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“Against all odds, I had become solid”: Exploring portrayals of change in trans autobiographies

Knowelden, Imogen (2018) “Against all odds, I had become solid”: Exploring portrayals of change in trans autobiographies. PhD thesis, University of York.

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Abstract

This thesis examines depictions of change in the autobiographical works of three trans people: Raymond Thompson’s What Took You so Long? (1995), Claudine Griggs’s Journal of a Sex Change (1996/2004), and Jennifer Finney Boylan’s She’s Not There (2003) and I’m Looking Through You (2008). Typically, a trans autobiography follows the life course, depicting feelings of “wrongness” in one’s originally assigned gender and the process of beginning to live as the gender with which one identifies; and this shift often comprises social and body changes. My thesis asks, how might the autobiographies I concentrate on unsettle the key changes that underpin them? The subtitle of Thompson’s autobiography, A Girl’s Journey to Manhood, illuminates the central transformation that the narrative maps. However, Thompson portrays his childhood precisely as his boyhood, and depicts “a boy’s journey to manhood”, rather than a “girl’s”, undermining the thrust of the narrative proposed by the subtitle. Like Thompson, Griggs reworks the central transformation of her narrative: although she depicts a shift into female embodiment, she also recounts emerging into an emphasised state of transness, which Jay Prosser (1999) explores as a step backwards. Similarly, predicated on a spectral analogy, Boylan’s I’m Looking Through You plays with notions of change by establishing resonance between her transition and her transformation from “ghostly” to corporeal: “Against all odds, I had become solid” (249). Departing from the genealogy of trans autobiographies, Boylan’s spectral motif reworks conventional representations of change. Finally, the autobiographies both evoke and disrupt transformation from the incoherence of the body to embodied “wholeness”: my thesis concludes that portrayals of “coming home” to the body, and/or arriving at embodied “wholeness” as they emerge in the narratives are tempered by notions of ongoing unfamiliarity and struggles to overcome the rupture(s) between past and present modes of being.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Academic Units: The University of York > Centre for Women's Studies (York)
Depositing User: Dr Imogen Knowelden
Date Deposited: 03 Dec 2018 16:39
Last Modified: 03 Dec 2018 16:39
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/21433

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