Title page for ETD etd-042299-214236

Type of Document Master's Thesis
Author Watson, Bruce Wallace
Author's Email Address bwwatson@vt.edu
URN etd-042299-214236
Title Androgyny and Dominance: Gender Construction in Anaïs Nin's Erotica Series
Degree Master of Arts
Department English
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Downs-Gamble, Margaret Committee Chair
Graham, Peter Committee Member
Kiebuzinska, Christine Committee Member
  • Butler
  • Queer
  • Anais
  • Nin
Date of Defense 1999-04-06
Availability restricted
Androgyny and Dominance:

Gender Construction in Anaïs Nin’s Erotica Series


Bruce W. Watson

Committee Chair: Margaret Downs-Gamble


Anaïs Nin’s Diary and her fiction have been lauded by critics for their imagery,

Freudian allusions, and creativity. What has not been considered, and is equally important,

is her Erotica series, Delta of Venus and Little Birds. These books, her most popular, not

only address the issues that she covers in her other works, but also ask questions about

how humans are gendered, and consider the degree to which individuals construct their

own gender identities. In exploring these questions, she presages not only the theorists

who effectively deconstruct her message, but also the gender-bending society which

inspired them.

Queer theory is particularly effective for considering the sexual messages with

which Nin populates her writings. Much as Judith Butler de-emphasizes totalizing gender

roles, Nin allows her characters to occupy multiple gender roles. Thus, Nin’s female

protagonists often take on the sexual positions generally granted to men in American

society. Conversely, her male characters are often relegated to less-empowered roles.

Although these shifts might not seem particularly impressive in our more liberated society,

they were undoubtedly surprising in Nin’s day. Moreover, it is impressive that these role-reversing

characters were created over forty years before the advent of queer theory, and

long before the popular rise of the Feminist movement.

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