The feminist postmodern fantastic: sexed, gendered, and sexual identities

  • Michelle Denby

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


The thesis investigates a diverse range of feminist postmodern philosophy, distinguished by its varying rearticulation of the relationship between modernism and postmodernism and feminism’s own position vis-à-vis that debate. Drawing on postmodernism’s primary tenet that substantive, binary identity categories comprise discursive, performative constructs, feminist postmodernism theorises a range of strategies for their subversive re-performance. This is realised in the mobilisation of parodic, “failed” repetitions and identities embodied, for instance, by transsexual, transgender, and transvestite personae. Hence the reformulation of postmodern versions of agency, resistance, and choice. In the second instance, the thesis examines the combination of feminist postmodern philosophy with the narrative techniques of postmodernism and its sister genre, the fantastic mode. As a heterogeneous, open-ended, self-reflexive form, the “postmodern fantastic” challenges conventional realism and its correlative sovereign subject. The postmodern fantastic is redeployed by feminist practitioners, whose inscription of both textual and topographical re-performance, such as is manifest in the cyborg and the grotesque, represent the literary counterparts of feminist postmodern agency. The above provide critical contexts for a reading of four late-twentieth-century women writers, focusing in particular on their intervention in the modernism/postmodemism debate and their deployment of the feminist postmodern fantastic as a means of destabilising sexed, gendered, and sexual identity. The selected authors Hélène Cixous, Monique Wittig, Jeanette Winterson, and Angela Carter represent distinct and diverse, culturally specific, literary and feminist traditions, reformulating the relationship between modernism and postmodernism in different ways and with varying degrees of success. They coalesce, however, in their contribution to the feminist postmodern fantastic. It is the general purpose of the thesis to demonstrate how this particular mode embodies one of feminist postmodernism’s most powerful means of literary and ideological critique
Date of Award2001
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Northampton
  • University of Leicester
SupervisorSonya Andermahr (Supervisor) & P Brooker (Supervisor)

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