(W)Rites-of-passing: shifting racial and gender identities in <i>Caucasia</i> and <i>Middlesex</i>

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:
(W)Rites-of-passing: shifting racial and gender identities in Caucasia and Middlesex

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This chapter examines contemporary first-person fictions of adolescence in which the protagonists' adolescence, as an in-between stage that is not childhood and not adulthood, is inextricably bound up with other indeterminacies mapped upon their bodies, especially those of race and gender. Danzy Senna's Caucasia (1998) and Jeffrey Eugenides's Middlesex (2002) invoke the alienating experience of adolescence as a lens through which to refract their protagonists' ‘othered’ bodies. Crucially, in both novels, the protagonists engage, with varying degrees of commitment and success, in the act of creative writing, which serves to reflect back inevitably upon the authorship of the novels themselves. In Caucasia, non-normative gender and sexual identities accompany the subject's racial in-betweenness, while in Middlesex, indeterminacy of sexual orientation and ethnicity go hand in hand with the protagonist's ambiguously gendered body. Caucasia is a contemporary novel of racial passing, while Middlesex is not ‘about’ gender passing in the strictest sense, for its protagonist is intersexed.

Keywords: passing; fictions of adolescence; race; gender; Caucasia; Middlesex; sexual orientation; ethnicity; authorship; othered bodies

Chapter.  12851 words. 

Subjects: Literary Studies (20th Century onwards)

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