This item is only available as the following downloads:
ANTI-ANDROGYNE: FEMINIST ANALYSES OF THE FIN-DE-SICLE ANDROGYNE AND THE HERMAPHRODITE AS A RADI CAL QUEER EMPLOYMENT IN VISUAL CULTURE BY LAUREN ONDERCIN EDWARDS A Thesis Submitted to the Division of Art History New College of Florida in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree Bachelor of Arts Under the sponsorship of Professor Cris Hassold Sarasota, Florida March, 2010
ii ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS Cris Hassold, who helped me find my voice an d who has been an irreplaceable friend and teacher. I would not have come this far without her brilliance, her encouragement, and her genuine interest in my well-being. Miriam Wallace, for her clarity and insight. Her Queer Theory course lead me to the conclusions I have made in this project, and I continue to benefit from her intelligence, wisdom, and warmth. Malena Carrasco, for her particip ation in the reading of this thesis. I hope that this project is as interesting for he r as it has been for me. My mother and step-father, for their support and tolerance. To my father, I miss you now more than ever. Ian, for not letting me get too wrapped up in everything and for all the drag queens. Adele, for reminding me every day about how exciting and wonderful it is to be a woman and an artist. And all the friends who have helped me become who I am today, I wish I had the room to thank you all. Caleb. I love you, exactly as you are. Also: fish sauce.
iii TABLE OF CONTENTS ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS...............................................................................................ii TABLE OF CONTENTS.. iii LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS..v ABSTRACT..vii INTRODUCTION...1 Chapter 1. THE TRANSCENDENT IDEAL: TH E FIN-DE-SICLE ANDROGYNE IN CONTEXT Androgyny in History: From Ardhanarisvara to Aristophanes Androgyny in the Fin-de-Sicle: Pladans th orie plastique Androgyne as Spiritual Trans cendence: The Mind-Body Split Desirable yet Non-Desiring?: A ndrogyny and Homoeroticism in Neoclassical and Fin-de-Sicle Art Crises of Maleness: The Androgyne in Art as a Response to Social Upheaval, i.e. Reacting Against Feminism The Death of the Male Nude:The Decline in Images of Androgyny and the Threat of Homosexuality in the Nineteenth Century 2. THE ANDROGYNE UNVEILED: A FE MINIST ANALYSIS OF MALE ESCAPISM......40 A Wolf in Sheeps Clothi ng: Questioning Perfection Feminized Masculinity: The Perfect Woman is a Man Spiritual Hierarchy: Androgyne, Pure Woman and Femme Fatale Spiritual Hierarchy Continued: Images of Pure Women and Femme Fatales in Fin-de-Sicle Art Homosocial Homoeroticism: A New and Improved Feminine Erotic Withdrawal and Escapism: Androgyne as Reinforcing Male Superiority
iv 3. BENEATH THE WOMANS A ND THE WATERS KISS: THE HERMAPHRODITE IN NINETEE NTH-CENTURY ART AND LITERATURE 68 Contexts and Definitions Decadent Desires: The Hermaphr odites of Aubrey Beardsley Tortured Genius: The Hermaphrodites of Swinburne and Lautreamont Comparing the Hermaphrodites of Beardsley, Swinburne and Lautreamont Castration and the Oceanic Feel ing: Hermaphrodites and the Femme Fatale as Phallic Woman The Impact of Nineteenth-Century Medicine and the Fin-de-Sicle Hermaphrodite on Intersex Realities 4. AINT MUCH OF A DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A BRIDGE AND A WALL: THE HERMAPHRODITE AS VISUAL DIFFRANCE AND NEW POSSIBILITIES FOR RADICAL EMPLOYMENT IN QUEER VISUAL CULTURE...103 Homographesis, Diffrance and the Inscription of Identity Introduction to the Hermaphrodite as Homographetic Diffrance Is Biology an Essential Metaphor? The Homographetic Hermaphrod ite and Visual Diffrance Continued: Language and the A ssumed Necessity of Binary Terms A Sexless Utopia of Non-Ident ity?: Critiquing Foucaults Idealism in The Memoirs of Herculine Barbin New Possibilities for Radical Employment in Queer Visual Culture: Goals and Guidelines GLOSSARY....................................................................................................................139 APPENDIX..143 BIBLIOGRAPHY FIGURES.148
v LIST OF FIGURES Figure 1. Gustave Moreau, Saint Sebastian and the Angel c. 1878. 2. Franz von Stuck, Innocentia 1889. 3. Fernand Khnopff, White Mask 1907. 4. Alexandre Seon, Frontispiece for LAndrogyne by Josephine Peladan, published 1890. 5. Hercules Farnese 3rd century CE Roman copy of 4th c. BCE Greek original. 6. Apollo Belvedere c. 130-140 CE Roman copy of c. 330 BCE Greek original. 7. Jacques-Louis David, Death of Joseph Bara 1794. 8. Anne-Louis Girodet de Roussy-T rioson, The Sleep of Endymion 1793. 9. Jacques-Louis David, Oath of the Horatii 1784. 10. Pierre Puvis de Chavannes, Hope 1871. 11. John William Waterhouse, Lady of Shalott 1888 12. Felicien Rops, Temptation of Saint Anthony 1878. 13. Felicien Rops, The Sacrifice 1883. 14. Gustave Moreau, Oedipus and the Sphinx 1864. 15. Fernand Khnopff, LArt/Des Caresses 1896. 16. Fernand Khnopff, LArt/Des Caresses (Detail). 17. Gustave Moreau, Jason and Medea 1865. 18. Sleeping Hermaphrodite (front view). Helleni stic Roman copy of 2nd century BCE Greek original 19. Sleeping Hermaphrodite (back view). 20. Aubrey Beardsley, The Toilette of Salome from Salome 1894. 21. Aubrey Beardsley, Abbe from Under the Hill 1895. 22. Aubrey Beardsley, design for frontispiece for Oscar Wildes Salome 1894. 23. Nicolas Poussin, Bacchanalia 1631-33.
vi 24. Aubrey Beardlsey, Heading for chapter 26, book 9 (page 226) in Le Morte Darthur c. 1983. 25. Franz von Stuck, Sensuality 1891. 26. Nadar, Hermaphrodite in examination position c. 1860. 27. Nadar, Hermaphrodite lying on his side c. 1860.
vii ANTI-ANDROGYNE: FEMINIST ANALYSES OF THE FIN-DE-SICLE ANDROGYNE AND THE HERMAPHRODITE AS A RADI CAL QUEER EMPLOYMENT IN VISUAL CULTURE Lauren Edwards New College of Florida, 2010 ABSTRACT The fin-de-sicle was a time of social upheaval, especially for men faced with changing gender relations and the rise of fe minism. Two figures which arose from this male anxiety about changing gender roles ar e the Androgyne and the Hermaphrodite. The first part of this paper examines the speci fic ways that the fi n-de-sicle Androgynea supposedly asexual, transcendent, feminized male figurereassures male superiority over women by maintaining pow er in male the male body and excluding women from creativity and eroticism. I then compare the Western conception of the Androgyne to another literary and artistic figure, the Hermaphrodite, as depicted by Decadent artists and authors. I believe the perverse nature of the Hermaphrodite ha s the potential for radi cal employment as a queer theoretical tool in visual culture becau se it reveals the arbitrary nature of binary hierarchies in sex, sexuality, gender and desire. Using Edelmans concept of homographesis and Derridas concept of di ffrance, I attempt to reconstruct the
viii nineteenth-century Hermaphrodite as a tr ansgressive artistic space for challenging normative identity, while also negotiating the potential problems inherent in the relationship of the Hermaphrodi te to actual intersexuals in both the nineteenth century and today. Professor Cris Hassold Art History
1 INTRODUCTION As with most feminist scholarship, I feel it is impossible to explain exactly why I have chosen this projectthe study of Andr ogynes and Hermaphrodites in art of the finde-sicle and beyondto express my thoughts a nd ideas without inevitably talking about my personal life and its relationship to gender and queerness. First and foremost I would like to extend an immense thank-you to Pr ofessor Cris Hassold, who has been my advisor, my friend, and my inspiration for seve ral years. Professor Hassolds classes have given me the much of the fodder through which my process of self-i dentification at New College was informed, and my personal discussions with her about feminist theory and art theory have been invaluab le to my academic development. Similarly, I would like to thank Professor Miriam Wallace, whose academic and emotional support has been greatly appreciated during the process of writing and researching this thesis. Without her I am positive I would never have made the theo retical connections I am most proud of in this project. From my first Independent Study Project in American Feminism and my yearlong position as the President of New College PRIDE, to my later heavy involvement with feminist theory and queer theory courses, my interest in gender, queer identity and the body has only intensified over my career at New College. Professor Hassolds classes An Other Story: Women Artists Through the Ages and Images of Women were both highly influential learning experien ces, as was Professor Wallaces AngloAmerican Feminist Theory: Conceiving Women course and Queer Theory tutorial. My
2 interest in art and art histor y dates even farther back than my time at New College, as I have been actively making art for most of my life, and art history and art theory were the most natural outlets for me to conduct my academic studies. My participation in these classes and my long-term interest in art sti ll do not, however, answer the real questions concerning my thesis project: Why the Androgyne? Why the Hermaphrodite? Why the fin-de-siecle? My queerness has become a subject of great academic and emotional development during my time at New College. Since arriving, I have experienced a significant transition from butch lesbian identi ty to my resistant accep tance of a straight, feminine identity. This transition has invol ved a complete re-situ ating of my selfperception, my interactions with men and ot her women, my erotic sphere, my physicality, so many aspects of my gender and sexual identi ties that I have grown to consider this period to be similar to a transgender experien ce. Perhaps the greatest point of conflict in this transitory process, greater, even, than my abandonment of butch lesbianism as my safe and assigned identity and mode of expr ession, was my resistance to the feminine, getting over the initial squeamishness that I felt towards not only femininity, but the concept of woman-ness more generally: to be a woman, I had to learn, was not to be incapable, weak, and the object of male (or, in my case, lesbian) fantasy. The fear of losing my subjecthood and my dignity, under the labels of heterosexual, femme, and woman were, as feminist and queer theo ry were to show me, hardly unfounded. But through this academic outlet, as well as thr ough my involvement with transgender studies and activism and the emotional, physical and psychic experien ce of becoming a woman, I soon discovered that under my ne w, transitory identityneither purely
3 straight/ feminine nor truly lesbian/ but chI was actually in a position of real uniqueness and possible significance as a feminist, a queer theorist and an artist: my perspective is one of an ex-gay. Though this term is popularly used in th e context of the so rt of right-wing, evangelical Christian discour se that disenfranchises homosexuality, I found the inbetweenness of my experiences the straddling the wall be tween gay and straight, butch and femme, woman and not-woman, to grant me an in-depth view into gender performance, bodily significati on, eroticism and desires, and a ll the issues of authenticity, parody and social construction th at lay beneath their surfaces. It struck me that liminal, in-between bodies, genders a nd sexualities operate in relation to mainstream bodies, genders and sexualities, in the same way as is described in a certain song lyric from the cult classic transgender/gay film Hedwig and the Angry Inch : There aint much of a difference Between a bridge and a wall Without me right in the middle, babe You would be nothing at all. An interest in the potentialparticularly the artistic and theoretical potentialof in-between genders, sexualities, and bodily iden tities, the walls and bridges of society and how they serve to define that which they both separate (as categorically different) and connect (through the shared heteronormative di savowal of liminality) is what brought me, inevitably, to this thesis project. The He rmaphroditethe body that is both and neither male and female, gay and straight, masculin e and feminine, normative and perverseis a literary and artistic figure that epitomized th e kind of marginal, in-between spaces that both define recognized understa ndings of sexual normativity, in its difference from them, and also to destabilize them by blurring the distinctions between accepted dualities. The
