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Title:Sexual Difference as Narrative Technique: Cross-Dressing, Redressing, and Undressing Female Protagonists
Author(s):Benzel, Kathryn Nowicki
Department / Program:English
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):Literature, Modern
Women's Studies
Literature, American
Literature, English
Abstract:Throughout the twentieth century gender study has been a site of considerable social debate, stress, and change. The social forces which have destabilized gender identities are by now widely acknowledged--ranging from early twentieth century American and English feminist movements struggling for women's suffrage to the massive shifts in gender identity of the work force produced by World Wars I and II. My argument in this thesis is that the issue of gender in the modern narrative is also much less stable than critics might assume or wish, that it is indeed continually negotiated in relationship to larger social and narrative arenas. I used detailed, extended analysis of Virginia Woolf's Orlando: A Biography, a relatively neglected text by a major modern author, to show how complex the articulation of genders can be; this work becomes the tutor text whereby we see gender problematized through narrative techniques in other contemporary works.
I suggest that Virginia Woolf (Orlando: A Biography), Norman Mailer (Marilyn: A Biography), and Andre Dubus ("The Pretty Girl" and "Graduation") decenter narrative discourse in order to establish a woman-centered perspective. Underlying each of these writers' intents is an artistic deconstruction that allows them simultaneously to expose the narrowness of meaning in the male-dominance/female-subordination dualism and to create other routes to meaning without proposing yet another hierarchy or merely reversing the traditional opposition between sexes. We see this strategy most clearly in the authorial narrative where the narrator, as story-teller and interpreter, manipulates characterization, points of view, and descriptive details, all traditionally influenced by embedded expectations for female subordination. When the narrative voice shifts to a feminine consciousness which recognizes women's complexity, the result disrupts expectations for masculine authority in the story and discourse and the cause of disruption, the emerging women's perspective, is foregrounded.
Issue Date:1987
Description:302 p.
Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 1987.
Other Identifier(s):(UMI)AAI8802982
Date Available in IDEALS:2014-12-15
Date Deposited:1987

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