An Enchanted Garden of Liminality: Locating a Shōjo-scape in Flowers in the Attic

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V. C. Andrews’ Flowers in the Attic (1979) has been capturing the hearts of adolescent girls for nearly 40 years. The enduring popularity of the novel is reinforced by the success of its recent adaptation on the small screen (2014). Despite its popularity, the work has received little, if any, scholarly scrutiny. While this may be due to its controversial storyline, which includes incest, murder and the confinement of children by their own mother, another reason may be the highly ‘girlish’ ambience of the story, which is often treated in a derogatory and unfavourable manner in Anglophone culture. In such a culture, the period of ‘adolescent girlhood’, which the story’s heroine Cathy embodies both somatically and metaphorically, tends to be perceived as merely an unstable and perilous stage that women pass through as they mature. By focusing on its recent TV film adaptation, this paper proposes another reading. The perspectives developed within Japanese shōjo studies assign a degree of independence to such a state of ‘girlhood’, which they term as a ‘shōjo-scape’. Flowers in the Attic might be representative of a ‘shōjo-scape’, where the concept of adolescent girlhood and aesthetic qualities associated with it are ascribed greater significance and focus, and by implication a considerable degree of principality. By re-evaluating the potential of cross-cultural applicability of Japanese shōjo criticism, this analysis of Flowers in the Attic might serve to provide an alternative to the monolithic, often Eurocentric idea of intellectual ‘exchange’ that flows only in one direction.
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