4 fin-de-sicle is rife with images of the A ndrogyne, who in my thesis I reveal to be an insolated, male-oriented figure created in reaction to such anxieties of sexual difference and erotic/sexual truth that the Hermaphr odite and other marginal figuresincluding women, homosexuals, cross-dressers, et carouse in mainstream society. The subject of my thesis has become a t opic of great and ever -increasing interest to me, something I wish to c ontinue exploring in feminist and queer theory, art history and my own artistic ventures for many years to come. I hope that this brief history of my personal relationship with gender, queerness and in-between spaces offers the readers of my project a unique perspective from which to view this new art historical and theoretical material. I have included a clarifying glossary in this project due to the complexities I have encountered in defining various the art historical, theoretic al and cultural terms which appear in this thesis. It is, however, important that I clarify some of my definitions in relation to others in this in troduction, especially definitions regarding the art movements represented in this paperparticularly the Symbolists and the Decadentsand the distinctions between the Androgyne, the He rmaphrodite, hermaphrodites and intersex. One of the most difficult aspects of resear ching this project wa s, as is common in art history, the problem of definition and categorization of artists and their work into particular movements and styles. Working with artists who operated against the grain of society through their spiritual and aesthetic values, two notable turn-of-the-century movements which consistently returned to th e forefront of this study were the Decadents and the Symbolists. During my research of these movements it very quickly became clear
5 that scholarship on the fin-de-sicle is not in agreement on how these movements are to be defined or who belongs to which group. Let us take the term Symbolist, for example. According to the Oxford Englis h Dictionary, the word Symbolist as it pertains to art and lit erature is defined as: One who uses symbolism in art or literature: ( a ) A painter who aims at symbolizing ideas rather than representing the form or aspect of actual objects; spec. applied to a late nineteenth-century school of painters who used representations of objects and schemes of colour to suggest ideas or states of mind. ( b ) One of a late nineteenth-century school of French poets who aimed at representing ideas and emotions by indirect suggestion rather than by direct expression, and attached a symbolic meaning to par ticular objects, words, sounds, etc.1 Though this may seem a simple enough definition, applied to a school of painters or a school of French Poets with very clear goals and aesthe tics, the reality of defining Symbolist is much more complex. The te rms Symbolist and Decadent art are virtually impossible to define, so different in temperam ent, scope and achievement were the artists concerned, writes John Christian, almost shunning the notion th at there could be such a thing as a school of Symbolism or Decadence in the visual arts.2 Similarly, Edward Lucie-Smith writes that one cannot discuss literary Symbolism without also discussing the notion of Decadence, and that strenuous efforts have been made to identify the origins of th e new approach to the plastic arts which grew up in the second half of the cen tury with the birth of the Symbolist Movement, which in its strictest definition is a lit erary phenomenon. He goes on to say that in regards to the typical definition of Symbolism as a French movement in art and literature, literary Symbolists, when they at last achieved an iden tity of their own by bringing together ideas which had existed in a state of potentiality for some years previously, also looked about 1 "symbolist, n. Oxford English Dictionary. 2nd. ed. 1989 OED Online Oxford University Press. 30 Sept. 2009
6 for artists who seemed to echo and to jus tify their own announced programme in another field of creative activity, as was the case in Joris-Karl Huysmans incorporation of Odilon Redon and Gustave Moreau into his 1884 novel A Rebours .3 More formally, Michelle Facos definition of Symbolism is ba sed on two factors: authorial intention and aesthetic qualities, and is char acterized by (1) an artists desire to represent ideas and (2) a manipulation of color, form, and com position that signals the artists relative indifference to worldly appearances.4 Yet later she asserts that Decadence was the label given to [the] pessimistic branch of Symbolism.5 These definitions, too, shows the broadness of Symbolist possibilities, which bl eed across national and linguistic borders and into Decadence, both movements being inspired by and mutually producing each other. This definitional confusion is hardly surprising. The cosmopolitan nature and international distribution of art and literature during the ni neteenth century meant that although Symbolism and Decadence are terms of ten technically attributed to French artists and authors, the far-reaching influence of these works can be found in the work of contemporary artists and au thors across Europe and Am erica. So, despite some scholarship insisting that Sym bolism is a French (and in some cases Belgian) literary and artistic movement of the 1890s, other schol arship does not hesitate to name Elihu Vedder an American Symbolist, or Franz Von Stuck a German Symbolist, or even some of Edward Munchs and Pablo Picassos work as Symbolist. Similarly, while Decadence is also defined by most scholarship as a French literary and artistic movement of the turn of the century, Oscar Wildes play Salome is no less a Decadent work than Huysmans 3 Edward Lucie-Smith. Symbolist Art New York: Praeger, 1972: 51. 4 Michelle Facos. Symbolist Art in Context Berkeley: University of California Press, 2009: 1. 5 Facos 65.
7 A Rebours Clearly the boundaries of nationality had little containing effect on the proliferation of Symbolist and Decadent aesthetics. What, then, do these contemporary and intertwined but seemingly separate movements have in common with each other, that they should all fall under the lens of this analysis of the fin-de -sicle Androgyne? The fact is that androgyny was not, itself, a particularly prominent or defining charac teristic of any of these movementsa consequence of having such ambiguous d efinitive aesthetics in international appropriationsthough various ar tists, poets and novelists from all three still have produced imagery of the Androgyne in th eir oeuvre. Why should the Androgyne continually reappear in the work of artists attributed to these three antisocial or reactionary literary a nd artistic movements? To answer this question, we must synthesize the underlying common sentiments of D ecadence and Symbolism, revealing the commonality of their desires to participate in these partic ular modes of social and aesthetic production. The common theme of these movements is their shared rejection of progressive society and reality. Each effectively created separate philosophies and practices of withdrawal, allowing the writer and the artist to escape the world around him by retreating into oneself, ones g enius, ones spiritually resona nt inner sanctum. Patricia Mathews calls the Symbolists withdrawal a form of passionate discontent, in so much as these artists were determined to replace what they considered to be a corrupt bourgeois value system with their more spir itually attuned, highly idealistic, mystical, and transcendental aesthetic. They achieved this th rough sensitization and initiation into the mystic universe, in which the artist looked into his own soul, the eyes of his
8 interior self were opened, and the corres pondences between the na tural and spiritual world were revealed to him.6 Using privileged notions of an artists intuition and genius, the Symbolist could withdraw into himself and create a universe of personalized symbols and meanings (supposedly) untouched by society, marking his retreat from a reality he considered corrupt and grotesque. Apocalyptic cynicism led to resignation a nd hedonism. Nostalgic paralysis led to withdrawal into an imaginary sanctuary form ed by memories and visions of the past, writes Facos of the pessimistic branch of Symbolists, the Decadents.7 Artists and writers of this movement withdrew from so ciety through a renunciation of the idea of progress, spiritual as well as material, separating them significantly from the hyperspiritual Symbolists.8 The Decadents turned to modes of social perversitythe cult of the dandy, open homosexuality, a celebration of artificiality, exclus iveness and snobbery, morbidity, the abuse of drugs and sex in both their personal lives and their art and literature as their preferred m ode of retreat from reality. For what reason should these artists and writers feel so strongly repelled by society, that there should be so many different approaches to attempting to shut it out, to turn inward and reject the worl d around them? What is this co rruption that they were so eager to efface, this desire to renounce worldly existence? During the turn of the century, major ethical and socio-economic changes the growth of cities and free-market capitalism, medical and technological a dvances, class conflict, gender relations, demographic shifts, religious debates, and colonialismwere changing the very fabric 6 Ibid. 7 Facos 65. 8 Lucie-Smith 52.
9 of Western society.9 The age was marked by unprecedented social, economic, and intellectual mutations whose rapidity and extent were often felt to be excessive, writes Gibson in The Symbolists .10 Alarm over this apparent pa ttern of universal acceleration led people to scrutinize economic, political, sc ientific, and social developments for clues to the future, writes Facos. To many, the signs were clear: We stern civilization had reached its zenith and was rapidly spiraling toward self-destructiona prediction that the advent of a world war in 1914 seemed to fulfill.11 Though each movement reacted differently to these threatening changes, and against particular things more than othersthe Symbolists return to Romanticism can be read as a rejection of 19th century Positivism, for examplethere is a near universality in the male Western worlds negative reaction to one major social change in particular: the rise of feminism and subsequent changes in gender relations.12 In the following text I will be examining the ways in which many male artists of the late 19th century and early 20th century, across generations and nationalities, responded to the threat of feminism through the creation of visual, literary and social economies of self -absorption, of retreat from reality, with particular interest in the artists and authors who, in their formulation of ideal beauty and purity of form and mind untouched by the dangers and poisons of modern society, settled upon a recurrent and highly complex figurethe Androgyne. The word androgyne has been given se veral definitions throughout the course of history, existing in nearly every culture as a transcendental image of the masculine and 9 Facos 6. 10 Michael Gibson. The Symbolists New York: Abrams, 1988: 8. 11 Facos 65. 12 Gibson 11: what happens when a fundamentally symbolic form of art encounters an age that does not admit an elsewhere or a beyond? It is this question that reveals the true situation of Symbolist art, its precariousness and vulnerability.The nineteen th century was the century of Positivism, which holds that there is no elsewhere, no other reality, no far side of things, no Platonic idea, no beyond.
