Class readying Essay Example

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ALL326 Assessment 2 Close Reading


Two Boys Kissing is not about the central theme the narration takes. The author weaves the stories of the queer relationship into characterization that judges some kind of femininity, masculinity, or sexual orientation. This assessment is a close analysis of Two Boys Kissing by Levithan (2013) focusing on masculinity. Taking a passage from the book the assessment advances the author’s work by focusing on how the book characterizes and judges different kinds of masculinity, femininity or sexual identity. Developing the analysis from different theoretical frameworks, we draw upon different concepts that are related to gender and sexuality and specifically, specific narrative strategies that contextualize embodiment of either sexuality or gender.

Beginning with gender performativity, Levithan (2013) writes,

It’s hard to think of such things when you are busy dreaming or loving or screwing. The context falls away.’ (p. 1).

From the statement above, the author shows that characters in the novel are performing gender in a variety of manner. From the one hand, this is an indication of femininity for both boys and girls and interestingly, the character in the quote is urged to stop thinking about ‘loving or screwing’ and take both masculine and feminine roles at the same time. Relating this argument with previous studies, Butler researched on ‘Gender Trouble’ and acknowledges that performativity may not be the same as performance (Butler 2011). In point of fact, Butler uses a research on performative acts and gender constitution’ to contextualizes the argument by relating case study of gender performativity with aspects of life that can expose the artifice of gender and its imitative structure (Butler 1988). Queer theory best explain the connectedness between gender performativity and the quote above. The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism as presented by Leitch and Cain (2010) conceptualizes Butler’s Gender Trouble as the text that best explains the difference between performativity and performance. Butler (2011) in explaining queer theory looks at gender and performativity in the same manner as Levithan (2013)’s ‘…like that of your grandparents, or the friends from your childhood who at some point moved away…’ because it is more of what we do rather than something we are.

Secondly, two boys kissing is premised on element of sexuality. Events in the first page of the book is best described as a case of a queer utopia since it is a place that expressed virtually no homophobia as we are seeing a well-developed statement when Levithan (2013) says,

We are characters in a Tony Kushner play, or names on a quilt that rarely gets taken out anymore. We are the ghosts of the remaining older generation.’

Beginning with heteronormativity, the quote above is an indication where heteronormativity is assuming close links between sexuality and gender. ‘…We are characters in a Tony Kushner play…’ shows that those who perform femininity are to some extent, expected to admire or desire those who are performing masculinity and those who are refusing to fit in either side are made invisible or silenced. This position is supported by Connell and Messerschmidt (2005) definition of masculinity who argued that ‘it is a socially constructed patter of practice and as such, configurations that are accomplished in social action and, therefore, can differ according to the gender relations in a particular social setting’ (p. 836). Relating this definition to Levithan (2013) quote above, the author is attempting to give Lesbian, Bisexual, Gay, Transgender, Queer/Questioning (LGBTQ) teens (in this case Harry and Craig) voices but make any reader understand the context so as to question the author’s assumption of what should be regarded as normalcy.

In the first page, Levithan is already deviating from what would be seen as a conservative construction of LGBTQ or specifically, gay and lesbian identifies that are able to conform to different other social norms. Specifically, there is diversion from homonormativity to heteronormativity when Levithan writes that,

If you are a teenager now, it is unlikely that you knew us well. We are your shadow uncles, your angel…’

The statement above is humorous account where Levithan likens heteronormativity to flossing instead of disarming. From the one hand, we bring Butler’s view on heterosexual matrix that to be a subject within the heterosexual matrix then there should be gender and sexual conformity (Butler 2011). The part quoted above exemplifies Butler’s position because Levithan is making something ordinary to look extraordinary and what would be ordinary to any one is magnified to be extraordinary. The part ‘…We are your shadow uncles, your angel godfathers, your mother’s or your grandmother’s best friend…’ is a clear case of that ability which has been made extraordinary which carefully, develops a discussion on categorization and labeling.

The question that one would ask about labeling is the reason why Tariq is labeled as a dancer who invokes happiness to Harry and Craig. Statement such as, ‘We are in those particles that send you. We are in that music. Dance for us, Tariq. Feel us there in your freedom’ not only creates the aspect of labeling but generates ways in which we perceive Tariq. The aim of Levithan is to make norms as an aspect which is visible and to some extent, make Tariq, Harry and Craig aware of the way people can categorise and label them.

In understanding Levithan conceptualization of sexual identity in the passage, we first relate Butler’s ‘troubling the idea of sex as natural’ where the author argues that traditionally, there was thinking that sex was determined by nature and on the other hand, gender was shaped by culture (Butler 2011). Recent studies such as Christensen and Jensen (2014) have supported Butler’s argument by collapsing the distinction between gender and se suggesting that from the beginning, all bodies are gendered. Christensen and Jensen (2014) view is to mean that sexual identities is about presenting evidence showing that there is not natural body that existed before coming in contact with the culture. In relationship to the novel, Levithan has presented Tariq’s sexuality as one which is consistent throughout the passage. Statement such as We watch Tariq as he lays the clothes on his bed, creating the outline of the person he’s’ shows that Tariq’s sexuality is as a result of biology and thus not only invariable and natural but contradicts Butler’s position on ‘troubling” the idea of sex as natural.’ Connell (2016) found that in cases where one’s sexual identity is consistent then the person’s sexual identity is argued to be fixed and static. Levithan brings a case where some characters are not sure about their sexual identities. We take a case of Ryan who is presented in the passage as one who does not understand who he is from high school and finds it difficult for other characters to identify his sexuality as either straight or gay. The author says,

When we were in high school, hair existed on the bland spectrum of black/brown/orange/blond/gray/white.’ (p. 1).’

Ryan is representing a character who does not understand what he is or what he wants and as a result, constantly searching for his sexual identity.


The aim of this study was to critically analyse different kinds of masculinity, femininity or sexual identity. In the analysis, we found that gender performativity remains the central point that the author succeeded in putting different themes in context. However, in developing the themes between sexuality or gender the author fails to explain how the two aspects relate to heteronormative view and ideologies present in their setting. Additionally, the book succeeds in showing sexuality in terms of heteronormativity and labeling where sex is determined by nature and on the other hand, gender is shaped by culture. We conclude that the book is well developed by looking at sexuality in terms of heteronormativity and sexual identity.

Reference List

Butler, J., 1988. Performative acts and gender constitution: An essay in phenomenology and feminist theory. Theatre journal, 40(4), pp.519-531.

Butler, J., 2011. Gender trouble: Feminism and the subversion of identity. Routledge.

Christensen, A.D. and Jensen, S.Q., 2014. Combining hegemonic masculinity and intersectionality. NORMA: International Journal for Masculinity Studies, 9(1), pp.60-75.

Connell, R., 2016. Masculinities in global perspective: hegemony, contestation, and changing structures of power. Theory and Society, 45(4), pp.303-318.

Connell, R.W. and Messerschmidt, J.W., 2005. Hegemonic masculinity rethinking the concept. Gender & society, 19(6), pp.829-859.

Leitch, V.B. and Cain, W.E. eds., 2010. The Norton anthology of theory and criticism. WW Norton & Company.

Levithan, D., 2013. Two boys kissing. Text Publishing.