Surgical shape-shifting: transgender embodiments in Nina Arsenault's The Silicone Diaries

White, Zaren Healey (2016) Surgical shape-shifting: transgender embodiments in Nina Arsenault's The Silicone Diaries. Masters thesis, Memorial University of Newfoundland.

[img] [English] PDF - Accepted Version
Available under License - The author retains copyright ownership and moral rights in this thesis. Neither the thesis nor substantial extracts from it may be printed or otherwise reproduced without the author's permission.

Download (694kB)


My project examines transgender embodiment through a case study of the life writing of Canadian transgender writer and performance artist Nina Arsenault. I focus on two texts, primarily, her one-woman autobiographical play The Silicone Diaries, as well as her “Manifesto of Living Self-portraiture (Identity, Transformation, and Performance),” both published in 2012. Reading Arsenault’s life writing through transgender studies and somatechnics discourses, I investigate the notion of transgender embodiment as a quest and a process of becoming. I first explore Arsenault’s play through close reading sections of the text to analyze how she situates her experience of gender transition as a relentless pursuit of beauty and femininity. Secondly, I examine the diary entries to understand how Arsenault portrays her own changing embodiment in relation to her extensive use of plastic surgery to shape an idealized, hyperreal femininity, and how she enacts gendered embodiment through different forms of performance, including suffering. Arsenault’s artistic work reveals her gender transition to be a state of ongoing transformation rather than a straightforward path from one gender to another.

Item Type: Thesis (Masters)
Item ID: 12432
Additional Information: Includes bibliographical references (pages 105-113).
Keywords: transgender, embodiment, hyperfemininity, cosmetic surgery, body modification, autobiography, life writing, performance
Department(s): Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of > Gender Studies
Date: September 2016
Date Type: Submission
Library of Congress Subject Heading: Arsenault, Nina; Gender identity in art; Transgender people--Identity.

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item


Downloads per month over the past year

View more statistics