Unmarked by Gender
By creating a narrator that can not be identified by gender, Jeanette Winterson, taunts readers out of their ordinary expectations of romance and challenges the standard ideal of a modern romance novel. The fascination is the lush language and the way two aspects of the physical passion and bodily decay are interwoven. Although the language is traditionally romantic, her choice to leave the narrator without gender is groundbreaking.
Readers are forced to relate to the emotional side of characters because there is nothing distinctive or tangible about the narrator to relate to. Though this may prove only to distance the reader and place a focus on the author instead. Any understanding of Written on the Body will always be limited to the individual experience and interaction with the text.
Is gender an evaluation that is completely necessary in a romance novel concerning love? Certainly, love is not a gender bound operation.
The narrator slides back and forth in the reader's mind from being "definitely male" to being "definitely female" and back again. Ultimately, the goal is to provoke the reader to stop trying to place gender and understand the novel in terms of pure passion or feeling. The reader should attempt to think with their right brain and set aside the logistics that are constantly trying to place a gender on the narrator.
This type of narrator allows Winterson to escape from the binary determinations of a heterosexual representation of human behavior, to examine sexuality in an ungendered environment. Although it appears that the narrator is actually a thinly disguised female lover. In this way, emphasis is drawn away from the author and evidently glorifies the reader. Readers are being challenged to look at things in a new light, but they must also see what the...