Representations of gender and sexuality in the key characters of Lauren Beukes's interstitial fiction.
In the past seven years South African author Lauren Beukes has published four highly successful novels: Moxyland (2008), Zoo City (2010), The Shining Girls (2013), and Broken Monsters (2014). Beukes’s novels have garnered much attention both locally and overseas, with critics frequently praising the social awareness of her writing and noting her unique use of genre. Beukes employs a number of techniques to render the settings of her novels realistic and recognisable to a contemporary reader; however, disrupting the familiarity of the world in each case is an unexpected speculative twist. The supernatural elements of the texts become vehicles for the exploration of a number of topical social issues, offering fresh perspectives on these issues, and encouraging reader engagement with them. This dissertation focuses specifically on the presentation of contemporary gender issues in the novels, using textual analysis in order to consider how Beukes’s manipulation of genre tropes affects a reading of gender and sexuality in the key characters of her texts, and relating this to various contemporary gender theories. What emerges is a thorough demonstration of the socially constructed and multifaceted nature of gender and sexuality, together with insightful commentary on the complexities of enacting masculinities and femininities in a modern world influenced by rapid technological advancement and associated social developments. Through her narratives Beukes challenges the patriarchal ideologies which remain a significant feature of both South African and American social landscapes, advocating in their place a postfeminist egalitarianism.