Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


College of Humanities and Social Sciences



Thesis Sponsor/Dissertation Chair/Project Chair

Sally McWilliams

Committee Member

Daniel Bronson

Committee Member

Gregory Waters


This thesis derives from my interest in the way in which we read and understand novels. We may not consciously realize that we are socially conditioned to read and translate texts in certain ways. Until I started writing this paper, I did not realize the influence that social conditioning had on me when I read. Now that I am more aware of this influence, I am more careful about how I read. I realize that I should not read certain issues within texts as natural, but to think of them as constructions created to serve a specific purpose.

The focus of this thesis is to reveal the myths of certain social constructions about the body, love, and the narrative conventions that relay these stories in Jeanette Winterson’s novel Written on the Body. Highlighting the myths about social constructions of body, love, and storytelling is how we can move beyond our reliance on binaries as exemplified by categories, hierarchies, and hegemonic norms.

Chapter One (“Understanding the Narrator: Body, Sex and Gender”) examines how we rely on signs of sex and gender within narrative to construct meaning about bodies. Through the characterization of the narrator, Winterson attempts to create a space where identity is not limited by categories of sex and gender. Chapter Two (“Expressions of Love and Desire”) examines how Winterson creates a new space and language where love and desire are not limited to hierarchies but are expansive. Through this expansive space and language of love, the bodies of the lovers fuse to form a stronger body that radiates with strength and intensity. Chapter Three (“Challenging Structural Conventions: Body Knowledges/Languages, Metafiction and First Person Narration”) examines Winterson’s disruption of the hierarchies of knowledge and narrative conventions.

I argue throughout this paper that Winterson’s goal is to create a third linguistic and social space that is not confined by hegemonic norms.

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