Sinéad Moynihan
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Shifting racial and gender identities in Caucasia and Middlesex
in Passing into the present
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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.

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Passing into the present

Contemporary American fiction of racial and gender passing


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