The Transmutation of Woman: An Examination of Female Otherness and Gender Performance

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Authors
Hoelscher, Lily
Advisor
Dolan, Jamie
Ries, John
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Date of Issue
2024
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Title
The Transmutation of Woman: An Examination of Female Otherness and Gender Performance
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Abstract
Woman has been maligned, erased, and constructed as the “lesser sex” since the early ages of human civilization. Only in more recent years has there been any success in overturning this narrative, and the steps that have been made still leave much to be desired. Equality appears a long distance away yet, even if studies show that the male and female brain really are no different from one another, and even chromosomal sex designations exist on a varied spectrum and not a simple binary. Human beings are more alike than they are different, and as put forth by Judith Butler in Gender Trouble, gendered social presentation is simply how a person acts in public based upon how they identify, or have been told they should identify. The seventeenth-century Spanish play Valor, agravio y mujer treats the subject of gendered presentation in its overturning of roles as Leonor, the heroine, dresses as a man and in essence becomes man to exact revenge upon Don Juan, who stole her honor and abandoned her. For all intents and purposes, Leonor becomes more man than woman in her conduct and social role, effectively distancing herself from that feminine state of the “other” which has been examined in many feminist works for decades. Using the example of this piece of literature, the lenses of such authors as Butler, Simone de Beauvoir, Luce Irigaray, and others will illuminate the blurred lines of gender and the systems that so starkly isolate woman in her “otherness”.
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