Speculative Fictions, Bisexual Lives: Changing Frameworks of Sexual Desire
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While studies of lesbian, gay, and transgender communities and cultural production have dramatically increased, research on bisexuality remains highly undervalued in humanities and social science disciplines. To challenge this lack of scholarship, this doctoral dissertation applies both textual and ethnographic methods to examine bisexual representation in non-realistic or “speculative” narratives and to explore the insider perspectives of bisexual people who are also science fiction fans. The overall trajectory of chapters follows a progression from grounded research and analysis to theory and application. First, I explore bisexual worldviews through ethnographic research in overlapping sexual and fan communities and through textual analysis of a 1980s bisexual fanzine. Next, I establish theoretical and methodological foundations for a new sexual paradigm, called dimensional sexuality, and work to intervene in interpretive methods that may restrict readings of sexuality in cinematic narratives. And finally, I test dimensional sexuality as an interpretive mode by offering dimensional readings of science fiction television and novels. From one direction, the project seeks to understand bisexuality as a position from which to theorize sexual knowledge. A major claim is that bisexual epistemology offers an alternative to dominant monosexual frameworks. Specifically, the multivalent logic of bisexuality refutes the “either-or” structure of heterosexuality and homosexuality. By embracing the logic of “both-and,” bisexuality as a category of knowledge enables the reorganization of sexuality within a non-binary, non-gender based multidimensional framework. From another direction, the project demonstrates the productive textual and social spaces offered by speculative narratives for questioning what we “know” about gender, sex, sexuality, and other intersections of social identities. Science fiction bears a deep structural affinity with the dialectical thinking found in critical theory. By asking “what if” questions that challenge our assumptions about “what is,” non-realistic narratives estrange us from the “known” world, interrogate our assumptions about the world, and make visible ideas and experiences outside of the norms we use to interpret what is “real” in a particular social and historical moment. As such, speculative narratives enable us to imagine sexual and gender possibilities beyond the episteme of the moment.