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Beatriz Hermida Ramos

University of Salamanca

Language and Performativity: An Exploration of Gender and Racial Identities in T. Kingfisher’s Swordheart (pp. 81-102)


Under her pseudonym T. Kingfisher, fantasy writer Ursula Vernon has published several novels and short story collections in which notions of belonging, identity and hegemonic power are both explored and openly challenged. In fact, her Hugo and Nebula award winning works have been praised not only for their ability to examine such topics through a lighthearted tone, but also because of their portrayal of marginalized social identities.

In particular, this research paper focuses on one of her later novels, Swordheart (2018), and its discursive exploration of gender and race; arguing that the narrative treatment of the two main characters, Halla and Sarkis, allows for an interpretation of language as a form of resistance against vertical systems of violence—particularly, the patriarchy and white supremacy.

Specifically, this paper relies on Butler’s (1990, 2004) ideas of gender performativity and Meyerhoff’s (2014) notions of discursive stereotyping to examine how Halla’s linguistic performance of a working class and domestic-bound femininity can be understood as a deliberate weaponization of stereotypical and essentialist womanhood. Moreover, Kingfisher’s treatment of racialized identities is also seen as an element of academic interest. Drawing from Coates’s (2015) writings of violence and the Black body, this article will explore the ways in which the narrative description of Sarkis’ body as a site of struggle is used to both highlight and denounce the historical commodification and subjugation of non-white communities.

Keywords: gender; race; performativity; CDA; Swordheart


Beatriz Hermida Ramos has a BA in English Studies (University of Salamanca) and an MA in Applied Linguistics (Complutense University of Madrid). She is currently a PhD candidate at the University of Salamanca (Spain), where she studies discursive representations of power, resistance and otherness. Her main research interests are Critical Discourse Analysis, science fiction, gender and sexuality.

e-mail address: bhermidaramos@gmail.com


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