Title of Abstract

Transformations: Examining Jo March’s Transmasculine Identity in Little Women

Submitting Student(s)

Milo Wolverton

Faculty Sponsor (for work done with a non-Winthrop mentor)

Jo Koster, Ph.D.

College

College of Arts and Sciences

Department

English

Abstract

In 1868, Louisa May Alcott first published Little Women. While it would later be recognized as an American classic, there has been a great deal of debate over the significance of gender and gender roles in the story. Some scholars have noted the novel’s queer undertones, but most of these interpretations have been limited to exploring queerness through the lens of lesbianism. There has been very little scholarly discussion about the possibility of Jo being transgender or non-binary. In this paper, I utilize traditional interpretations of Jo’s queerness by scholars such as Roberta Seelinger Trites and Ann B. Murphy to argue that feminist readings of Jo as a lesbian rely on essentialist ideas about what it means to be a “woman” after being assigned female at birth. Relying on textual evidence as well as scientific research on the developmental stages of female-to-male transgender youth, I argue that Jo’s gender expression, rather than their sexuality, is at the heart of the character’s queer identity.

Start Date

15-4-2022 12:00 PM

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Apr 15th, 12:00 PM

Transformations: Examining Jo March’s Transmasculine Identity in Little Women

In 1868, Louisa May Alcott first published Little Women. While it would later be recognized as an American classic, there has been a great deal of debate over the significance of gender and gender roles in the story. Some scholars have noted the novel’s queer undertones, but most of these interpretations have been limited to exploring queerness through the lens of lesbianism. There has been very little scholarly discussion about the possibility of Jo being transgender or non-binary. In this paper, I utilize traditional interpretations of Jo’s queerness by scholars such as Roberta Seelinger Trites and Ann B. Murphy to argue that feminist readings of Jo as a lesbian rely on essentialist ideas about what it means to be a “woman” after being assigned female at birth. Relying on textual evidence as well as scientific research on the developmental stages of female-to-male transgender youth, I argue that Jo’s gender expression, rather than their sexuality, is at the heart of the character’s queer identity.