10 the feminine elements combined into a cosmic wholeYin and Yang and Siva Ardhanarisvara are two examples of non-We stern usage of the myth of androgyny. The term androgyne in the West has historically been assigned several different and often conflicting meanings, ranging from an effeminate man to a physical or psychological hermaphrodite.13 In this study, however, the definitions of Androgyne and Hermaphrodite (capitalized in this study to denote their status as artistic and literary figures) are quite distinct and even conf licting, revealing visual, psychological and aesthetic clashes between the two that are tellin g of an artists and hi s audiences feelings about gender and sexuality. As I will show in the following analysis, the Androgyne upon which I have bestowed a capital A in th is study to show its difference as a figure in art and literature from other forms of androgyny, including masculine females or everyday forms of gender-bending (both inten tional and unintentional)has two natures or definitions. There is th e Androgyne as it is espoused by its creators, such as Sar Josphin Pladan: a young, feminized and asexual male who, through a fusion of masculine and feminine traits, has reached a st ate of spiritual transcendence. On the other hand, as my scholarship will s how, there is the Androgyne as it truly exists, exposed as a misogynist tool of homosocial and homoerotic exclusion of women fr om the realities of creativity, spirituality and beauty. 13 For example, Catharine Stimpson denotes five often mutually exclusive definitions: 1) a person who sleeps with members of both sexes; 2) an effete male 3) a physical hermaphrodite ; (4) a mental hermaphrodite which exerts and enjoys both the mas culine and feminine spheres of the brain; and finally, 5) a psychological hermaphrodite, which whe ther female or malewill behave as if it were both feminine and masculine. While Stimpsons article focuses more on her fifth definition, in my own studies I would have to align the Androgyne with her second definition: that is, a creature who so falls back from vigorous virility allegedly personifies the ways in which femininity can taint and corrupt masculinity. See Catharine Stimpson The Androgyne and the Homosexual. Womens Studies 2 (1974): 237-8 for fuller definitions.
11 Similarly, the word hermaphrodite has been given several definitions throughout history, often conflated with androgyne. The Oxford English Dictionary describes the foremost definition of hermaphrodite thusly: 1. A human being, or one of the higher anim als, in which parts characteristic of both sexes are to some extent (really or apparently) combined. (Formerly supposed to occur normally in some races of men and beasts ; but now regarded only as a monstrosity.) b. An effeminate man or virile woman. c. A catamite.14 So, the term hermaphrodite can, like the wo rd androgyne, refer to an effeminate man, or, more accurately to my own descripti on and to the scientific denotation, a body which physically possesses both male and female se xual attributes. It is critically important that this definition of hermaphrodite be separated from the term intersex, a term used to describe persons with non-normative genitalia. The word hermaphrodite has long been used to describe intersexuality in real persons, but this term is misleading because it presumes that intersexed people are both fully male and female, a physical impossibility that is ignorant to the medical and social treatment of intersexed people today and in history. I have sp ent a large portion of this pr oject determining the relation to the Hermaphrodite of art and literature to real intersexed people, such as Herculine Barbin. While the Androgyne is a figure that shows up consistently in art and literature of the fin-de-sicle (and in earlier movements as well, as my scholarship will show), the Hermaphroditeagain, indicated in thus study with a capital H to de note its literary and artistic status as separate fr om actual intersexed peopleappe ars in its true form (a man 14 hermaphrodite, n. and a. Th e Oxford English Dictionary. 2nd. ed. 1989. OED Online Oxford University Press. 10 November 2008. < http://dictiona ry.oed.com/cgi/entry/50105228>. Interestingly, the fourth definition of hermaphrodite, figuratively speaking is: fig. A person or thing in which any two opposite attributes or qualities are combined.. This definition works perfectly with the notion of diffrance I plan to apply to the Hermaphrodite -as-Art-Object later in my thesis.
12 with breasts; a woman with a penis) very ra rely, though the oceanic feeling it evokes is implied in the many images of femme fatale s in fin-de-sicle art and literature. The availability yet relative rarity of art or li terature involving Hermaphrodites or the anxiety about the loss of male subjectivity in the nine teenth century begs the question: what is the significance of this elusive figure to the d eeply sexually-concerned minds of nineteenth century Western artists and writers, especially in its strange relation to the highly visible figure of the Androgyne? Furthermore, what does this seeming ambivalence about producing images of the Hermaphrodite mean in the context of the ever-increasing imperative for making perversions of sexualityof which the hermaphroditic body can only ever, in its fusion of oppos ing sexual binaries, bevisible? I will answer these questions and ma ny more concerning the Androgyne and the Hermaphrodite in the following text. For the sa ke of simplicity, and because this thesis is about Androgynes and Hermaphrodites and not a bout defining artistic movements, I will not be focusing on the movements these images came out of (except when particularly important, which is why I have striven to defi ne them contextually in this introduction). Instead I will focus on the overall mood and reac tions of artists and writers from the finde-sicle, including some artist s and authors from earlier in the nineteenth century, since as I have shown, the aesthet ic boundaries of artistic movements are blurred and not necessarily limited by nationality or decade, pa rticularly in relation to images of women. Also, while there will be a few instances of literature brought up in th is thesis, I will be focusing most of my analyses on the visual arts. This should not, however, indicate that late 19th century literature was not equally invested in gender conflicts and extolling an androgynous ideal.
13 In chapter one, I will further explore the historical context of images of androgyny, and I will show through a visual an alysis the way the Androgyne functioned in the minds of artists and their audiences as an idealized spiritual and aesthetic figure. In chapter two, I will problemeti ze the Androgyne by re-reading the same or similar images through a feminist lens, revealing its oppre ssive and misogynist goals through visual analysis and comparison to images of women fr om the fin-de-sicle. In chapter three, I will introduce the Hermaphrodite as the oppos itional counterpart to the Androgyne, and through visual and some literary analysis s how how the Hermaphrodite functions as a perverse, feminine and sexed figure of ambivalence and duality to the fin-de-sicle man. I will also include the memoir of Herculine Barbin and medical photograph of a real intersexed person by Nadar to show how actual intersexed people were regarded in the fin-de-sicle, and determine whether their treatment can be (or should be) compared to the treatment of the Hermaphrodite in art and literature of the period. Finally, in chapter four, I will take my study of the Hermaphrodite as an artistic and li terary figure to the next level, using Lee Edelmans concept of deconstructive homographesis and Derridas notion of diffrance in order to posit new possibilities for the Hermaphrodite as a new genre or mode of negotiating bodily identity for contemporary feminist and queer artists and writers, a new theoretical tool for visual culture that offers a space for theorizing embodiment, sex and sexuality th at deconstructs the visual diffrance of dichotomized bodies and genders.
14 CHAPTER ONE THE TRANSCENDENT IDEAL: THE FIN-DE-SICLE AN DROGYNE IN CONTEXT In this chapter, I will first focus on defining the Androgyne as it existed in the minds of fin-de-sicle artists. I will briefl y discuss earlier models of Androgyny in both Eastern and Western culture, and then show how the West ern fin-de-sicle Androgyne was regarded by its contemporariesspecifica lly, as canonically defined by Sar Josephin Pladanas a spiritually transcendent union of masculine and feminine traits in a perfect, youthful, sexless bodythough this body is also universally male, unlike many of its predecessors. I will investigate images of the idealized Androgyne as imagined by various 19th-century artists including Gustav Mo reau, Fernand Khnopff, Franz von Stuck, and others. I will also include a short discus sion about and images of the ephebic male nude from Neoclassical art, which in its re iteration of classica l soft masculinity informed the fin-de-sicle Androgyne. I wi ll then briefly investigate the economic, political and socio-cultural atmosphere of Eu rope during the end of the twentieth century, focusing particularly on France, as it is from this country that reactionary movements such as Symbolism and Decadence began, and fr om where a great deal of important art and literature concerning the Androgyne was produced and inspired. I will show how, because the atmospheres of France and the We stern world at large were in a state of
15 upheaval during the Neoclassical period and the fin-de-sicle, the two most recent artistic periods in modern history in which the Androgyne plays a major role, we can perhaps conclude that the Androgyne itself is symptomatic of times of socio-political and cultural turmoil in the modern Western world before the twentieth century. I will focus mainly on the effects of the feminist movement of both Revolutionary France and the turn of the century Western world on the social and cultural environment that informed images of Androgynes and of wome n in Neoclassical and fin-de-sicle art. Furthermore, I will explain how the deployment of sexuality, as described by Foucault in the first volume of The History of Sexuality affected the state of mind of Western men regarding masculinity and se xuality around the turn of the twentieth century, and how the anxieties of homos exual sexual perversion and effeminacy contributed to (and mutually reinforced) the reinvention of the Androgyne. Overall I hope in this chapter to cr eate a context for understanding the fin-de-sicle Androgyne and its raison detre setting the stage for the following chapter, which will reveal the true nature of the Androgyne as a pr oduct of the social, political and sexual anxieties of fin-de -sicle society. Androgyny in History: From Ardha narisvara to Aristophanes The Androgyne as a spiritual concept is in fact a cross-cultural phenomenon, appearing in various forms throughout world history, nearly always referring to the birth of the universe or humanityman and womanfrom an androgynous and perfect whole. In Hindu mythology, one of Sivas purest forms is called Ardhanarisvarathe Lord who is Half Womaniconographically represented as a
16 bifurcated physical union of Siva and his consort Parvati, representing the androgynous origins of the cosmos which must split to procreate and give birth to the universe.15 In Chinese culture the Tai Chi re presents the circle from which the principles of reality originate, split between the opposing yet complementary Yin (feminine) and Yang (masculine) and pe rforming a harmonious, cosmic balance.16 In Western culture, an early instance of the theme of androgynous beginnings in the myth of Adam, from whose body Eve is creat ed, implying that Adams original and whole body was part-female.17 Perhaps the earliest and most influen tial illustration of androgyny in Western culture is the tale told by Arist ophanes, the comic poet, in Platos Symposium regarding the origins of car nal and romantic love. Aris tophanes (having only just overcome a rather silly bout of the hiccups and sneezing, seemingly to discredit the man who had previously b een speaking of subsuming Eros under science) weaves a tale about how in the beginning, there were three sexes, those of the Sun, the Earth, and the Moon. These sexes were composed of two bodies fused into a spherical union of two men, two women, and a man and woman, respectively.18 Concerned by the hubris of these beings, Zeus saw it fit to punish them by splitting them all down the 15 Ellen Goldbergs book The Lord Who is Half Woman: Ardhanarisvara in Indian and Feminist Perspective offers an excellent analysis of the iconography, history and variations upon Ardhanarisvara in Hindu mythology and culture, and goes on to discuss the implications of this androgynous, originating ideal for Hindu women through an exploration of androgyny in hathayoga and ancient goddess worship. 16 Gelburd, Gail. Androgyny in Art Hempstead, N.Y.: The Gallery, 1982: 2. 17 This idea is furthered in the Kabbalistic no tion of Adam Kadmon (Man Projection) referring to the original creation of man in two natures, one physical and one purely spiritual (and androgynous). In Wendy Donigers Women, Androgynes and Other Mythical Beasts she explains that the midrash on Genesis 1:27 explicitly states that when God created the first man, he created him androgynous. Man being made in the image of God, this would make the creator himself an androgyne, though there is nothing explicit in the text of genesis itself. (302) Thus the theme of Androgyne-as-origin is continued in Judeo-Christian myth. 18 Plato. Symposium Vol. 9, in Plato in Twelve Volumes, translated by Harold Fowler. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1925: 189e 90b.
