The Prince is a Woman: The Third Sex in Nightwood Public Deposited

http://ir.library.oregonstate.edu/concern/undergraduate_thesis_or_projects/nk322f72p

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  • In her novel, Nightwood (1936), Djuna Barnes examines the relationships and identities of diverse characters during the early 20th century. My paper investigates the depiction of inversion and how it challenges heteronormative structures. However, I argue that the depiction of queer relations is only available between feminized queer subjects. The novel follows Robin Vote through her various relationships with both men and women. However, Robin’s lovers are left behind with unanswered questions about Robin’s nature and the reasons behind her destructive behavior. Her relationship with Nora Flood introduces readers to the continuing dialogue Nora has with Matthew O’Connor about Robin’s behavior and identity. Matthew considers himself an invert, like Robin, in a way that might define our contemporary definitions of someone who is transgender. Barnes’ novel focuses on the topics of gender and sexuality, but represents characters that break gender binaries within heteronormative structures. Within these constructs, such a relationship with an invert is only available between women. Matthew’s visions of womanhood and his own identity are constructed by patriarchal ideals and in a novel where female relationships are at the forefront; his identity cannot be achieved under the same relationship structures. Yet, Robin’s nonconforming identity and her relationship with Nora shift heteronormative structures by representing already existing queer structures between women. My argument draws upon the work of queer theorists such as Jack Halberstam and Siobhan Somerville.
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  • English Majors, English Minors, and Writing Minors could present their information in front of faculty and peers.
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