PhD Candidate Rebecca Hutton – ‘Boy Meets Music, Article Meets World’

Rebecca Hutton is a PhD candidate at Deakin University in the School of Communication and Creative Arts. Rebecca’s research considers the relationship between references to music and GLBTQI identity politics in young adult fiction. Rebecca recently had a peer-reviewed journal article published based on this research:

Boy meets music, article meets world

December 2015 saw the publication of my first peer-reviewed journal article based purely on my PhD research. The article—‘Boy meets music: affective and ideological engagements in David Levithan’s Boy meets boy, Love is the higher law and Two boys kissing’—is the product of nearly a year and a half of work. Originally written as a paper for the 2014 Australasian Children’s Literature Association for Research (ACLAR) conference, the final version has been published (many re-writes later!) as part of a special issue of Papers: Explorations into Children’s Literature. There was some re-titling between conference paper and article, with a shift in the focus of the article prompting a change from the original title, ‘Unsung Histories’, to the final ‘Boy meets music’. And while I do love both titles equally, I still find myself missing being able to refer to my paper as ‘the UH paper’ in emails to my supervisor.

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The 2014 ACLAR conference was held at Deakin University’s Geelong Waterfront Campus and themed ‘Emotional control: affect, ideology and texts for young people’. This was a theme which meshed unexpectedly well with a particular problem I’d been encountering in my research time and time again; that is, how do you write about music in fiction? I’ve always found writing a conference paper to be a particularly constructive way to work through the potential dilemmas of a portion of research work. Not only do you spend way too much time trying to anticipate any, and every, tricky question that could be asked, but you also have to negotiate the loss of (imaginary) security that comes when you shift from writing something that is to be read to writing something that is going to be presented/heard.

It was also my first conference where engaging with presentations via social media was commonplace for attendees, and after my presentation I discovered that my paper had been tweeted about by some of the audience members. Not having a Twitter account, I of course had to track down someone with an account so that I could see the responses. Three tweets:

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That presentation, and those tweets, marked my paper’s first, tentative step into the public sphere.

The special issue of Papers, edited by Elizabeth Bullen, Kristine Moruzi, and Michelle J. Smith, now marks a less tentative, but equally exciting, outing for my research. My article sits alongside another article in the same issue that also addresses young adult fiction and music: Elizabeth Braithwaite’s analysis of music in young adult dystopian novels. The publication of our articles together is quite exciting in that we are both contributing to what will hopefully come to be a re-evaluation of how music features and functions in narratives for young readers. In 1992, The Lion and the Unicorn devoted a special issue to music in children’s and young adult fictions, but the topic was not picked up consistently again until a 2014 issue of interjuli: Internationale Kinder- und Jugendliteraturforschung dedicated to music. When I started my PhD, considerations of music in young adult fiction narratives were difficult to find. Now, as the body of literature on the subject grows again, it will be exciting to see how far it can go.

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