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Access Type

Open Access Thesis

Document Type


Degree Program


Degree Type

Master of Arts (M.A.)

Year Degree Awarded


Month Degree Awarded



The purpose of this thesis is to analyze various texts from Japanese literary history and extract the instances of trans-gender performances from those texts. I define “trans-gender” behaviors as actions that are culturally expected of the gender opposite that of the gender assigned to the performer at birth.

In each text, I identify which character or characters perform actions that go against the expectations of the gender they were assigned at birth. I analyze how their performance is portrayed within the narrative, as well as how other characters in the narrative react to their performance. In this way, nuances are extracted that relate to the trope of gender play in these four historical eras.

The literary representations of this trans-gender play respond to the needs and values systems of the time periods within which they exist. In the Heian period, this play is caused by external forces and ends due to sexual acts. In the Muromachi period, the character chooses to perform, but eventually revokes the world.

By the Edo period, performance is more widely accepted and culturally ingrained because of the availability of spaces where trans-gender performance is allowed. The performers in Edo period literature usually perform in the context of receiving privileges or being allowed into gendered spaces. Finally, In the Meiji period, heteronormative gender roles are strictly enforced, and the literature reflects negative reactions to non-normative behavior. Trans-gender performers in the Meiji period are often punished in the narratives they inhabit.


First Advisor

Stephen Miller

Second Advisor

Amanda Seaman

Third Advisor

Bruce Baird