Gender mischief: trickster characters and non-binary identity in young Adult fiction

  • Alex Henderson

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


This creative research project investigates how authors may apply the trickster character type and ‘tricksterish metaplay’ (Hynes, 1993, p.214) in mythological-inspired fantasy to explore, articulate, and affirm non-binary gender identities in adolescent narrative. The use of a trickster god, a magical, non-mimetic setting, and an omniscient folkloric narrative voice are deployed to expand the current corpus of non-binary storytelling available in young adult (YA) literature. Specifically, by interweaving these fantastical, folkloric elements with contemporary conceptions of gender identity, I explore some of the limitations and implications of prevalent contemporary trends in YA fiction, and how staple elements of fantasy fiction may be renewed in the context of queer YA literature to offer new ranges of representational possibility.
Through the creative artefact and accompanying exegesis, I argue that the trickster’s characteristic shapeshifting, marginality, and oppositional placement to (and reckoning with) authority figures, resonate with both queer and adolescent storytelling. Accordingly, I present Children of the Dusk, a myth-inspired YA fantasy manuscript featuring a non-binary, teenaged trickster god, central to an ensemble cast of queer characters. In contextualising this creative work, the project documents contemporary, evolving trends in non-binary representation in young adult literature and explores the ways in which marginalised identities may be rendered ‘possible’ when articulated in fiction.
Date of Award2023
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorTony Eaton (Supervisor), Jennifer Crawford (Supervisor) & Annie Mccarthy (Supervisor)

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