17 middle, causing the two-legged beings we know as human today.19 Having been separated, each singular being craved reunion with its other half, and according to Aristophanes, this craving is love, both romantic and carnal.20 Interestingly, Aristophanes has provided an origin for bot h heterosexual love (from the male-female bodies of the children of th e Moon) and homosexual and le sbian love (from the malemale children of the Sun and the female-female children of the Earth).21 He goes on to express how true love is the recogniti on of ones proper half and through this recognition discovering a return to ou r original wholeness through love.22 Aristophanes tale, while fantastical, pave s the way for Platos own discussion on the nature of desire in love, and would beco me a popular reference many centuries later for scholars including Freud, Lacan and Jung. Androgyny in the Fin-de-Sicle: Pladans th orie plastique While the Androgyne of the fin-de-si cle is certainly informed by the Aristophanes myth, as a well-known We stern aesethetic and philosophical construction, it is a far cry from the weird, spherical fusion of male and female bodies that Aristophanes describes. Indeed, the Androgyne that Western artists had conceived of prior to the 19th century is quite unlike the literal fusions of male and female and the spiritual harmonies between masculine and feminine I have described 19 Plat. Sym. 190c 191a 20 Plat. Sym. 192e 21 Plat. Sym. 191d e 22 Plat. Sym. 193cd: what I mean isand th is applies to the whole world of men and womenthat the way to bring happin ess to our race is to give our lo ve its true fulf illment: let every one find his own favorite, and so revert to his primal estate. If this be the best thing of all, the nearest approach to it among all acts open to us now must accord ingly be the best to choose; and that is, to find a favorite whose nature is exactly to our mind. Love is the god who brings this about; he fully deserves our hymns.
18 here. The Symbolist mystic Sar Josphin Pladan, founder of the Salon de Rose + Crois, described the Androgyne as it was char acterized in fin-de-sicle art in his 1910 essay De landrogyne: thorie plastique According to Pladan, the Androgyne is a young, graceful man who emerges at the age of the choirboy or the first communicant, and does not remain beyond adolescence.23 Furthermore, the Androgyne can exist only in the virgin state; at the first affirmation of sex, it resolves to male or female.24 So, the Western Androgyne is unique from other images of androgyny in that it is defined as exclusively malebodied, pubescent, and asexual and by definition of his youth is only a temporary, fleeting creature. Essentially, his androgynous quality lies not in a physical union of maleness and femaleness, like Siva Ardhana risvara or Aristophanes or iginal sexes, but in the feminine youthfulness of a boyish body, and in the disavowal of sexual desire (though certainly capable in producing erotic desire in others). The Androgyne is especially prevalent in the works of Gustave Moreau (1826-1898), a French Symbolist painter who caught the attention of such Symbolist writers as Huysmans in the midto late 19th century. In Moreaus 1878 pencil and charcoal drawing St. Sebastian and the Angel (Fig. 1) we are presented with a typical image of the Androgyne: a youthful and we ll-formed young man with long, feminine hair and small, effaced genitals look s peacefully down at an arrow which has penetrated his thigh.25 This drawing has a painted ve rsion, but Sebastians face and 23 From Pladans De landrogyne quoted in Laure Murat The Invention of the Neuter. Diogenes 52, (2005): 69. 24 Mathews 113. Pladans theoretical writings are f illed with contradictions: he asserts that the Androgyne can only ever be male, that a female andr ogyne is merely a perverse mimicry. Yet he also claims that Joan of Arc can be considered an An drogyne, since she presents and behaves like a boy. 25 In the painted version of Sebastian and the Angel Sebastians genitals are covered by a long piece of cloth that actually draws th e viewers attention to the genital region of the male figure; his
19 gestures are much softer here and more focu s is given to the male figure and the angel than in the more crowded 1876 painting. With his arm raised in the air and assuming a classic contrapposto pose, the saint is clearly performing a role traditionally associated with the female nudepassive, vulnerable, elegantly fluid. Yet the feminine stance is still presented through a chiseled male body. We may observe the same dedication to classical youthful male forms in t ypically feminine poses and situations in many of Moreaus paintings. One can also encounter the Androgyne in much more ambiguous terms, as in German Symbolist Franz von Stucks beautiful 1889 painting Innocentia (Fig. 2). Here, a soulful and dark-eyed youth looks out at us from an energized field of white and blue brush strokes, hold ing a thorny branch laden with large white flowers. This image is certainly more overtly feminized than Moreaus interpretation of the Androgyne, whose body, though softened and feminized in posture and situation, is still clearly recalling the ideal male forms of Greco-Roman classicism. The fact that the painting is titled Innocence and evokes a spirit of purity and youth points to the idea that the figure is an Androgyneyet despite the figures short hair and somewhat boyish features, he is so deeply feminized that the viewer must wonder whether he is male or female. His bluish-w hite, translucent garment softens the lines of his body, and the flowers could be inte rpreted as representations of female sexuality (as they often do in art history) but since the painting evokes innocence and because the figure is short-hair ed and exhibits the hint of a boyish nipple beneath his penis is being replaced with a bigger, more sugg estively phallic cover. In the drawing, however, Sebastians genitals are merely difficult to make out; they may be covered in a diaphanous cloth of some sort, but it does not sh ow the same phallic object-displacement as in the painting, adding to the softer character of the Sebastian of the drawing than the harder, more fierce and masculine painted Sebastian.
20 garment, I believe the figure can only be male and asexual, as Pladan has overtly expressed in his androgynous manifesto: th e thorny branch represents the looming spectre of carnal knowledge in the rosy-cheeked boys im mediate future, hailing the end of his temporary lif e of androgynous perfection.26 Androgyne as Spiritual Transcendence: The Mind-Body Split The fin-de-sicle Androgyne, as he is described by Pladan and as he was employed by 19th century (and even early 20th century) artists a nd writers, is not only limited to the form of a young, supposedly sexl ess boy such as these, but he is also meant to represent spiritual transcendence beyond the grotesque and base reality from which so many fin-de-sicle artists and writers sought to escape from. The Androgyne was a symbol of the artists geni us, his ecstasy and d ivine inspiration, the ultimate representation of his visionary powers and of his retreat into the inner sanctum of the mind and spirit, away from the excesses of reality. Transcendence for artists like Moreau was based in mystic ism and otherworldliness and had long been connected to a disaffection with te rrestrial existence, recalling Neoplatonic thought and the hierarchy of spirit and mind over the body and the earthly realm.27 Androgynomorphism is not just one way of conceiving the world, writes Pladan, it is the only possible way.28 This transcendental ideal the privileged archetypal position of the Androgyne to the art of many fin-de-sicle artists and authors, was 26 Murat 69: Although Pladan emphatically asserts that the Androgyne can only be a boy, he does in fact allow for some deviations from actual maleness in identifying androgynomorphism, including the angel which has no sex (hence the identifica tion of Sebastian-as-Androg yne with the Angel in Moreaus drawing) and Joan of Arc. In other word s, the biological sex mattered little as long as the genderthat is, the image, bearing, and role trad itionally awarded to boysretained its integrity. 27 Mathews 43. 28 Pladan quoted in Murat 69.
21 entirely dependent on the Androgynes cont inued existence as male-bodied, youthful, and asexual. Returning to Moreaus St. Sebastian this idealization is exhibited in the calm expression on Sebastians face as he considers the arrow in his thigh, confirming that he has overcome concerns of the fles h and the physical, having spiritually transcended in this act of martyrdom a disavowal of the body. The angel who oversees this miraculous act is, too, ase xual and transcendent: though the sex of the long-haired, cross-armed angel seems perhap s more female-oriented (Moreaus work is full of images of Androgynes coupled with pure women, which I shall discuss later), Pladans assignment of angels who have no sex as an example of androgynomorphism suggests that Moreau ma y be identifying Sebastian with the heavenly Androgyne. Though his body is being a ssaulted, it is clear that we are meant to compare Moreau with this heavenly sp ectre that oversees hi s torture and assures that he miraculously does not die until his eventual beheading, assuring his sainthood. A more dramatic interpretation of th e Neo-Platonic split between Mind and Body can be seen in Belgian Symbolist Ferdnand Khnopffs 1907 encaustic selfportrait White Mask. (Fig. 3) Khnopff often portrays himself as an Androgyne, for it is the Androgyne who stood for the ideal of creative genius that many these artists strove for in themselves. Here he has ta ken his identification with the creative and asexual Androgyne a step further, literally severing his head from his shoulders, his mind from his body. The disembodied head of the artist-dandy hovers in space, severed from the ground it floats abovea shadow is even present to emphasize its separateness from its surroundings. The arti st gazes knowingly out at the audience,
22 alerting us with his piercing eyes, severe m outh, and emotional depth, as is typical of self-portraiture. Having identi fied himself with (if not as ) the Androgyne, Khnopff aligns himself with a being which represente d the symbolic manifestation of divine neutral stasis that the artist sought in his own life and art the creature of the future outside of time and place; the artistic sex par excellence due to its reconciliation of idea and form; the perfect being freed from physical needs.29 This image in particular may also be co mpared as perhaps a direct response to another important image of the Androgyne Alexandre Seons 1890 drawing for the frontispiece for Pladans LAndrogyne (Fig. 4), a defining image for the cult of androgyny in French Symbolism. Seons Androgyne, too, appears in the somewhat macabre form of a disembodied head, levitating above a rocky seascape with rough waters. What the image depicts is descri bed in Pladans own words: Above the strange rocks of the Brehat, licked at by th e waves, there rolls in the sky in piece of the moon, the head of the androgyne Sa mas, stupefied by the sexual enigma.30 Unlike Khnopff, Seon has not identified hims elf with the Androgyne in this image, and so we are not treated to the same self -aware confrontation with the heads gaze. Rather, the head of the A ndrogyne seems to stare blankly right over our heads with his large eyes, giving the impression that he is not of this world, our worldhe has, in the literal and metaphoric shedding of his body, ascended to a state ruled entirely by mind and spirit, far beyond the viewers own bodily experiences and that of the barren, uneasy seascap e he inhabits. 29 W.R. Olander Fernand Khnopff's Art or The Caresses. Arts Magazine New York, June 1977: 47. 30 Pladan as quoted in Sven Davisson, The Plastic Ideal: The Androgyne in fin de sicle Occulture. Ash Journal 4 (2005): 36.
