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He Is a Sister: the Monstrous (de)Construction of the Sex/Gender Binary in Iain Banks’ He Is a Sister: the Monstrous (de)Construction of the Sex/Gender Binary in Iain Banks’

In: English and Literature

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He is a Sister: The Monstrous (De)Construction of the Sex/Gender Binary in Iain Banks’ The Wasp Factory

Vikki Winkler
English 498: Honours Thesis
Advisor: Dr. Jodey Castricano
March 31, 2008

If it is appropriate to define “ideology” as that which constitutes social, cultural, and political order, then perhaps it can be said that as a genre, the Gothic paradoxically both challenges and reinforces the stability of these seemingly “fixed” structures and, similarly, that it both disturbs and reifies what one deems “normal” or “natural” in western industrial society. In this way, the Gothic functions as both a noun and a verb, and can be equated to Queer Theory in that it “queers” heteronormative “truth” claims. The Gothic may appear to stabilize the “natural” order because most novels, and now films, end with the eradication of any “monsters” that have posed a threat to society. However, it is the appearance of the “monster” in the first place that gives one pause. One could argue that the Gothic serves as the repository of all that is repudiated in society as “abnormal,” and, in effect, becomes the binary opposite of what western society deems intelligible and legitimate. In general, binaries function as ideological absolutes and exist in pairs that are contingent on one another for their meaning. However, one half of the pair is usually privileged as the original, “true,” and desirable portion of the pair, and the other half takes the position of “other,” undesirable, and an aberration of the “original.” Therefore, notions of what constitutes socio-cultural reality and what constitutes the Gothic depend on this relationship of terminal opposites. That being said, I will argue that although the Gothic seems to perform the dual or double function of stabilizing and destabilizing ordered systems, it ultimately becomes a deconstructive tool that...

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