From queer rejection of gender binaries to nomadic gender corporealisation: a reconsideration of spaces claimed by the queering literary critics of the late twentieth century
Sellberg, Karin Johanna
The thesis aims to produce a reconsideration of the queer spaces articulated in 1980s and 1990s literary criticism through the corporealising theory of gender and sexuality in the recent development of Australian material feminism and Rita Felski‟s idea of transient time. It particularly focuses on interpretations of transgender characters in critical readings of Renaissance drama and contemporary fiction. The academic fields investigated are thus late twentieth-century Renaissance criticism of gender and sexuality, late twentieth-century queer interpretations of transgenderism and transgender characters in contemporary literature, contemporary transgender studies and material feminist theory. Chapter 1 introduces a queer space articulated by discourses of gender and sexuality in 1980s and 1990s criticism of Renaissance drama. It concludes that the historical methodology of the critics is flawed and that the idea of Renaissance queerness is built as a contrast to late twentieth-century queerness. Chapter 2 is a reconsideration of the Renaissance anatomical sources used by the canonical critics introduced in the previous chapter. It establishes that the queer idea of sex and gender developed through these should rather be read in light of the more corporeal Renaissance discourse of monstrosity. Chapter 3 reconsiders the transgender characters in Shakespeare‟s Twelfth Night and As You Like It and introduces a reading of Middleton and Dekker‟s The Roaring Girl from a point of view that introduces Renaissance sexual monstrosity as a formation of corporealised though flexible gender subjectivity. Chapter 4 introduces a late twentieth-century queer space partly articulated in relation to the Renaissance queer space. It critiques the theoretical foundations of late twentieth-century queer theory, introducing transgender responses to „queering‟ readings of transgender bodies, as well as queer theorists‟ own attempts to narrativise themselves as points of incoherence in Butler‟s model and introduces a corporealising material feminist perspective of gender subjectivity as a more accommodating alternative. Chapter 5 reconsiders queer readings of transgender characters in Angela Carter‟s The Passion of New Eve. It concludes that the novel has been evaluated from a queer perspective and that it offers a more interesting comment on sex and gender if read from a material feminist point of view. Chapter 6 discusses John Cameron Mitchell‟s Hedwig and the Angry Inch as one transgender narrative that has been critiqued by transgender academia and Gore Vidal‟s Myra Breckinridge as a transgender narrative that has been approved. It analyses and critiques the reasons for the texts‟ reception and formulates a new poetics of corporeal gender based on the idea of nomadic gender subjectivity developed in the works of the Australian school of material feminists. The thesis finally exchanges a queer reading of transgender characters for a nomadic corporeal reading that better accommodates the historical discourses surrounding the Renaissance material, the literary content of the contemporary fiction, and the idea of transgender identity as it is considered in transgender studies.