Ungendered Narrator in Written on the Body

2659 WordsJun 16, 200811 Pages
Within Jeanette Wintersin’s text Written on the body the role of the ungendered narrator is a highly subversive narrative strategy that serves to challenges traditional gender binarisms that exist as a perversive element within the phallogocentric ideologies of the West. I shall explore how Winterson engages with this task by positing ‘gender’ as unimportant in the construction of individual subjectivity. Secondly, the ungendered narrator challenges the phallogocentric assumption of heteronormativity through a range of characters whose gender and sexuality are constructed as fluid and multiple within the world of the text. In this way, the ungendered narrator implicitly highlights the fact that within contemporary dominant discourses,…show more content…
In short, Written on the Body deregulates desire, constructing sexuality as fluid, multiple, and nomadic. The very existence of an ungendered narrator, who functions as a subject within a larger domain of power, rather than within some utopic space where the character's have sought refuge from oppression, illustrates that within the text, gender and sexuality are constructed as fluid and multiple. The narrator does not assume a sexed position because there is no legislative norm requiring her/him to do so. The narrator does not have to claim labels like man/woman and gay/straight, s/he does not have disavow parts of his/herself, nor foreclose certain kinds of connections and experiences. Butler points out the cost of identity, claiming that it "is purchased through the loss and degradation of connection" (114). In this light, the narrator's incoherent identity can be seen as the affirmation of connection. This notion is also supported by the fact that the narrator describes having had relationships with both men and women, displaying an openness to various forms of relationships and desires. In contrast to the narrator, Louise, the narrator's lover, in not only gendered, but is also portrayed as intensely feminine. Winterson's construction of Louise's intense femininity can be viewed as an attempt to create a space between androgyny and extreme femininity in which multiple degrees of femininity can exist.

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