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

Passing into the present

Contemporary American fiction of racial and gender passing

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