`Tomboy` and chronotope: Narrative, space and female masculinity

‘Tomboy’ and chronotope: Narrative, space and female masculinity in
childhood and adolescent memories
Ruth Ballardie
(School of Psychology and Psychiatry, Monash University, Australia)
The tomboy, as a gender transgressive figure, typically signifies the possibilities of female
masculinity in girlhood as autonomy, mastery, assertive physicality and risk-taking. In narrating
childhood memories, however, it was the complexities of gendered subjectivity that emerged
from a dialogical performative analysis of women’s story-telling.
The stories were structured by physical and social space, as inside/outside, surveillance/
freedom. Here, Bakhtin’s idea of the chronotope, ‘functioning as the primary means for
materializing time in space’, ‘as a centre for concretising representation’, ‘as the place where
the knots of narrative are tied and untied’, becomes relevant. Tomboy as chronotope
materialised a child self located ‘outside’, a world of trees, creeks and streets. As a chronotopic
structure it constituted a virtual space in which imagination and reality formed sensual
connections, between the animate and inanimate, things and people, and revealed the potency
of pleasure and desire in gendered subjectivity. These were moments when distinctions
between dependency and autonomy, self and other were suspended. The women’s stories of
their early memories implicated forms of ‘recognition’ associated with inversions, dispersals
and disruptions of power that elicited the play of eros as inter-corporeal moments of
This paper discusses some of these story-telling moments in relation to recurring themes across
the life story, and considers some of the implications for theorising transgressive gendered
Bio: Ruth Ballardie has recently completed a PhD thesis, Making Gender Trouble – Tomboys
and their Sisters. It employed a dialogical performative narrative analysis of women’s life storytelling about gender. The research drew on Butler’s ideas of gender performativity, a Bakhtinian
approaches to language and narrative, and Cavarero’s concept of the narratable self to explore
gender transgressive subjectivities in women. She co-ordinates, along with Professor Elaine
Martin, Narrative Network Australia (www.narrativenetworkaustralia.org.au).
Contact: ruthballardie@optusnet.com.au