Charles Sturt University
Charles Sturt University

Monique Shephard

Proposed title

Adolescent responses to depictions of mental health in Australian contemporary young adult fiction. 


It has been increasingly recommended that reading contemporary young adult literature (YAL) in the classroom will benefit students with low literacy, or can improve engagement for those who lack the tenacity to tackle texts from the literary canon, however YAL also offers a unique springboard for discussion of many current issues that impact young people. From the environment, diverse cultural histories, and issues faced by the young LGBTQI community, YAL offers an opportunity for considered reflection and discussion in the English classroom as a means to challenge norms and reframe individuality. This research proposes that this conversation could be extended to adolescent mental illness, a relatively silent contributor to social exclusion in high school. Through their first-person narrative, contemporary young adult novels facilitate identification with characters exhibiting different realities to oneself, and this has been shown to be have positive impacts on empathy and understanding of others and may help to reduce stigma.

This research takes a bilateral approach to the text: using a disability studies frame, a textual analysis will seek to locate contemporary Australian young adult novels dealing with characters depicted as having a mental health concern in the international modern 'problem novels' genre and understand their similarities and differences. Using a grounded theory methodology, I will then elicit and analyse adolescent views of one text when studied as part of the English curriculum in three regional Year 10 classrooms with a view to understand the adolescent response to mental health as depicted in these texts. 

Why I chose CSU? 

After completing a Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts (Interpretive Writing) via distance education through CSU, I was seeking to focus my energies on the field of children's literature – in particular texts for adolescents, Young Adult Literature. CSU offered the right mix of expertise to facilitate my interdisciplinary research – Dr Mark Macleod (children's and young adult literature); Dr Cate Thomas (Social Work, with a strong methodological grounding), and Dr Kasey Garrison (Information studies and young adult literature).  

Engagement and memberships 

Australasian Children's Literature Association for Research (ACLAR) member (2016 – current)
Faculty of Arts and Education Research and Graduate Studies Management Committee member (2016 – current)
School of Humanities and Social Sciences School Research Management Committee (2017 – current)
Research Office and Higher Degree Research (HDR) student committee Working Group
Booranga Writers' Centre Committee (2010 – current)
Riverina Conservatorium of Music – Vice-Chair, Board of Directors (2005 – current)


Shephard, Monique (2016) "Power in the Counsellor's Office: Who has it?" Paper presented at "Shifting landscapes: Diversity, text, young people." Australian Children's Literature Association for Research. Wagga Wagga (July).