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Neo-PassingPerforming Identity after Jim Crow$
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Mollie Godfrey and Vershawn Ashanti Young

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780252041587

Published to Illinois Scholarship Online: September 2018

DOI: 10.5622/illinois/9780252041587.001.0001

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“A New Type of Human Being”

“A New Type of Human Being”

Gender, Sexuality, and Ethnicity as Perpetual Passing in Jeffrey Eugenides’s Middlesex

Chapter:
(p.219) Chapter 10 “A New Type of Human Being”
Source:
Neo-Passing
Author(s):

Lara Narcisi

Publisher:
University of Illinois Press
DOI:10.5622/illinois/9780252041587.003.0014

Jeffrey Eugenides’s 2002 epic Middlesex uses its intersex narrator, Callie/Cal, to interrogate the process of radically changing identity. Cal is a guevedoce, possessing a rare but real genetic condition that transforms apparent girls into men at puberty. From butch schoolgirl to effeminate patriarch, never simply male or female, Cal’s life is passing. The novel questions, however, whether any categories need be so exclusive. Cal’s ambiguous identity echoes myriad others, in plot lines concerning incest, immigration, Islam, and more. Through shifting genres, secret identities, and dramatic plot twists, the novel demonstrates that when society demands strict categories, we are all essentially passing. The chapter gestures forward to a time when the pretense of passing will disappear, and we will all embrace our multifarious, uncategorizable selves.

Keywords:   Jeffrey Eugenides, Middlesex, intersex, hermaphrodite, sexuality, immigrant, contemporary American literature, passing

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