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Dawn's picture

Gender and Science as Stories

There are two particular passages at the very beginning of Middlesex that really struck me because of their connections to gender/sexuality as a story and biology/science as a story. After the discussion on Tuesday, they held more significant meaning for me. Due to the fact that they were so prominent right at the start of the novel, I believe that they will be just as important throughout.

The first is right on the second page of the bok where Cal is making references to the Greeks and Greek mythology. I love the fact that this theme is presented here, because it provides a very good background for the idea that gender and sexuality are stories. This one has a basis in literature. Greek mythology is perhaps the best collection of stories that presents gender in a way that is very fluid with a minimal amount of modern social construction. For example, men and women both pretend to be the opposite sex, there are strong warrior goddesses like Athena, men can give birth (though not conventionally...Athena was born out of Zeus's head), and there are transformations like that of Tiresiasthat is mentioned in the book. There are so many possible stories and versions of these stories that can be connected in many different ways to produce a story to mirror your own. Also, many times I have noticed writers referring to gender and sexuality confusion in relation to the Greeks: (Ex. "the unspeakable vice of the Greeks," Maurice E. M. Forster p. 51).

The second passage that caught my attention is a perfect example that shows science as a story rather than a set of facts. Science is the story created by individuals to interpret observations and data with which which they have been presented. The opening passage about Cal's personal story mention the fact that people have written about him in scientific journals. Those are versions of his story that people have written based on observaiotns of his body that have made their contribution to his collective life stoyr.However, the part of the book that showed the different interpretations of science is the part about figuring out how to make sure the child will be a girl. Cal's fahter is convinced that fertilization has to happen at a specific time because of the speed of the sperm. His mohter never believed it to be true at all. His father's belief was skewed because of his strong desire to do anthing to make sure. His "facts"were also not firshand. They were from Uncle Pete who could have a questionable interpretation of the article in his montly subscription to Scientific American. There is also no way to know whether the article covered a reliable interpretation of conception statistics and methods. The garbled story at the end results form a process that could be likened to playing telephone with scientific ideas. It results in conversations like these, "'How does Uncle Pete know about having babies?' 'He read this particular article in Scientific American. He's a subscriber.' ... 'Go on. Malign the male sperms all you want. Feel free. We don't want a male sperm. What we want is a good old, slow, reliable female sperm.'"

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