Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Holly Jackson

Second Advisor

Joyce Peseroff

Third Advisor

Elizabeth Fay


Twilight by Stephenie Meyer and The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins are two of the bestselling series of our generation. These series are meeting widespread popularity just as the contemporary feminist debate of: "Can women have it all?" is occurring around the country. Although Twilight and The Hunger Games are not considered overtly feminist texts, they have emerged in a time when women are reexamining the possibility of empowering themselves both in the public and the domestic sphere. Meyer and Collins have introduced female protagonists that deal with precisely this issue.

First, I will be outlining why cultural studies are important to discussions of popular literature, as argued by both Jane Tompkins and Cathy N. Davidson, especially in terms of female readers and writers. I will also be exploring the bestselling works of Louisa May Alcott's Little Women and Jacqueline Susann's Valley of the Dolls which emerged during the first and second waves of feminism and how they expressed a hesitation to give women a happy ending outside domesticity within their respective historical contexts. Next, I will review the current "lean in" culture of the third wave of feminism. I will also show how both Twilight and The Hunger Games continue the pattern of female protagonists that cannot be empowered unless they are wives and mothers. Finally, I will analyze how my own creative writing has been affected by cultural debates involving women's roles. Popular women's writing that emerges in the context of major feminist moments in American history shows ambivalence towards empowering women outside the home. This ambivalence is also reflected in my own writing through poetry. By first examining the work of best-selling women writers in the last two centuries and then analyzing my own writing in concurrence with the evolution of feminist ideals, I will show that women writers display a hesitant feminism despite emerging alongside progressive cultural moments in American history.