Date of Award

1-1-2012

Document Type

Campus Access Dissertation

Department

Comparative Literature

First Advisor

Yvonne Ivory

Abstract

This dissertation examines the concept of asexuality and a variety of representations of asexuality in literature, film, and popular media. I argue that asexuality, often defined as a "lack of desire or sexual attraction," challenges the notion that sexual object choice is always a central point of reference in establishing an individual's identity. It is in this context that my dissertation seeks to make a contribution to the field of sexuality studies as it is the first study of its kind to deal with asexuality as a queer project in fictional representations. My approach is comparative in nature. I engage in close readings of texts from various historical time periods, cultural contexts, and genres. Some of the cultural representations of asexuality that are currently in circulation present the concept as non-normative, attempt to silence it, or transform it into something legible for the contemporary consumer by erasing it as a subject position. In science fiction, however, asexuality can exist as a sexual identity because, I argue, this genre creates spaces that are perceived as non-threatening to the current social norms and constraints -- the compulsory sexuality -- of our era. The representations of asexuality in science fiction question available models of hetero- and homonormativity and facilitate new discourses on how a/sexualities are produced, constructed, and performed. They are, however, not unproblematic because asexuality is imagined as a mandated way of life. My findings thus suggest that Keri Hulme's The Bone People is the only text examined here that represents asexuality as a viable subject position that is "unproblematic."

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