Mirror, Mirror, Who’s the Greatest Power of them All?
Patriarchal Trauma and Fantasy in Jessica Townsend’s Nevermoor Series
Keywords:children’s literature, fantasy, feminist trauma, Jessica Townsend, Australian literature
In the broader field of trauma theory, trauma is often characterised as an event that is physical, violent, and sporadic. However, feminist trauma theorists have argued that there are other forms of trauma inflicted by ideological systems such as patriarchy, resulting in less transparent versions of the traumatic. Fantasy literature, particularly children’s fantasy, has a potential to construct new visions of society that transcend these patriarchal systems for their young female heroines, and to reveal the functions of patriarchal trauma. By applying feminist trauma theory to children’s fantasy literature, this article exposes the subtler and more nuanced ways in which trauma operates, extending beyond understandings of physical and overt violence. The article offers a close reading of Jessica Townsend’s Nevermoor books (2017-2020)—a seminal Australian series that has risen to acclaim for its inclusivity, unconventional representations of gender, and creative world-building since its debut. I argue that Townsend repurposes the tropes of the fantasy genre in the Nevermoor series to hold a mirror to the harmful effects of patriarchy and the gendered violence it perpetuates. As a result, it rejects the common characterisation of trauma as overtly physical, violent, and sporadic. Rather, the series suggests that the representation of trauma in children’s literature, especially middle-grade fiction, is also gendered, and the direct consequence of patriarchy.
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