Narrating the slash: Reading contemporary intersex stories
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Intersex is a diagnosis of atypical sex reclaimed as an identity marker for bodies so diagnosed. Intersex is located in the genitals, chromosomes, gonads, hormones, or secondary-sex characteristics of the person named as such. Intersex throws into sharp relief the biopolitical imperative to discipline human and many non-human bodies into uncomplicated categories of male and female. The artistic production about, by, and for intersex people has been understudied. This dissertation enters into the emerging field of intersex studies by providing an imaginative and interdisciplinary response to literary fiction about, life-narratives by, and experimental poetics and film for and about, intersex people. Chapter One examines the erasure of race in Kathleen Winter’s 2010 novel about the coming of age of an intersex teen entitled Annabel. Building on critiques of Jeffrey Eugenides’s oft-studied Middlesex, I apply existing scholarship on the eclipsing of race by attempts to incorporate a mythical and metaphorical intersex body into the space of the nation to Winter’s text. Chapter Two turns from fictionalized intersex experiences to life-narratives written by intersex people. In this chapter, I centre the object of the scalpel and the medical chart in the life-narratives I study – Thea Hillman’s Intersex (For Lack of a Better Word) and short pieces from the 2015 issue of The Journal of Narrative Bioethics – in order to trace the affective narrative strategies the authors deploy in an effort to end the biomedicalization of the intersex body. Chapter Three pivots towards the non-human animal intersex body, and their use in public panics about the increasing environmental toxicity of our world. In an effort to counter this “transsex panic,” I read Aaron Apps’s 2015 book of poetry Intersex: A Memoir and Lucía Puenzo’s 2007 film XXY as examples of texts that see sex not as a static or “natural” category, but as a process. The brief Coda that concludes this dissertation expands on the notion of sex as a process to engage in an experimental discussion of genitalia. The Coda argues for an understanding of genital variation instead of perfection.
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