University of Sussex
Foster, Ludovic.pdf (1.31 MB)

Narratives of tomboy identity in fiction and film: exploring a hidden history

Download (1.31 MB)
posted on 2023-06-09, 04:02 authored by Ludovic Foster
This thesis is an exploration of the tomboy figure across a range of literary and cinematic texts from the nineteenth century to the present day. The tomboy may seem to be a familiar cultural archetype, but my study also examines lesser-known, often marginalised aspects of the figure, with the intention of bringing to light new dimensions of tomboys and what they signify. Reaching beyond well-known stories, I have looked at tomboy representations outside the Eurocentric and North American versions, bringing in examples from the Caribbean, South America, Asia, and from within the postcolonial diaspora. Exploring these various hidden tomboy histories has meant engaging with work on how the tomboy figure might ask us to rethink settled notions of childhood gender identity, of the queer child, and the very concept of childhood itself as a queer temporality. Moving from a study of Wuthering Heights and nineteenth century children’s fiction, I consider more recent tomboys in a small number of international films (drawing here on concepts of embodiment, materiality and the sensuous experience of cinema) before investigating how tomboy figures relate to questions of ethnic subjectivity in novels by Jamaica Kincaid and Catherine Johnson. By covering such a wide range of historical periods, genres and texts, the aim is to trace the complexities of the tomboy, a child figure that has always had strong connotations of gender transformation and gender rebellion, and is often associated with a playful and empowering otherness while conversely carrying with it the suggestion of reaffirming patriarchal, binary gender identities.


File Version

  • Published version



Department affiliated with

  • Media and Film Theses

Qualification level

  • doctoral

Qualification name

  • phd


  • eng


University of Sussex

Full text available

  • Yes

Legacy Posted Date


Usage metrics

    University of Sussex (Theses)


    No categories selected


    Ref. manager