23 Desirable yet Non-Desiring?: Androgyny and Homoeroticism in Neoclassical and Fin-de-Sicle Art All of this so-called disavowal of the body through asexual transcendence does not, of course, conceal the fact that so many of these images of Androgynes are highly homoerotic, figuring young boys in the place of eroticized femininity for the consumption of the male viewer. A contradi ctory figure that is both desirous and nondesiring, the Androgyne operates within a comp lex system of erotics between artist, subject, and viewera process which I will explain in-depth in the following chapter. From whence did this unusual vision of the Androgyne spring in Western art? And for what reasons does he hold such a privileged, idealized position in certain aesthetic movements of the fin-de-sicl e? Indeed, since its re-invocation in Neoclassical art in the midto late eigh teenth century, the Androgyne had gradually disappeared from the canvases and pages of literature of the nineteenth century. Significantly, this disappearance is relate d to the simultaneous fading of the male nude, the principle vehicle of the A ndrogyne, over the course of the 19th century, giving away to the primacy of the female nude in Impressionism and other prominent nineteenth century art forms. Where the male nude had been the dominant aesthetic form since antiquity, the inst ance of modernity and its relation to the masculine and the feminine led to an unprecedented shift towards the female nude in most art movements.31 It was only in the resistant artnamely the Symbolists and the 31 Abigail Solomon-Godeau. Male Trouble: A Crisis in Representation New York: Thames and Hudson, 1997: 22: The visual evidence of Western art history, beginning with the Greek invention of the nude as an aesthetic category, seems to justify the view that the dominance of the female body in nineteenthand most of twentieth-century iconograph y was a historically specific mutation, one tied to the particular determinations of modernity, and to the emergence and consolidation of bourgeois
24 Decadentsof the midto late nineteenth and early twentieth century that the male nude-as-Androgyne reappeared with conviction, if only briefly and to the disapproval of society at large. The Androgyne of the fin-de-sicle finds its most immediate roots in the Neoclassical male nude of th e late eighteenth and early nineteenth century. The female nude that had been favored by the courtly art of the Rococo in France was rejected in favor of a return to classical, Greco-Roman masculinity and stoicism. As the end of the 18th century drew near, the voluptu ous women of the Rococo, their doll-like aristocratic consorts, the general flippancy and gauzy formal qualities, favored by the rich and powerful, the boudoir scenes and erotic goddesses and putti of the Rococo were all slowly substituted (but not replaced) with an emphasis on classical morality and primitivism. The desire to abandon these old models corruption and perversion and to reform art into something purer and more ideal a Golden Age that Greco-Roman classicism has represented since late Antiquity expresses the French publics movement towards revolution against the wealthy and immoral aristocracy, as well as a more general sentiment of distaste for the old, decadent models of French art throughout Europe.32 The Neoclassical is characterized by a re-emphasis on historical and lite rature-oriented pain tings and a neararcheological attention to detail, a denial of illusionist painting in favor of hard lines and dulled primary colors, a glorification of stoicism in both men and women in the face of death, suffering, andmost importa ntly in relation to the French ideologies of gender. In fact, the overwhelming prep onderance of imagery of er oticized femininity was relatively unprecedented. Since classi cal antiquity it has been the male body more often than not that constituted the aesthetic category of the nude and the male rather than the female body that formed the core of classical art theory, pedagogy and practical training. 32 Hugh Honour Neo-Classicism Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1968: 18.
25 Revolutionloyalty and political sacrifice. However, one of the most prominent assertions by Neoclassical art was the in creased emphasis on the male nude, and more specifically, of the classical ephebe. The ephebe of classic Greco-Roman ar t, exemplified by the many Ganymedes and Hyacinthuses of classicizing painting and sculpture, offers an image of the eromenos of Athenian pederastic traditionfree males past the age of puberty who were not yet old enough to become citizen s, who engaged in sexual relationships with older, more powerful men ( erastes) with the promise of political and social gain.33 In the seeming bifurcation of classical masculinity under these two masculine roles eromenos and erastes soft and hard masculinitiesit is not difficult to see where Neoclassicism picked up its own dual depiction of masculinity as either masculine-male and feminine-male: One can readily identify the expression of this split [of masculine ideology] in the art of classical antiquity, orin the art of late-eighteenth and early nineteenth century France. In both periods cultura lly sanctioned representations of ideal masculinity allow for two generic archetypes: a heroic, virile, and purposeful manhood understood as active and dominating, and a typically younger model adolescent or ephebicwhose sensual and erotic appeal derives at least in part from its relative passivity.34 Neo-classical artists looked to classical art forms and literature in their re-invention of masculinity and art theory during the late eighteenth century, envisioning the classical male nudeboth hard and softand his stalwart heroism as a lesson applicable to all men and for all time.35 They regarded classical sculptures as an almost infallible guide to the difficult process of se lecting from nature to create ideal works of art, and with the enc ouragement of such art theorists as the grecophilic 33 David M. Halperin. Is There a History of Sexuality? History and Theory 28. 3 (1989): 261. 34 Solomon-Godeau 24-5. 35 Honour 35.
26 Winckelmann, with his love for the classical male nude, artists strove for perfection in reproducing male bodies as varied as the hulking, b earded form of the Farnese Hercules (Fig. 5) and the lithe grac e of Apollo Belvedere (Fig. 6).36 Davids 1794 Death of Joseph Bara (Fig. 7) an excellent instance of Revolutionary propaganda based on supposedly real events, offers a perfect example of the Neoclassical ephebehimself based on images of eromenos from classical antiquitywho would inform the later finde-sicle Androgyne. A thirteen-year-old boy is shown expiring in an ambiguous setting, having just been shot by Royalists for his revolutionary sentiments. His lips are cherry red and his l ong hair is perfectly curled, and his penis is tucked safely from view between his thighs. Though dying, his lifted face with closed eyes seems cl ear and peaceful, and though less severe than Moreaus envisioning of St. Se bastians martyrdom, it is clear that this boy has taken on the role of the Androgynesexless, fe minized, and joyously transcending the baseness of the body through stoic (political) martyrdom.37 Similarly, Girodets Sleep of Endymion (Fig. 8) presents another feminized ma le figure, this time from classical mythology, his body seeming almost boneless in its languid softness. His arm is thrown up above his head in th e traditional sleep ing gesture, a movement that also emphasizes his vulnerability as a femini zed male, as we observed in Moreaus St. Sebastian and the Angel Endymion is looked upon by a mischievous Cupid and is bathed in a strong beam of moonlight, repr esenting the gaze of the moon, Selene, who 36 Honour 116. 37 While I have designated the term Androgyne to images of effeminate men and boys in fin-desicle art, I do not believe the term carries the same weight with Neoclassical art: Pladan and others have established a precedent for calling this figure the Androgyne, and have named it so themselves in their own art and literature. So while I have said here that the figure in Death of Bara is taking on the role of Androgyne, I am merely showing that it is from this sort of depiction of ephebic youths in Neoclassical art that the Androgyne (as utilized in the fin-de-sicle) was fashioned.
27 out of love for his beauty will preserve his youth by casting an everlasting sleep upon the young man. Here, the Androgyne will live forever, for in sleep he will be forever young (though not quite virginal, having some how sired fifty daughters with Selene while asleep). As I have stated previously, the Andr ogyne in fin-de-sicle art and literature was not necessarily a commonplace or accepta ble figure by the standards of most artists and audiences. Yet for some reas on, the Androgyne was still championed as a symbol of ideal beauty and spiritual trans cendence for scores of artists and writers across national and generational boundaries during the midto late nineteenth and early twentieth century before its outright banishment from th e arts by the everincreasing flow of avant-garde modern art. Why did the Androgyne make this brief but prolific return to the art world at th e turn of the twentieth century? And why was it regarded with such ambivale nce by fin-de-sicle audiences? It seems that the Androgyne as Pla dan has described ita young, virginal boy symbolizing spiritual loftiness and ideal beautyhas a precedent in the ephebic male nude of Neoclassical art. The re-emphasis on the male nude, both masculine and feminine, in Neoclassical art seems itself to be a reaction ag ainst the corrupt femininity of the Rococo and the ancien regime that supported it, an art form itself populated largely by erotic female nudes. Moreover, the world in which French Neoclassicism and the models of masculinity it celebrated flourished was one of horrific political and soci al upheaval, marked by the bloody French Revolution of 1789-1799 and the many years of social a nd political reconf iguration following Thermidor and the fall of the Jacobin Republic Considering that these two periods in
28 French historyRevolutionary France and fin-de-sicle France are the two most recent art movements in which androgynous ma le subjects have played a major role, and considering that these were both periods of serious social, political, economic and cultural distress for not only France but all of the Western world, I believe that we may assert that the Androgyne itself was perh aps, prior to the twentieth century and the threat of homosexuality, a symptom of these very times of turmoil and confusion.38 Crises of Maleness: The Androgyne in Ar t as a Response to Social Upheaval, i.e. Reacting Against Feminism In order to explain why it is reasonable to believe that the Androgyne may be symptomatic of periods of pe rceived social and political chaos, it is necessary to briefly describe the atmosphere in which fin-de-sicle artists who used the Androgyne in their work were operating, and how this atmosphere is comparable to that of Revolutionary France and late eighteenth century Europe. Historical and cultural studies of the fin-de-sicle ar e rich and complex, revealing a vast variety of anxieties and major social and cultural changes that occurred at the end of the nineteenth century, including the shift towards capita list economics, the i ndustrialization of products and technologies, the proliferation of the natural and social sciences, the 38 As a cultural center of Europe and a cosmopolitan nation with a long history of participation in international politics, economics, and artistic, literary and architectural movements, the fact that France also lies at the center of international movements which produced the AndrogyneNeoclassicism, Symbolism, Decadenceshows the deep interconnectedness and mutua lly influencing nature of the modern Western world. The French Revolution and the American Revolution were nearly concurrent, and the effects of the French Revolution on the rest of Europe as a shocking instance of bloodshed and terror cannot be disputed. At the same time, Neoclassicism was a style exalted by not only the French but also the English, Germans, Italians, American s and many other artists and critics throughout the Western world.
