The way of the cross(-dresser): Catholicism, gender and race in two novels by Louise Erdrich

Sinéad Moynihan

in Passing into the Present

Published by Manchester University Press

Published in print September 2010 | ISBN: 9780719082290
Published online July 2012 | e-ISBN: 9781781702727 | DOI:
The way of the cross(-dresser): Catholicism, gender and race in two novels by Louise Erdrich

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This chapter examines the enduring significance of religion as a category of identity in contemporary U.S. society, analysing the ways in which religious discourse overlaps with raced and gendered identities in two novels by contemporary German American-Ojibway writer Louise Erdrich: Tracks (1988) and The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse (2001). Perhaps because of scholars' profound commitment to anti-essentialism from the 1980s on, race and gender, as categories that have been historically conceived as rooted in the body, have received the most attention. Erdrich's preoccupation with religious identity is mapped upon the bodies of two women who pass in order to take up their Catholic vocations. In her comprehensive study of tranvestism, Marjorie Garber warns against restricting discussions of cross-dressing ‘to the context of an emerging gay and lesbian identity’. For her, the cross-dresser represents a ‘third term’ that ‘questions binary thinking and introduces crisis’ and which ‘puts in question the idea of one: of identity, self-sufficiency, self-knowledge’. In Tracks and The Last Report, the category in crisis is Catholicism.

Keywords: novels; Louise Erdrich; Tracks; Little No Horse; cross-dressing; gender; race; Catholicism; religious identity; Marjorie Garber

Chapter.  13038 words. 

Subjects: Literary Studies (20th Century onwards)

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