Sex(duality): Exploring Constructions of Gender in 20th Century Speculative Fiction 公开

Phan, Gabrielle Doan Phuong (2013)

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I seek to explore the formation of identity and the portrayal of gender in speculative fiction, with a focus on novels written in the twentieth century. As the parameters of the genre of speculative fiction are broad, this provides the opportunity to study constructions of identity and gender in alternate societies. These novels are characterized by their fantastical, imagined content and tend to be set in an environment that is generated by the author, making it possible for one to consider a variety of ways that gender can be defined outside of what is typically presented. I aim to answer the question of the relationship between gender and identity in the absence of the conventional socially constructed gender roles that readers have come to expect from their own experiences. By studying texts in which typical expectations of gender are eliminated, such as Ursula K. Le Guin's The Left Hand of Darkness, where the characters are genderless, an analysis of the behaviors of the characters can reveal much about what the author is implying about traits stereotyped to each gender. Such a text that lacks a strict male-female dichotomy will call into question the idea of gender as a societal construct. In the case of Charlotte Perkins Gilman's Herland, where a happily functioning society is dominated purely by women, expectations from each gender are reversed. Since it is told through the eyes of males, it provides an interesting juxtaposition between what is perceived as the norm and what is unnatural. Furthermore, seeing as sexuality is inextricably linked to the idea of gender, studying Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale, a text in which reproduction and sexuality are controlled, will yield further insight into how gender is portrayed in an alternate society. Most importantly, by studying these female authors and taking their own gender and the perspectives they choose to write from into consideration, this honors thesis will reveal more about the psychology of each author regarding gender roles. Through these texts it will be possible to study what constitutes the idea of identity, femininity, and masculinity in the speculative fiction genre.

Table of Contents

Introduction........1 Chapter 1: The Significance of Being a Him in Herland...6 Chapter 2: Living in the Left: Singularity and Sexuality....24 Chapter 3: Handling the Handmaid's Tale: Examining Gender Oppression...41 Conclusion.........57 Bibliography........58

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