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Title:Gender performance and identity formation in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
Author(s):Wegner, Taylor
Subject(s):James Joyce
Gender Inversion
Gender Identity
Performative Masculinity
Compulsory Heterosexuality
Homosocial Enactment
Narrative Modes
Identity Formation
Unconscious Mind
Abstract:James Joyce is noteworthy for his ability to elucidate different registers of consciousness through his characters. In A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (1916), Joyce does so through his semiautobiographical recounting of a young man’s efforts to realize his artistic potential. The interactions and disconnect between the novel’s narrative perspectives, specifically free indirect discourse and first-person narration, provide different, and oftentimes contradictory, information about the protagonist, Stephen Dedalus, and his developing sense of identity. While he receives, and in some ways accepts, a socially imposed male identity, glimpses into his occluded unconscious thoughts reveal his more natural inclinations toward female identification. The unconscious manifestations of socially gendered behaviors and thought patterns demonstrate the necessary fluidity of gender identity, as their presence renders the ability to consistently perform one end of the gender spectrum over another infeasible. This reality is grounded in the novel’s shift to first-person perspective at its conclusion, in which Stephen undergoes a partial, but inconsequential, reckoning with his conception of masculine performance. By illustrating how humans experience different registers of consciousness, A Portrait incites its readers to reevaluate their personal understandings of gender development and performance, while delegitimizing gender binaries as socially constructed fallacies.
Issue Date:2018-05-03
Publisher:University Library
Rights Information:Copyright 2018 Taylor Wegner
Date Available in IDEALS:2019-05-06

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