Wolf, J (2016) Literary transgressions: constructing a transgender character within a historical novel, and Rainbow, a novel. PhD thesis, Bath Spa University.


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This dissertation comprises a novel and contextualising research. This study deals with the creative and political problems that emerge when a writer attempts to write a convincing transgender character in a historical novel. It is both critical and intensely personal as it takes full account of both my feminist and my transgender points of view and refers to my own experience of living in a transgender body. Sometimes its focus is emotional and political. The study comprises two chapters and a conclusion. In the opening chapter I engage with De Beauvoir's comment that to be a 'man' is to be 'one', and describe how my own gender identity has influenced my construction of Mary Anne Ashley/Paul Smith in 'Rainbow'. I describe my usage of Somerset dialect as an attempt to unsettle the privileged position of standard English and my intention to make the gendered word 'boy' signify a masculine position that is not defined by anatomy. Finally I suggest that it can be hard for a transgender writer to inhabit a fictional transgender voice in a culture that has historically attempted to silence both. The second chapter deals with three novels whose writers have attempted to write from the viewpoint of a transgender character. I explore specific scenes from two of these novels in the light of both lesbian-feminist and transsexual criticisms (primarily those of Judith Halberstam and Jay Prosser). I then describe how I have attempted to subvert both the tropes of the 'mirror scene' ('The Well of Loneliness') and the 'transphobic attack' ('Sacred Country'). I finally investigate Eugenides' construction of Cal/liope from 'Middlesex' from a specifically trans viewpoint and suggest that it is problematic artistically and politically. The conclusion deals with how successful I consider my construction of a transgender character and transgender voice to have been, and looks toward the future.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)

The document attached to this record is the contextualizing research section of the thesis only. It does not include the creative component, which is the manuscript for the novel 'Rainbow'.

Thesis supervised by Tracy Brain.

This PhD was funded by a grant from AHRC.

Keywords: creative writing, creative-critical, psychology, historical fiction, feminist literary criticism, transgender identity, homosexuality
Divisions: College of Liberal Arts
Date Deposited: 12 May 2016 14:51
Last Modified: 10 Aug 2016 08:43
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