This article begins by tracing the figure of gender inversion from Karl Heinrich Ulrichs's mid-nineteenth-century celebration of the “woman's soul confined in a man's body” to Edward Carpenter's early twentieth-century disavowal of the effeminate “of the extreme type,” whose gender nonconformity confirms the normativity of the mass of “normal” masculine homosexuals. Carpenter's disavowal voices both an orientalist distaste for the “mincing effeminacy” of British colonial subjects and an affirmation of the “somewhat masculine” women who are pursuing their rights in “civilized nations.” This article argues that this freighted figure of inversion obscures the theories of embodiment found in sexological case studies themselves, which ground the experience of sex in sociality and sensation. The sexological invert provides the foundation for a trans feminine stock character that modernist novels install to represent the cultural redefinition of “woman” and “man” in the early twentieth century. Aldous Huxley's Farcical History of Richard Greenow is an orienting example of this tendency. Jean Genet's Notre-Dame-des-Fleurs, in contrast, reflects a modernist current grounded in queer and trans street culture. The novel's heroine, the queen Divine, recalls the theories of embodiment outlined in the case study narratives. Ultimately, the “New Woman” demonstrates that sexology provides the narrative template for the twentieth-century medical diagnostic for transsexuality. From the early twentieth century, novels disseminate this abstract and singular definition of transsexuality and also recover the various and complex narratives of sexed embodiment first found in the case studies.
Emma Heaney; The New Woman: Sexology, Literary Modernism, and the Trans Feminine Remainder. Genre 1 April 2015; 48 (1): 1–33. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00166928-2837272
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