Megan Barrett English 341 Final Paper Proposal
I. Primary Text
Foster, Hannah W. The Coquette. New York: Oxford University Press, 1986.
Cohen, Daniel A (Ed.). The Female Marine: and Related Works. Massachusetts: The University of Massachusetts Press, 1997.
II. Summary of Primary Theory
I intend to apply Judith Butler's theory on gender as a performative, exterior act to contrast the different manifestations of gender performance in Hannah W. Foster's The Coquette, and the narrative of The Female Marine. Butler's theory asserts that there is no inner concept of gender (of "femaleness" or "maleness"), but that it is only created through societal sanction in historical settings. Butler writes that gender is an exterior identity "instituted through a stylized repetition of acts." Therefore, a change in gender is constituted as a change in the repetition of relevant historical acts. In The Female Marine, Lucy Brewer successfully alters her gender (repeatedly) by her alteration of repeated, stylized gender acts. In Hannah Foster's The Coquette, the main character Eliza Wharton also struggles to exist outside of the usual behavior patterns associated with her gender. However, throughout the narrative, Eliza Wharton fails in successfully altering her stylized repetitions that would allow her to act outside of the normal means of her gender. The question I intend to address is why Lucy Brewer (The Female Marine) succeeded in her gender transgression, and Eliza Wharton did not. I will attempt to prove that these successes and failures are due to the underlying plot expectations of each work's repective audience that comply with the moral messages they expect to recieve from a text.
III. Annotated Sources
Beauvoir, Simone de. The Second Sex. New York: Vintage Books, 1952.
Besides being a handy general reference for all things feminist/gender oriented, I believe that Butler drew quite heavily on the concept of gender first suggested by de Beauvoir. Her book should prove helpful in providing back-up sources as well as expanded views concerning gender and women in general.
Butler, Judith. Ed. Case, Sue-Ellen. "Performative Acts and Gender Constitution." Performing Feminisms: Feminist Critical Theory and Theatre. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1990.
Butler discusses the concept of gender as an exterior, performative event, independent of any interior promptings of sexuality.
Cohen, Daniel A (Ed.). Introduction in The Female Marine: and Related Works. Massachusetts: The University of Massachusetts Press, 1997.
Garber, Marjorie. Forward in Lieutenant Nun. Boston: Beacon Press, 1986.
Discusses the concept of successful gender transition and transgression, in terms of her alteration of gender's repetitive stylized acts. She also discusses the causes of the need for this "gender-bending" in terms of a "category crisis," (the physical/emotional results of social tension).