This article studies how three kinds of trans embodiment—trans-speciation, sartorial metamorphosis, and nonmedical gender transition—in Shani Mootoo’s Cereus Blooms at Night (1996) unsettle the anthropocentric idea of nature, the genital view of sex, gender, and sexuality, and the pathological framing of trans people in colonial epistemologies. In a postcolonial novel set in the colonial Caribbean, these kinds of trans embodiment interrogate the nature-culture or human-nonhuman divide, allowing certain characters to feel at home in their trans bodies rather than, as per liberal narratives of progress, seeking a new home elsewhere. Like intersex nonhuman species (particularly the snail and the cereus), some trans embodiments also interrogate the enterprise of sex/gender dimorphism.
Trans Bodies and Embodiments in Shani Mootoo’s Cereus Blooms at Night
Chung-Hao Ku is associate professor in the Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures at National Yang Ming Chiao Ting University, Taiwan. His research and teaching interests include twentieth- and twenty-first-century American literature, queer studies, transgender studies, and ethnic, diasporic, and transnational studies. His current book project addresses various forms of boyishness in fiction by Willa Cather, Truman Capote, Tennessee Williams, Sassafras Lowrey, Carson McCullers, and Jeffrey Eugenides. His recent publications have appeared in Boyhood Studies, Concentric: Literary and Cultural Studies, Henry James Review, Modern Fiction Studies, and Studies in American Fiction.
Chung-Hao Ku; Trans Bodies and Embodiments in Shani Mootoo’s Cereus Blooms at Night. Twentieth-Century Literature 1 March 2023; 69 (1): 83–104. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/0041462X-10404952
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