Date on Senior Honors Thesis

5-2017

Document Type

Senior Honors Thesis

Degree Name

B.A.

Department

English

Degree Program

College of Arts and Sciences

Author's Keywords

transgender; gender; feminism; women's literature; intersectionality; Caitlin R. Kiernan

Abstract

This paper analyzes how Caitlyn R. Kiernan in her novel The Drowning Girl characterizes gender identity, particularly in regards to women, both transgender and cisgender. The book's characterization of gender roles for cisgender men, cisgender women, and transgender women, while seeming on the surface to subvert sexist stereotypes, reproduces the pitfalls of feminist literary criticism popularized in the 1970s and 1980s. Notably, such themes include viewing women's madness as a method of transcending masculine rationality, a dichotomized essentialism of masculinity and femininity, and universalizing women's experience without regards to race, class, and nationality. Transgender autobiographical and literary archetypes employed in the novel, such as the "trans of migration" and "trapped in the wrong body" narratives, further demonstrate themes of gender binarism. Feminist theory, literary criticism, and transgender studies show how the cisgender protagonist Imp and the transgender character Abalyn conform to these characterizations, and the normative implications of viewing gender though this perspective.

Lay Summary

This paper analyzes how Caitlyn R. Kiernan in her novel The Drowning Girl characterizes gender identity, particularly in regards to women, both transgender and cisgender. The book's characterization of gender roles for cisgender men, cisgender women, and transgender women reproduces binary gender roles popular among Second Wave feminist literary criticism, reproduced through archetypal themes found in transgender autobiographies and creative writing.