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“Who is the Third Who Walks Always Beside You?”: Representations of Non-Binary Gender in Modernist Literature

Marsh, Alex (2019) “Who is the Third Who Walks Always Beside You?”: Representations of Non-Binary Gender in Modernist Literature. PhD thesis, University of Sheffield.

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Abstract

This thesis offers new readings of texts from the height of main-period modernism, arguing that we can productively understand them as exhibiting prototypical examples of what we would today call non-binary gender. These texts have previously been read as androgynous, camp, transvestite and even queer, but I will argue that main-period modernism took place in a cultural moment in which the divisions between male and female were eroding, giving rise to non-binary gendered forms in some of its foremost literary works. This study also elaborates upon what exactly distinguishes these texts as non-binary, enumerates the tropes which the authors used to set up their non-binary subjects, and examines what this means for the presentation of sexuality within the texts, particularly for the prevalent bisexuality of the focal characters. Chapter one focuses on Virginia Woolf’s Orlando, a text which sparked the practice of transgender analysis of modernist texts, arguing that theorists have mistaken Orlando for a trans woman when we might better understand the character as breaking the gender binary. Orlando is compared with T. S. Eliot’s The Waste Land, where I make the argument that the Tiresias figure in the poem is gendered in a similar manner to Orlando, with facets of maleness and femaleness to both personae. The second chapter moves on to contrast James Joyce’s Ulysses with Djuna Barnes’ Nightwood, arguing that both Leopold Bloom and Robin Vote fall outside of a binary type. Leopold seems to imagine himself moving between male and female, whereas Robin rejects the constraints of both binary genders. The final chapter seeks to expand the queer canon through a re-examination of two little-read works; Natalie Clifford Barney’s The One Who is Legion, and Alan L. Hart’s The Undaunted. I will argue that The One Who is Legion follows many of the tropes of the previous texts, and therefore serves as a prime example of non-binary modernism, whereas The Undaunted treats all of its characters as though they were transgendered. I also demonstrate that this phenomenon of non-binary modernism was by no means universal, and offer a more binary trans example from Radclyffe Hall, and reactionary cisgender voices from Pound, Lawrence and Lewis. I conclude that there is no single trait that makes a modernist text non-binary, but rather that a cluster of related traits might push us to include a given text under the label of non-binary modernism.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Keywords: Modernism, Eliot, Woolf, Joyce, Barnes, Transgender, Trans, Queer, Non-Binary
Academic Units: The University of Sheffield > Faculty of Arts and Humanities (Sheffield) > School of English (Sheffield)
Depositing User: Dr Alex Marsh
Date Deposited: 17 Feb 2020 09:56
Last Modified: 17 Feb 2020 09:56
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/25937

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