Trans Literature: Transgender Histories and Genres of Embodiment, Medieval and Post-Medieval Open Access
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This project seeks to develop a literary theory of trans discourse that better allows for the study of transgender prior to the coinage of identity terminology in the 20th century. By examining transgender as an array of genres of embodiment (based on Sandy Stone's genre theory from the Posttranssexual Manifesto) with distinct but intersecting cultural genealogies, a series of trans histories can be told that connect the way trans figures function within literature to the production of trans identities. To demonstrate this theory, the late medieval period (between 1350 and 1450) is selected as this is the first time in which literature began to written in a form resembling modern English, allowing for a larger degree of historical division with contemporary texts (mostly drawn from the 1990s) while still operating within the same language. Each of the four chapters are structured to (1) provide an analysis of a different genre of embodiment, exploring the development of certain trans identities as tied to the production of certain forms of trans literature, and (2) examine case studies within the genre, one from late medieval England and one from contemporary America, in order to demonstrate how the form of literature enacts transhistorical social functions in historically specific ways. A critical outcome of the study is the development of a trans way of reading and composing literature, an expansion of transgender history into the medieval period, and a reevaluation of modern texts as a cultural inheritance of medieval discourses that lay narrative foundations for later iterations of trans literature and identity.