Date of Award

5-2017

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Legacy Department

English

Committee Member

Dr. Garry Bertholf, Committee Chair

Committee Member

Dr. Megan Eatman

Committee Member

Dr. Austin Gorman

Abstract

This paper analyzes the qualities and behaviors of white, heteronormative masculine performance in America, using Chuck Palahniuk's Fight Club and Bret Easton Ellis's American Psycho as exemplar literary portrayals and departures from such identity constructions. American masculinity, in its heteronormative white formulation, is treated within the majority of cultural productions in America as a "universal" identity, and as such, it is largely invisible in terms of cultural criticism. Both Fight Club and American Psycho are present as artifacts typifying the frustration of masculine identity reconciliation, with the intention of demonstrating a willingness of embracing non-prescriptive identity construction. Building off of Judith Butler's Gender Trouble and Michael Kimmel's The Gendered Society, this essay describes the homosocial and socio-economic influences upon masculine identity construction and problematizes such methodologies of identity building with the notion of intentional "othering" of the self through Butler's concept of inscription. Throughout the essay, I discuss the overlapping categories of masculine identity which influence its construction, including capitalism, materiality as identity markers, homosocial influences to performance, and the willful marking as "other" to create authentic (non-constructed) identity. In this last category of marking, the narrator, "Joe," of Fight Club is successful in the creation of an authentic masculine identity because of a willingness to destroy the body and other markers of capitalistic success, thereby permanently divorcing his identity from the prescriptive markers of accepted masculine performance in America. Ellis's Patrick Bateman, conversely, is unable to craft a sustainable identity because of an inability to counteract his dependence upon such socially accepted markers of masculine performance. Ultimately, this essay advocates the destruction of prescriptive identities of any kind which assume a stable subject in favor of a fluid gender spectrum along which identities may move and from which identities may borrow without constraint.

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