English and Modern Languages
Master of Arts (MA)
Byronic Hero, Feminism, Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Harry Potter, Hunger Games, Popular Literature
English Language and Literature | Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies | Literature in English, British Isles | Literature in English, North America | Women's Studies
Smith, Joy, "Performative Gender and Pop Fiction Females: "Emancipating" Byronic Heroines through a Feminist Education" (2013). Masters Theses. 296.
"I can be a regular bitch. Just try me." With this phrase emblazoned across her t-shirt, Lisbeth Salander, pierced, tattooed, and bedecked in leather, waltzes from the pages of Stieg Larsson's The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. This woman who subverts authority, maliciously tattoos and sodomizes a man, and intentionally distances herself from close relationships of any kind has somehow managed to capture both the attention and admiration of the American audience. This disheartening phenomenon stems from a renewed interest in the Byronic heroine, a female possessing those traits traditionally assigned to Byronic heroes and men, and the rise of the Byronic heroine, as I will discuss, is intrinsically linked to the ebb and flow of the Third Wave of feminism. Hermione (Harry Potter) offers a picture of a heroine that embodies the Second Wave's agenda; she is intelligent, independent, and only barely Byronic. While Katniss (Hunger Games) and Lisbeth (Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) are thoroughly Byronic, the plots surrounding these heroines greatly contrast the fates of previous Byronic heroines. Unfortunately, though their lives may be saved, their futures are lost. The breakdown of the gender binary, as seen in the rise of the successful Byronic heroine, does not bode well for the future of a society that insists on culturally-constructed gender. Though the First and Second Wave produce innocuous literary ripples, such as Hermione Granger, the leap into the deep end of the Third Wave, accompanied by characters like Katniss Everdeen and Lisbeth Salander, is not only alarming, but it is also cause for immediate concern. By first examining the history of feminism and its literary products, and then by establishing a connections between Byronism and education, I will lay the groundwork for my argument, ultimately establishing that the cultural reception of each of these two Byronic heroines, Katniss and Lisbeth, indicates the permeating, damaging effects of the Third Wave's attempt to eliminate gender binaries, seen to its fruition through emancipatory education.