NEWS: Book Launch Event – Growing Up with America

Please join Emily Murphy on Wednesday, 1 September from 4-5pm (UK time) for the launch of her new book, Growing Up with America: Youth, Myth, and National Identity, 1945-Present.

The event will include a presentation by Emily herself on “The Myth of American Adolescence,” and will followed by commentary by Donald Pease and Julia Mickenberg, along with a Q&A session.

The event is free and will be hosted on Zoom. You can register to reserve your space here.

Author Bio

EMILY MURPHY is a lecturer in children’s literature at Newcastle University. She has published in Children’s Literature Association Quarterly; the Lion and the Unicorn; and Jeunesse: Young People, Texts, Cultures. Her essays also appear in Prizing Children’s Literature: The Cultural Politics of Children’s Book Awards and Connecting Childhood and Old Age in Popular Media.

Book Abstract

When D. H. Lawrence wrote his classic study of American literature, he claimed that youth was the “true myth” of America. Beginning from this assertion, Emily A. Murphy traces the ways that youth began to embody national hopes and fears at a time when the United States was transitioning to a new position of world power.

In the aftermath of World War II, persistent calls for the nation to “grow up” and move beyond innocence became common, and the child that had long served as a symbol of the nation was suddenly discarded in favor of a rebellious adolescent. This era marked the beginning of a crisis of identity, where literary critics and writers both sought to redefine U.S. national identity in light of the nation’s new global position.

The figure of the adolescent is central to an understanding of U.S. national identity, both past and present, and of the cultural forms (e.g., literature) that participate in the ongoing process of representing the diverse experiences of Americans. In tracing the evolution of this youthful figure, Murphy revisits classics of American literature, including J. D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye and Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita, alongside contemporary bestsellers.

The influence of the adolescent on some of America’s greatest writers demonstrates the endurance of the myth that Lawrence first identified in 1923 and signals a powerful link between youth and one of the most persistent questions for the nation: What does it mean to be an American?