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American Passages: A Literary SurveyUnit IndexAmerican Passages Home
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5. Masculine Heroes   



16. The Search For Identity

•  Unit Overview
•  Using the Video
•  Authors
•  Timeline
•  Activities
- Overview Questions
- Video
Activities
- Author
Activities
- Context
Activities
- Creative Response
- PBL Projects

Activities: Author Activities


Leslie Feinberg - Author Questions

Back Back to Leslie Feinberg Activities
  1. Comprehension: What does it mean to be transgendered? What does it mean to be gender variant?

  2. Comprehension: How does Jess realize that she is not like the other children?

  3. Comprehension: What are butch and femme identities? What are identity politics?

  4. Context: Relate Jess's difficulties dealing with the mainstream community to the difficulties experienced by Chinese Americans Nanci Lee and Wittman Ah Sing in Maxine Hong Kingston's Tripmaster Monkey. How are their experiences similar? What makes them different?

  5. Context: Compare Feinberg's forthright, public image to Thomas Pynchon's near-invisibility. Feinberg seems to need to tell her own story as well as Jess's. Why might she consider her own story so important? You might want to think about your answer in relation to the statement, "The personal is political" (see Unit 15).

  6. Exploration: Why do you think Jess Goldberg tells her story in letter form? Why is her audience, her former girlfriend, so important? How does this audience shape the content, tone, and style of the narrative? Do you think that the letter, or epistolary, form allows a narrator to relate details more intimately, or do you think that a specific audience (i.e., the recipient of the letter) can actually limit the narrator's revelations? If you have read Portnoy's Complaint by Philip Roth, you could compare Feinberg's narrative letter to Roth's narrator's address to his therapist.

  7. Exploration: The video for this unit expressed the idea that identity is not a stable, fixed thing but rather a process. What does this mean? Consider this idea in relation to Jess's story. What are the steps of her identity process? Has she resolved her identity at the novel's end? Is it ever possible to resolve identity or does the process continue until death?

  8. Exploration: Cultural theorist Marjorie Garber explains that a "category crisis" occurs when the borders between things often positioned as binary opposites--such as black and white, old and young, new and used--are revealed to be permeable. In Stone Butch Blues, Feinberg shows that the line between man and woman can be (and is) crossed. What other categories are in crisis in Feinberg's novel? Consider gender, sexuality, race, education level, class, and any other category by which people are identified and/or judged.




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