The Performativity of Gender in the Works of David Foster Wallace

Alexander, Matthew
(2021) The Performativity of Gender in the Works of David Foster Wallace. Doctor of Philosophy thesis, University of Liverpool.

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This thesis continues the recent work on gender in Wallace criticism by positing that his knowledge of feminist critical theory, and the monumental changes in gender politics that occur at Amherst during his time as a student, are key factors in influencing his intellectual engagement with issues of gender, and that this is evidenced in much of his works of fiction and non-fiction alike. I consider how relations between men and women are written, and the dysfunctionality and discord that exist in Wallace’s representation of those relationships, in order to demonstrate the way Wallace’s texts problematize the heterosexual matrix. Key to this is a questioning of the performativity of gender that occurs throughout Wallace’s works. Issues of masculinity and femininity, primarily concerned with Wallace’s women, on whom too little is written, also take account of those men Wallace writes who are only ever discussed in terms of masculinity. This is an approach made possible because of the anti-essentialist turn in feminism at this time. I contend that Wallace’s corpus suggests a more fluid view of gender, where masculinity and femininity are not constrained by sex, and that this problematizing of gender links with aspects of queer feminism.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctor of Philosophy)
Divisions: Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences > School of the Arts
Depositing User: Symplectic Admin
Date Deposited: 08 Feb 2022 15:52
Last Modified: 18 Jan 2023 21:18
DOI: 10.17638/03145879
  • Seed, David
  • Hering, David