29 increase in political radicalism, the rise a nd fall of ideologies such as romanticism and positivism, changes in class and gender relations, and many others that refer more specifically to the sociopo litical atmospheres of different countries, classes, professions, etc. For France, the Motherland of such r eactionary movements as Symbolism and Decadence, the last few decades of the ninet eenth century were particularly difficult, struggling with the effects of shifting class and social struct ures that affected all of Europe as well as more specific national problems: in 1871 the French loss of the Franco-Prussian war led to the downfall of Napoleon III and the rise of the Third Republic, which was met with the constant threat of war and anarchist and socialist revolution as well as severe economic depression.39 Eugen Weber states that, in fact, the last three decades of the nineteenth cen tury were one long, continuous crisis for France.40 He refers to the fin de sicle as a time of economic and moral depression, despite the relatively outstanding techni cal and social progresses being made throughout the Western world around the end of the century. More efficient heating, lighting and access to better food, or the i nvention of the telephone, while seemingly good for society at large, also stirred anxieties: New aspi rations can be perceived as threats, especially when the aspiring begin to raise their voices. Transitions can be diversely recognized: as promise, or as menace.41 39 Mathews 29: The Great Depression (1883-96) began in 1882 with the failure of the Union Gnrale Bank. The economy continued to erode as industrialized countries such as Germany and the United States came to monopolize the consumer mark et, even weakening the Fr ench privileged niche in the export market for fine luxury goods. 40 Eugen Weber. France, Fin De Sicle Cambridge, Mass: Belknap Press, 1986: 107: Accounts of the Third Republic which mark only its major crises lose sight of the fact that its existence, practically to the First World War, was one long crisis, every lull overshadowed by disbelief that it could last, every relaxation of tension flouted by some new alarm. 41 Weber 2.
30 The most important source of anxiety in this study is not, however, solely economic or material, but lies in the effects on these and other social elements caused by the drastically changing relations between men and women throughout the Western world, reaching a climax in tensi on in the decades su rrounding the turn of the century. Along with the continued rise of the feminist activism, the opening of womens colleges, and the increase in wome n painters and sculptors in the 1880s and 1890s, the so-called New Woman of England and America was born, and would soon be imported by the women of France in their search for liberation from the traditional feminine ideal.42 Riding bicycles, wearing pants, smoking cigarettes, attending schools and refusi ng traditional womens roles such as marriage and motherhood, the New Womans demand for sexual, political and social autonomy was a far cry from the incredibly repressi ve attitude towards women in nineteenth century France, where women were confined to the private sphere and only allowed into the world with a male escort. First wave feminism in late nineteenth-century France emphasized reform in family laws and economic opportuni ties and led to the formation of various womens organizations which worked to publish journals and hold national and international meetings on womens issues.43 The conservative response to the feminist movement in France was, of course, largely negative and reactionary, as it wa s everywhereyet it was not until 1944 that women in France achieved equal suffrage, over twenty years after womens suffrage 42 For more information on the New Woman (in Am erica, specifically) and conservative reactions against her around the turn of the century, see Caroll Smith-Rosenberg The New Woman as Androgyne: Social Disorder and Gender Crisis 1870-1936. Disorderly Conduct: Visions of Gender in Victorian America. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1985. 43 For more information, see M. Boxer. First Wave Feminism in 19th Century France: Class, Family, and Religion. Women's Studies International Forum Vol. 5 No. 6 (1982): 551-559.
31 in the United States, a testament to the high levels of resistance feminism met in French society. Throughout the West, physic ians sought to prove that education would cause women to become sterile, hermaphroditic, or lesbians.44 Nietzsche echoed the fear and anxiety toward wo men felt by many when he wrote in 1888: One half of mankind is weak, typically sick, changeab le, inconstantwoman needs strength in order to cleave itshe makes the strong weakshe rules when she succeeds in overcoming the strong. Woman has always conspired with the types of decadenceagainst the powerful, the strong, the men.45 In the arts, too, women were a subject of ever-increasing ambivalenceas I will show in the following chapter, women in art of the fin-de-sicle fell typically fell under two categories: the pure virgin or mo ther, or the destructive femme fatale. Significantly, the First Wave feminist movement in France has its roots in womens rights movements that occurred during and around the French Revolution. In late eighteenth century France, too, th e changing place of women in society put considerable stress on men who perceived their culture to be collapsing under the pressures of political turmoil, bloody revol ution, and the attempts at rehabilitating France and her people after the Terror. Du ring the French Revolution, women gained relatively considerable political power a nd visibility, achieving the right to divorce and to witness public documents and contract s and leading womens protests such as the 1791 womens march on Versailles and the 1793 Paris food riots. These gains were, however, met with equal resistance: womens clubs were made illegal in 1793, 44 See Smith-Rosenbergs The New Woman as Androgyne. 45 From The Will to Power, as quoted in Mathews 86.
32 the principle of marital equa lity was struck from the Civil Code in 1796, divorce was restricted to only severe cas es of abuse and adultery.46 So, too, in the arts was this uneasin ess towards womens increasing political and social mobility made evident in the Neoclassical obsession with the male nude. In Davids famous 1784 painting The Oath of the Horatii (Fig. 9) we can see that even before the Revolution the relations betw een men and women were being negotiated into male-oriented, female-subordinating forms: while the Horatii raise their arms dynamically to swear allegiance to the stat e, a group of wome nwives and mothers of the soldiersgrieve in a veritable puddle of feminine passivity on the left of the painting, completely separated from the ma le action and heroism that dominates the space of the painting. After Thermidor, images of women were often associated with the madness and gore of the Revolution, as Ewa Lajer-Burcharth explains in her analysis of Davids post-Revolutionary ar t: In these female figures, the symbolic collapsing of the Terror as a disorder of revolutionary history onto the Rousseauian disorder of womenthe view of women as a permanently subversive force within the political order.47 These images of woman as submissive wives and mothers and, inversely, as hideous reminders of blood, dismemberment and chaos are not unlike the fin-desicle figurations of women in art as pur e woman or femme fatale. But what of the Androgynes role in these peri ods of social unrest, where relations with women were tense and artists sought to bring power back to the male form? How is it that the Androgyne, who in his passive acceptance of martyrdom and his vulnerable openness 46 Chronology of revolutionary events taken from Solomon-Godeau 15. Intriguingly, 47 Ewa Lajer-Burcharth. Necklines: The Art of Jacques-Louis David After the Terror New Haven, Conn: Yale University Press, 1999: 169.
33 to the male viewers gaze seems more like the women of Davids Oath of the Horatii than an ideal masculinity, helped these ar tists to figure a reality in which power and subjectivity was returned to men? How does feminized masculinity function in relation to real men in th eir attempts to counter the threat of feminism in Revolutionary France and finde-sicle Western society? The Death of the Male Nude: The Decline in Images of Androgyny and the Threat of Homosexuality in the Nineteenth Century These questions begin to unveil what I will discuss in the following chapter the true nature of the fin-de-sicle Androgyne, not as an image of spiritual transcendence through the union of masculine and feminine traits, but instead as a tool wielded by male artists and authors to defy female autonomy and legitimacy as political, social and even sexual beings The Androgyne, as I will show, is an essentially anti-feminist symbol, one which re presents the desire for male artists to both affirm traditional roles for womenas pure, nurturing mothers and virgins, as Natureand to simultaneously disavow wo men entirely as basely sexual and murderous. By utilizing the Androgyne as an ultimate form of femininityone that has merely absorbed all of the traditional good feminine traits such as obedience, virginal purity and coincidental sexual ava ilabilityartists of the fin-de-sicle are attempting to escape from the reality of women in society, the threat of sexual difference that feminism represented, and the threat of losing male privilege and subjectivity.
34 Before continuing on to a more in-depth discussion of these insidious motives, I believe it is important to further discu ss the difference between the reception of the Neoclassical ephebe and the fin-de-si cle Androgyne by the artists respective audiences. As I have made clear, the em ergence of feminine male nudes in Western art has historically been connect ed to periods of social unre st, and particularly to rises in womens movements. Becau se the feminist movement in France (as far as we know) only dates back to the Revolutionary pe riod, I believe it is possible to say that this is an almost guaranteed conservative reaction to feminism: both major periods of early feminism were greeted with images of essentially anti-feminist androgynous male nudes in the arts. However, this tre nd did not continue past the turn of the twentieth century, although fe minism continued (and still continues) to cause deepseated anxiety in conservative societies. Whereas sexual relationships between men and boys were acceptable if not practical and necessary in classical Athens, and whereas all-male art academies and the use of exclusively male models in Neoclassical art (including for female s ubjects) encouraged deep homosocial and homoerotic bonds between artists and models, the turn of the 20th century did not provide the same environment for the producti on of male nudes, or even clothed male subjects in the arts. And while the Neoclass ical ephebe was regard ed as an image of idealized male beauty, no less ideal or b eautiful than the harder masculinities of erestes figures like Zeus and Hercules, the Androgyne of the fin-de-sicle was not loved by the general public. Its use by arti sts from such movements as Decadence and Symbolism, movements considered by wider ar tistic circles to be deviant, degenerate, pathological, and antisocialthose w ho threatened to destabilize societys
35 increasingly institutionalized orderallows one to glean some insight as to the general unease the Androgyne evoked in the average viewer.48 But why? What change could have caused the Androgyne to shift in the minds of conservative audiences from a figure of idealized male beauty to one of ambiguous perversity, produced and associated with exclusively resistant and infamously vulgar aesthetic movements? And why has the Androgyne sin ce disappeared almost entirely from the art world, appearing only in more recent ye ars in come-hither Versace adds and 80s rock-and-roll superstardom?49 The answer lies in the birth of the homosexual. With the late nineteenth century coining of the term homosexual as a perverse, non-normative and illegal sexual identity by psychoanalysts and other medico-juridico authorities, ambivalence towards male sexuality, particularly femini ne male sexuality, increased dramatically. The clearly homoerotic male figures of Neoclassicism could no longer survive as simply examples of exemplary male beauty, but were now subject to interrogation as objects of the artists viewers desire, an er otic object of beauty that threatened the male viewer with the possibili ty of homoerotic desire, a desire that begat degeneracy 48 Mathews 58. 49 Solomon-Godeau suggests that the same binary forms of hard and soft masculinity found in Neoclassical art are at work once again in contempor ary times, invoking the penis-headed Joe Camel and the Versace model as examples of the interna l split in contemporary masculinity. I would also suggest that this contemporary split is itself a r eaction against the past few decades of feminism, coupled with anti-feminist and conservative backla shes against abortion rights, etc. I agree with Solomon-Godeau that the reappearance of bina rized masculinity does not necessarily entail a celebration of gay identity or a move beyond hyper-masculine misogyny, but that androgynous maleness can and does co-exist with misogyny and homophobia. However, these bifurcating forms of masculinity are now operating in a much different situation than Neoclassical or fin-de-sicle maleness, since masculinity as an ideology has been made more transparent by feminist theory and womens studies and can be more easily critiqued and checked.
