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anorton's picture

Construction of gender in Middlesex

I've never read Middlesex before, though I take it that the narrator turns from female Calliope into male Cal. Despite Cal's admittance to being a male in society, with his female inclinations surfacing only occasionally, I'm finding it difficult to place the gender of the narrator in the first section of the book. I know that it is a male relating the story, but I cannot gender him as such; instead, I imagine the narrator as a child, whose gender is perhaps not so consequential because its implications have not yet been discovered. I think what creates this difficulty is the structure of the narrative: so far, Cal has almost only related a family history; he has not come into his own voice, so to speak. In other words, there is nothing specific about the narration that suggests gender.

This ties in with Professor Grobstein's argument that sex and gender are influenced, not determined, by genetics. They are, he argued, further influenced by social constructions and individual perceptions of the self. This plays into Middlesex in that Cal, who in his life occupied both of the traditional genders, has not yet provided the reader with the perceptions and social structure that contributed to his identifying as male. As such, I can only accept that he is male, but I find no proof to that effect.


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