GenderQueer Literature

The Breakdown of Gender Binaries: Writing Genders in Contemporary Fiction

Citation: Ceri Louise, Davies, and Ceri Louise Davies. The Breakdown of Gender Binaries: Writing Genders in Contemporary Fiction. 2008.

PhD Thesis. Swansea University. Wales.

Accessed 01/09/2021: ttps://

“In Gender Trouble, Judith Butler asked, “[i]s the breakdown of gender binaries … so monstrous, so frightening, that it must be held to be definitionally impossible and heuristically precluded from any effort to think gender?” (Butler, p. 1999, p.viii). Using this question as a starting point, I look at the way that gender is understood and challenged in contemporary fiction. Specifically, I examine novels and short stories that focus on finding one’s place in gender, and the way such narratives write gendered experiences outside of the traditional male/female binary. In the first chapter, I look at females that live as males, exploring various ways of ‘doing’ gender, both on-stage and off, and the creation of cohesive gender identities. Chapter two looks at the way that sex and gender are medicalised. I argue that the male/female binary is protected by both the media and the medical establishment. This expands into a discussion of the way doctors attempt to preserve this binary in the face of increasing challenges to its very viability. In chapter three, I consider novels that focus on a male-to-female transition, as well as what is at stake in writing gender. Finally, I look at the emergence of ‘genderless’ characters, both in terms of the viability of the term ‘genderless’, and the difficulties in finding a suitable language with which to understand and quantify gendered experience.”

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