Introduction: Alison and Anne

In my research, I am analyzing the 1908 Canadian novel Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery, and its numerous adaptations. Anne of Green Gables is the story of Anne Shirley Cuthbert who is) adopted by a pair of elderly siblings – the coming of age story focuses on gender roles, societal and community integration, and interpersonal relationships between family and friends – or as Anne would say ‘kindred spirits’. I seek to explore how across the past century, Anne of Green Gables has served as a means to explore cultural expectations and definitions of girlhood.

Most girlhood figures fade away, but Anne Shirley-Cuthbert has remained throughout radical changes in the social order. Why is this the case, what makes Anne so unique? I theorize that Anne is a vessel for an intense girlhood that is a universal but overlooked aspect of the gender. This research aims to explore how the way Anne’s story, adapted over time, exemplifies a century of change as well as the sustained powerful nature of girlhood. Additional analysis of other characters like her romantic male foil Gilbert and best friend Diana, or artistic liberties taken in adaptations, will show how girlhood is defined, and how expectations of girls have changed in the past century. Through the analysis of various Anne of Green Gables works, my project provides insights into girlhoods more broadly, and how those girlhoods are unified. An individual’s early life to adolescent experiences are extremely diverse, but despite the differences, this time period in life is still called ‘girlhood’ – what is the coalescence to these experiences? I theorize that Anne of Green Gables is able to provide insights into where these identities meet, and girlhood is defined.

Media teaches us. It teaches us what is normal, what is exemplary, and what is unacceptable. Research on how gender, society, and culture have developed is fundamental to understanding our current cultural landscape today. Just as it is important to understand the biology of our evolutionary ancestors impacts our biology today, it is important to understand how our cultural ancestors impact the way we interact and exist in the world. In a macro sense, from this Brackenridge fellowship, I aim to add to the body of work known as L.M. Montgomery studies, as well as strengthen academic and media analysis skills for a career in the field.  

I am a rising senior with majors in Politics & Philosophy, and Gender, Sexuality & Women’s studies. I am extremely excited to participate in the Brackenridge Fellowship this summer, with the support of the UHC staff as well as my wonderful mentor and GSWS department lecturer Dr. Julie Beaulieu. Outside of academics, you’ll most likely find me hanging with friends around Oakland, watching ‘so-bad-they’re-good’ movies, and blasting Carly Rae Jepsen music!

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