36 and social, perhaps even legal consequen ces, as the 1895 obscenity trials against Oscar Wilde would prove.50 As Foucault explains in The History of Sexuality the notion of sexuality as a defining characteristic of ones true self is only a recen t development of the past few centuries. The sex between eromenos and erastes in ancient Athens cannot, according to this theory, be considered homosexual because homosexuality did not existsex was seen as an act and not an essential part of a persons so-called sexual identity.51 Similarly, the relationships be tween men in late eighteenthcentury France allowed for deep male hom osocial and homoerotic bonds, particularly in the studio between male artists and m odels: the first known written usage of the term homosexual only dates back to 1869, and was only popularized after 1886.52 While homophobia was certainly present in society by the time Ne oclassical art came to be, and was in fact enforced by th e homoerotic homosocial bonding between men, by the fin-de-sicle homosexuality wa s a full-blown social entity, as was heterosexuality.53 50 This is not to say that homophobia (as we would consider it today) was not present in Neoclassical French culture: In Male Trouble Solomon-Godeau shows how erotic feminine male nudes co-existed with both misogynistic and homophobic discourse in Jacobin republicanism, replacing carnal femininity with a more pure on e and figuring republican France as an innocent victim of conflict while still condemning actual male effeminacy and homosexual acts between men as products of the corrupt ancien regime 51 For more information on sex and sexuality in ancient Athens, see Halperin, Is There a History of Sexuality? 52 The word was first used by novelist Karl-Maria Kertbeny in a pamphlet arguing against an antisodomy law. The popularization of the term hom osexualas well as heterosexualis attributed to the publishing of German psychiatrist and sexologist Richard von Krafft-Ebings 1886 book Psychopathia Sexualis 53 Solomon-Godeau 50. I will go more in-depth into the function of homosociality to both homoeroticism and homophobia in the following chapter.
37 The nineteenth century homosexual became a personage, a past, a case history, and a childhood, in addition to being a type of life, a life form, and a morphology, with an indiscreet anatomy and possibly a mysterious physiology. Nothing that went into his total composition was unaffected by his se xuality. It was everywhere present in himHomosexuality appeared as one of the forms of sexu ality when it was transposed from the practice of sodomy onto a kind of interior androgyny, a hermaphrodism of the soul. The sodomite had been a temporary aberration; the homosexual was now a species.54 Foucaults use of the phrases interior androgyne and hermaphrodism of the soul are especially poignant in relation to homosexuality a nd the Androgyne in fin-desicle art, considering its clear homoeroti c investments. While the classical ephebe could be looked upon by the late eighteenth cen tury male viewer as simply a beautiful male form, without overt legal or social consequences for this potentially homoerotic act of looking, the threat of homosexual desire was so strong and so institutionalized by the end of the nineteenth century that even the potential of finding homoerotic desire in looking upon a male nude was cons idered perverse and degenerate by the average male viewer. The Androgyne represented the possibility of homosexual desire in the viewer, and was therefore a threat to his social and sexual well-being. Thus the Androgynes usage in fin-de-sicle art is corralled main ly to the work of (confirmed or suspected) homosexual artists like Burne-Jones, Moreau and Beardsley and those who, in their involvement in aesth etic movements that defined themselves by a refusal of society and its exce sses, produced androgynous male imagery regardless of public disapproval and within the restricted circles of their own people with similar aesthetic values. Similarly, we may attribute the di sappearance of the male nude in twentieth century art to this ambivalence not only towards the Androgyne, but towards all images of ma les, both clothed and unclothedthe 54 Michel Foucault. The History of Sexuality: an Introduction Transl. Robert Hurley. London: Penguin Books, 1981: 43.
38 overabundance of female nudes in modern art could be interpreted as a testament to the male artists attempts to assert heterosexual control over both the traditional objectified female form and, im portantly, his own desires. There are those artists in the fin-de-sicle who truly believed in the redemptive and purifying powers of the andr ogynous ideal. Their art is imbued with a sort of beauty that only the artist could access, a reality only he was completely privy to. These works of art also display a cer tain tension, an underlying and powerful uncertainty and fear that manifests in th e form of deadly sphinxes, otherworldly symbolic mindscapes, allegorical projections of both hope and despair, and complex erotic exchanges. As Patricia Mathews describes in her book Passionate Discontent: Creativity, Gender, and French Symbolist Art the context in which French movements like Symbolism and Decadence were initiated was characterized by highly unstable social scene, marked especi ally by the rise of women in the public spheres, which led artists to a strong desire to flee from the material world, perceived as corrupt, decaying and excessive.55 In the disorienting culm ination of the numerous changes modernity presented, particularly the changing status of women and the deployment of self-regulating and paranoid (hetero/homo)sexual identities, any notion of a unified and stable sense of self were becoming harder and harder for the individual to qualify, especially for men, who saw traditional gender roles breaking down and the menace of homosexuality and perversity looming around every corner. Artists attempted to counter the threats of modernity and social change to their selfhood by invoking nostalgic ideas about a so-called simpler time, blending idealism and conservatism, spirituality and pessimism to create a new aesthetic reality 55 Mathews 29-45.
39 that held immaterial beauty and otherworldliness as the ultimate artistic experience, a reality from which one could escape th e world. For many, the Androgyne was this means of escape.
40 CHAPTER TWO THE ANDROGYNE UNVEILED: A FEMINIST ANALYSIS OF MALE ESCAPISM In this chapter I will show that beneath the romantic claims of ideal beauty, purity and spiritual unity of masculine and feminine that many fin-de-sicle artists and authors attributed to the figure of the Androgyne there lay less honorable and pure motives, pointing towards a desire for ma le artists to escape from reality into a purely homosocial space, where the threat of sexual differen ce and losing male privilege brought on the by rise of feminism could be elided, or at least sublimated, th rough the body of the Androgyne. I will review the characteristics of the Androgyne as extolled by fin-de-sicle artists and authorsthe temporary instance of a transcende ntal union of masculine and feminine traits into a no n-desiring and virginal boy s bodyand set about analyzing them under a feminist lens in relation to the Androgynes true misogynistic form, also using visual analysis to unpack several im ages of Androgynes and their unlucky female inferiors, the femme fatale and the pure woman. I will show that the Androgyne is hardly the union of masculine and feminine, but rather the absorption of only good feminine traits into a male bodythat is, passivity, sexual purity (and simultaneous availability), hypersensitivity, physical softness, etc ignoring and even reviling other, bad female traits in the figures of pure woman and the femme fatale. I will go on to show how these two dichotomous versions of femaleness in art and literaturevirgin/mot her and killer temptressfunction in a
41 hierarchical vision of gender and spiritual ity. The Androgyne has ga ined the privilege space at the top of this hierarchy because he is both supposedly sexless and nondesiring and male-bodied, unlike the female body who is traditionally bound to her internal sex. I will further examine what was already an obvious problem with the supposedly sexless Androgyne, namely that his youth, vulnerability and hyperfemininity are incredibly homoerotic. I will e xplain how rather than being a creature of transcendence due to his abstinence from the baseness of earthly desires and sexuality, the Androgyne is in fact an essentially femi nine erotic figure for the male artist and viewer: despite any reservations about the thre at of homoerotic desire, I argue that the male artist and viewer needed the Androgyne to serve as a replacement for the traditionally female feminine-erotic object, an increasingly untraditional and threatening figure with the rise in feminism and wo men in the arts. The Androgyne-as-feminineerotic offered a safe replacement for Womanas-feminine-erotic because, by the grace of being both erotically feminine and male-bodied, he could stand in for Woman erotically, aesthetically and homosocially. I will also discuss the notion of homosocial desire and the male traffic in women as it relates to the pederastic homoeroticism recalled by the Androgyne, who must also replace Woman as the object of male-male interactions. Overall I intend for this chapter to debunk the idea that the fin-de-sicle Androgyne is the sweet and inno cent image of spiritu al beauty and aesthetic compromise between the sexes, revealing him instead to be only an escapist and deeply anti-feminist, misogynist tool for excluding women from creat ive, spiritual and aesthetic realities built by the reactionary, threatened male artists and authors of the fin-de-sicle. This chapter will pave the way for the following chap ter, in which I will introduce the
42 Hermaphroditethe Androgynes sexed, perve rse incarnation and counterpartas it appears in the art and litera ture of the fin-de-sicle. A Wolf in Sheeps Clothing: Questioning Perfection As I discussed in the previous chapter, artists and authors of the fin-de-sicle had a very clear idea of what the Androgyne must be in conceiving him both on paper and on the canvas. The Symbolist mystic Josephin Pladan has written extensively and authoritatively on the subject in his books LAndrogyne and De lAndrogyne: Thorie Plastique. The Androgyne is, in accordance with this canon and the many manifestations that preceded and followed it (both in French art and literature and abroad), a temporary state of physical and spiritual perfection achievable only by pubescent young boys before they have reached sexual maturity. The finde-sicle Androgyne re presents spiritual transcendence because of it represents the disavowal of sex and grotesque earthly pleasures. If the Androgyne was to become sexually aware, it would automatically become merely a boythe Androgyne is always virginal, no matter how beautiful. This seeming collaboration of physical and impossible spiritual traits is re presentative of the union of masculine and feminine into a single, perfected fo rm, signaling the beauty of a union of genders beyond the baseness of th e physical sexes into a higher plane of creativity and Truth. Even at face value, this idealistic description seems fi shy. There are many contradictionsthe Androgyne is supposedly th e reconciliation of the sexes, and yet he is always male-bodied; he is sexless and non-desiring and yet he is clearly male and offers highly homoerotic imaginings of fe minized young boys for the male viewers gaze.
