reading trends of nine-year-old boys.

She said her research findings would be of value to all disciplines including education, history, sociology, English and literature studies.

“Such research will give an historical overview of reading trends in Australia but also give an insight into future reading trends – all information which is important to educators, historians, literary theorists, publicists and sociologists,” she said.

Mrs Maguire has an Arts degree majoring in Psychology and Creative Writing from USC, and a USC Bachelor of Arts (Honours) majoring in English Literature. She is a member of the USC Council and is actively involved in the Student Guild.

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— Michelle Widdicombe

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