The Campus Queen: A Literary and Cultural Study of High School Royalty

Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Dr. Gwen Athene Tarbox

Second Advisor

Dr. Jonathan Bush

Third Advisor

Dr. Gabrielle Atwood Halko


High school, adolescence, homecoming queen, gender studies, prom queen


Semantically, the titles are nearly synonymous—Homecoming Queen, Prom Queen, Winter Ball Duchess, Spring Fling Princess—as all denote the arguably archaic tradition in the United States of conferring regal status upon teenage popularity. Yet, whatever we call it, high school royalty, with its varied rituals and regalia, remains one of the most perplexing, paradoxical phenomena of youth culture, for as fervently as it is dismissed and discredited, it is just as frequently revered and respected. Indeed, adolescent readers and viewers in the United States consume campus royalty-centered stories at a steady pace, and have been doing so for quite some time.

If the discipline of adolescent literature thrives on dialogues regarding the dynamics of power, then the study of the campus queen figure is essential—and perhaps overdue. After all, the figure of the campus queen exists because of adolescent power; not only can much be gained from an exploration of her power and how she accepts and then wields it, but perhaps more strikingly fascinating is the mere fact that she is, in her reign, the physical manifestation of the student body’s collective hegemonic efforts. Hence, this study traces the historical and cultural underpinnings of the campus queen figure in popular culture, examining the evolution of both the literary figure and of the genre. In four chapters—“Long Live the Campus Queen,” “The Girl (and Her Power), “The Group (and Their Power),” and “The Genre (and Its Power)”—this dissertation explores the ways in which the campus queen, as a telling literary and cultural figure, occupies a significant space and assumes an unparalleled role in the field of adolescent literature.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Abstract Only

Restricted to Campus until


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