Annotation: Rosalind Morris’ “M. Butterfly: Transvestism and Cultural Cross-Dressing in the Critique of Empire” (1994)

Peer-Review: 0

This annotation is written in reference to my paper, titled: “David Hwang’s Metamorphosis of Madama Butterfly: Critiquing Orientalist Fancy and Building Bridges Towards Cultural Understanding.”

Morris, Rosalind. “M. Butterfly: Transvestism and Cultural Cross-Dressing in the Critique of Empire.” Gender and Culture in Literature and Film East and West: Issues of Perception and Interpretation. Ed. Nitaya Masavisut, et al. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1994. 40-59. Print.

In this article Morris discusses how M. Butterfly merely reestablishes the hierarchal “gender system” inherent in Orientalist philosophy. She claims that while the figure of the “transvestite” seems to offer a means of overturning gender stereotypes through its fundamental ambiguity and fluidity, it is nevertheless “contained by heterosexual opposition between male and female” (49). The transvestite (man-as-woman) becomes a representation of the “emasculated rather than liberated male” (49). Therefore, at the end of the play when Song undresses he reasserts his masculinity, whereas Gallimard in donning Butterfly’s kimono is emasculated. This reversal rather than collapsing gender hierarchies in M. Butterfly speaks to the play’s failure as a deconstruction of Puccini’s opera.

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