Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen
Zentrum für Gender- und Diversitätsforschung
The famous statement by feminist writer Simone de Beauvoir, “one is not born, but rather becomes, woman”, put forward the claim that sex is different from gender (The Second Sex293). While one is born with a (biological) sex, one, according to Judith Butler, learns to ‘perform’ a certain gender (often ‘feminine’ or ‘masculine) (Gender Trouble1990). Throughout history, each of the two binary genders has been associated with certain roles in culture and in literature. Female gender roles, for instance, often were – and in some contexts perhaps still are – restricted to the realm of the household and marriage and were associated with weakness and dependence. Male gender roles, however, were associated with strength, aggressiveness, and superiority (The Second Sex 3-17). As might be expected, literature was also highly influenced by these contestations, and feminist fiction began to proliferate in England after the 1960s in the works of Michèle Roberts, Angela Carter and, Doris Lessing, to name a few. For my Ph.D., I will study the influence of feminism on the fiction of the second half of the twentieth century and ask the following questions: How far has feminist fiction succeeded in deconstructing established gender roles in literature? Is the subordination of women to men and the existence of binary notions of gender so deeply embedded in the literature that it has become impossible to change them? To answer these questions, I will do close readings of several novels, including Michèle Roberts’ The Book of Mrs. Noah(1987) and Angela Carter’s The Passion of New Eve(1977) and others, to study gender roles in fiction and see what gender stereotypes have changed in literature – if they have at all. Furthermore, and more importantly, I will analyze the persistence of conventional gender stereotypes in 20th-century fiction. Therefore, the question whether gender binaries and gender stereotypes persist in 20th-century fiction will be another central question posed in my project.