Chapter 7. “Indefinite, sketchy, but not entirely obliterated”
Jeffrey Eugenides’s epic novel Middlesex raises the overarching questions of how a comprehensive understanding of selfhood can be gained and to what extent the construction of a coherent identity by means of language is possible. In his attempt to make conclusive sense of his self, Cal, the intersexual narrator and protagonist of the novel, takes refuge in the idea that constructing a narrative identity will lead to self-coherence. While this wish for unity is understandable from a psychological perspective, a poststructuralist approach to Middlesex shows that Cal’s endeavour to fix selfhood in narrative ironically results in making it even more indeterminate. Narratives continually and inevitably communicate with pre-existing texts which results in the constant deferral of their final meaning, and narratives are revealed to be incapable of providing a definite selfhood. Middlesex shows that the primary aim is not the achievement of a coherent self but rather the constructive process of telling the narrative. The novel thus reformulates the concept of narrative identity in terms of constant, ultimately open-ended performance.