Date of Award
Master of Arts
What could possibly be the relationship between Moby-Dick and the transgender experience? Where lies Moby-Dick’s utility in the context of literary queer theory? Does Moby-Dick have something useful to say to a transgender person? A possible answer is that Moby-Dick may lay a foundation to a specific intellectual process that parallels the transgender human condition. Realizing oneself as transgender necessitates an understanding of gendered norms, applying those norms to oneself, recognizing a dissatisfaction toward that application, and then navigating these norms in a more suitable way. It requires an unavoidable drive to subvert gender constructs despite its consequences. While Ishmael navigates this intellectual process, too, I prefer to focus on Ahab. Ahab negotiates a similar intrapersonal intelligence to the transgender person through a shared sense of agency, rebellion, and self-constructed destiny. Understanding this connection necessitates understanding Moby-Dick as redefining tautological expectations--a disruption that parallels the necessary redefinition of the transgender self. I mean not to imply that Melville had any foresight or insight into the phenomena. I do not consider Moby-Dick a story about transgender people by any definition. I consider it a story that may have something to say to transgender people navigating circumstances similar to my own.
Simpson, Catherine, "The Whale, Ahab, and the Transgender Human Condition" (2023). Masters Theses. 35.