Rachel Warner (she/her) presents "The girl who should have been a boy”: Female Masculinity in Modernist American Literature & Culture
The title of this talk is taken from Djuna Barnes' landmark novel in queer and trans studies, Nightwood (1936); it describes the central character and symbol of unattainable desire, the boyish 'female invert' Robin Vote. Similar to Robin, the collection of robust, ruddy-faced pioneer women and tuxedo-wearing butch blues performers gathered here attest to the diversity of significations that accrued to representations of masculine women in the modernist period. Such figures may thus be said to 'trans' gender, or disrupt the naturalized connections among gender identity, sexed embodiment and social gender roles. Though Susan Stryker’s foundational work in transgender studies attests to a certain irreducible ‘postmodernity’ to trans* identities, this project implicitly argues for the centering of cultural formations of female masculinity to studies of American modernism.
Rachel Warner is a PhD candidate and teaching fellow in the Department of English and Comparative Literature. Her research interests include twentieth-century American literature, women’s and gender studies, queer of color critique, and animal studies. She also co-directs the graduate working group Literature, Medicine and Culture Colloquium (LMCC) which explores topics in health humanities. She is currently working on her dissertation, a literary and cultural history of female masculinity in American modernism.