Date of Award

Spring 2022

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts



First Advisor

Dr. Christopher T. White

Second Advisor

Dr. Rashidah Jaami' Muhammad

Third Advisor

Cheryl Hague


Gender is an integral aspect to one’s lived experience; however, the collective understanding of gender is constantly being redefined. Consequently, the expectations attached to a particular gender identity are also being questioned. Current gender discourse calls attention to the fluidity of gender and experiences which diverge from traditional representations of gender. This thesis discusses works of contemporary experimental American literature from the perspective of masculinity studies. As a whole, masculinity studies seeks to address issues related to traditional male depictions in literature. This thesis aims to show how authors utilize traditional and experimental narrative elements to present alternatives to prescribed masculine identities. The novels discussed are as follows: The Brief Wonderous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz (2007), Invisible Monsters Remix (2012) by Chuck Palahniuk, and Brief Interviews With Hideous Men (1999) by David Foster Wallace. Though all of these novels present bold--sometimes disturbing--depictions of men and might even appear to put them on a pedestal, their work does not celebrate them. In presenting these types of men, the authors work to address confining perspectives of prescribed masculinity. The men of these novels do not need to act a certain way or possess certain characteristics to be considered a man. They often undergo experiences which challenge their--and the readers’--perception of social roles. Furthermore, the use of experimental elements adds to the authors’ ability to present alternative masculinities. By toying with the conventions of the novel, they are able to create a narrative space where social norms are challenged and a space where different ways of being can exist.