43 What is the Androgynes relationship to women? Why can he not also be female-bodied? What does the union or reconciliation of th e sexes really entail in these images? Why is his spiritual transcendence so apparently dependent on this flimsy notion of virginal purity coupled with pe rvasive homoeroticism? In the last chapter, I purposefully did not explain the reasons for why the Androgyne is so male-oriented, while also feminized and unabashedly homoerotic, because I hoped to give an impression of the positive, redeeming quality bestowed upon the Androgyne by his devoted creators. Yet bene ath this veil of innocence and idealism, as I will show, there are fouler and more an tagonistic purposes, goals and concepts meant to directly attack womenparticularly fe minists and independent womenas grotesque beings of sex and destruction, incapable of spiritual, intellec tual or creativ e capacities and unfit for comparison with men in their superi or sexual, physical, sp iritual, mental and aesthetic value. Pladan had also written another book Le Gynander published in 1891, in which he avidly denies the possibility of a female Androgyne: The androgyneis the virginal adolescent male, still somewhat fe minine, while the gynander can only be the woman who strives for male characteristics, the sexual usurper: the feminine aping the masculine!56 In the minds of male artists, femi ninity and femaleness were ambivalencecausing aspects of eroticism, and the female body was a site of both desire and threat. The implementation of the Androgyne is, I believe, an attempt by male artists to renegotiate the feminine erotic into a le ss threatening body, one wh ich did not, like the female body, by nature of its sexual differen ce from the male body and by the nature of womens recent movements towards liberation cause anxiety to the male psyche. The Androgyne has been described as a reconciliation of the sexe s, a union between 56 Pladan cited in Mathews 115-16.
44 masculine and feminine, male and female. Yet it is clear that the Androgyne, because he is male-bodied, does not reconcile with fema leness or femininity, but merely asserting male and masculine s uperiority over women. Feminized Masculinity: The Perfect Woman is a Man First of all, if we are to believe that the Androgyne is a mixture between masculine and feminine, we must ask ourselves what if anything is masculine about this creature? Besides his maleness and the way he relates to female fi gures, the Androgyne is utterly feminized. Looking back on Davids Death of Bara or von Stucks Innocentia one can barely find a masculine attribute in these Androgynes, who could just as easily be read as girls by their softness and gentle de meanor if not for their boyish figures and small, inoffensive male genitals. Even more masculine, mature-looking Androgynes as found in Moreaus or Khnopffs paintings only seem so in comparison with female figures, otherwise retaining their androgyny through their youthful, softened bodies and feminine poses. It seems that rather than reconciling the sexes into a single form, the Androgyne is instead a male body that has absorbed femininity Furthermore, he has only absorbed a very specific type of femininity, one associat ed with traditional, essentializing ideas of female obedience and dependency on mentrait s including passivity, hypersensitivity, emotionality, softness and boneless elegance, simultaneous sexual purity and sexual availability, the inability to defend onese lf, the role of virginal martyr, etc.57 All these 57 Kari Weil. Androgyny and the Denial of Difference. Charlottesville: Virginia University Press, 1992 5: Taking Freuds essay On Femininity as her target, Irigaray demonstrates how this explanation of sexual difference and female sexual development is derived from a singular, masculine model of sexualityIn positing one and the same origin for the sexes, Freuds text demonstrat es what Irigaray calls
45 positive feminine traits, mark ed by their relation to male dominance and the male view of women as passive sexual objects, allow th e Androgyne effectively to stand in for the female as an erotic figure in art. Indeed, he has actually perfected th e feminine erotic in the eyes of the male viewerby taking on only tr aits that suit the traditional male vision of good femininity associated with cr eativity, beauty, purity and obedience, the Androgyne has done away completely with the need for women as erotic investments, whose physical sexual difference from men constitutes a whole slew of bad femininitiessexual awareness and desire, phy sical and intellectual capability, economic and emotional independence, the encroachme nt on the public spheres, the demand for equal rights, etc. The Androgyne, by the na ture of being a male and emulating only good forms of feminine behavior, becomes a better woman than an actual woman could ever be.58 And in replacing woman with a superior more pure feminine-erotic art object, women could be completely denied acce ss to the creative re alm of the artist: The pure androgyne became a si gn of creative force for th e Symbolists, incorporating the female principle without the taint of sexuality. Similarly to the construction of hysteria, it asserted the notion of the feminine as creative while maintaining the exclusion of actual women from the ideology of creativity. The asexual androgyne may also have contained a strategy not only to oppose but even to subjugate or suppress filthy sexuality represented by women, especially in the guise of the femme fatale.59 a persistent indifference to the possi bility of a specific female sexuality th at is not assimilable to the male model. 58Solomon-Godeau 295. Here Solomon-Godeau claims that the feminized masculinities of postrevolutionary culture in France represented, among other things, the ultimate flight from sexual difference and were if anything, the logical extension of the real historical ev ent of womens expulsion from the public sphere. Realistically, this could al so be applied to the fin-de-sicle male reaction to increased female presence in public spheres of politics, art, economics and social independence: the flight from sexual difference in feminized masculinity via th e Androgyne in art gives ma le artists and viewers a realm where women may be exluded from creative realities. 59 Mathews 113.
46 Spiritual Hierarchy: Androgyne, Pure Woman and Femme Fatale The figure of woman in art, then, is n ecessarily subordinate d to the Androgyne. Patricia Mathews speaks of a spiritual hier archy created between the Androgyne and the two major imaginings of women in fin-de-s icle art, the femme fatale and the pure woman.60 At the top of the hierarchy, being most cap able of transcendence and furthest from base physicality and sexuality is, of course, the Androgyne. Beneath him is the pure woman, whose image we might say is what the Androgyne is trying to both emulate and perfectthe virgin, the good mother, the pure, obedient and sexually demure woman from whom the Androgy nes absorption of femininity originates.61 The pure woman, while representing ideal femininity for the tr aditional male and thus the rubric for the Androgynes feminine behavior, is, however, always necessarily subordinate to the Androgyne. Herein lies the goal of the Androgynes always-male body: the female body is incapable of spiritual transcendence becau se she, unlike the male body, is inescapably bound to her sex. Simone de Beauvoir noted the difference between perception of mens and womens sexuality and sexual arousal in The Second Sex In regards to the penis, she claims that: The penis is regarded by the subject as at once himself and other than himself, because the functions of urination and later of erection are processes midway between the 60 Mathews 115-6. 61 According to Matthews, This trope of the pure, disembodied woman had little resemblance to that of the androgyne. It did not signify preemptive, calculated abstinence as did the ciphers of spiritual longing that certain male androgynes personified. Rather, the majority of the bodies of these pure women were emptied even of the possibility of somatic or spiritual experience despite their supposed connection to natures transcendent realm (115, emphasis mine) I tend to disagree with her on this point, favoring Solomon-Godeaus idea that the ephebic male nude is the stand-in for an eroticized femininity deemed inimical to republican an d civic values, one which is based in traditional femininity epitomized by the pure woman.
47 voluntary and involuntary, and because it is a capricious and as it were a foreign source of pleasure that is felt subjectively. Th e individuals specific transcendence takes concrete form in the penis and it is a source of pride.62 The penis, in the scopophilic sense, is exte rnal to the male bodyit has a clear state of arousal and un-arousal, a sexe d and a non-sexed state; ther efore sex can be separated from the male body to the extent that the pe nis constitutes its own subjectivity, an entity supplemental to the male subject. The Andr ogynes ability to transcend the body relies on the possession of a penis, however feminized or pubescent: a flaccid penis marks a transcendent mind, Culture overcoming Nature. Female sexuality is not, however, so easy to validate: While [womans] body finds itself thus eroticized, and called into a double movement of exhibition and of chaste retreat in order to stim ulate the drives of the subject, her sexual organ represents the horror of nothing to see And her sexual organ, which is not one organ, is counted as none. The negative, the reverse, the underside of the only visible and morphologically designatable organ (even if the passage from erection to detumescence does pose some problems): the penis.63 Luce Irigaray explains in The Sex Which is Not One how female sexual organs, by nature of their being internal and unseeable (o r, in any case, less seeable than an erect penis), represent none in rela tion to the one of the male genitals, as Freud and Lacan have produced the female genitals as lack in relation to the penis. Irigaray responds to this notion by stating that female genitals are not an unseeable zero in relation to the one of the male genitals, but rather a two the two lips that are always touching each otherpotentially always masturbating.64 In theory, the anxiety that males feel towards 62 Simone de Beauvoir. The Second Sex Transl. Parshley, H. M. Paw Prints, 2008: 48. 63 Luce Irigaray The Se x Which is Not One in New French Feminisms: An Anthology Edited by Elaine Marks and Isabelle de Courtivron. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1980: 101. 64 Irigiray The Sex Which is Not One 100: ...Womans autoeroticism is very different from mans. he needs an instrument in order to touch himself: his hand, womans genitals, languageAnd this selfstimulation requires a minimum of activity. But a woman touches herself by and within herself directly, without mediation, and before any distinction between activity and passivity is possible. A woman touches herself constantly without anybody being able to forbid her to do so, for her sex is composed of two lips which embrace continually. Thus, within herself she is already twobut not divisible into oneswho stimulate each other.
48 female sexuality comes from the inability to tell when a woman is or isnt sexually arousedinstead of displaying two clear states of arousal (erection) and non-arousal (flaccidity), the indistinctness of these two states in woman to the male psyche means that women are bound to sex and Nature, incapable of escaping it into a state of non-desire, as the un-erect man can claim for himself. Simila rly, the anxiety over th e lack of womens sexuality and the desire it evokes in men produces further an xiety over the f ear of a loss of self in the sexual actthe f ear of the oceanic feeling. According to Freud, the womans body, symbo lic of origins and the oneness of an infants feelings towards its mother, is repres entative of a mans desire to regress to an infantile/ primitive state of non-differentiati on, a loss of identity in fusion with the mother/ woman known as infantile or oceanic sexuality.65 The fear of losing ones identity in sexual union (a re turn to the womb, to oceanic sexuality) results in the equation of women with consumption/ the primitive and production of the cultural imperative to leave the wo man/ feminine sexuality be hind in order to advance civilization: In its compulsion to repress the maternal origin, masculine (self-) representation defines (refines ) itself in opposition to ma ternal materiality as pure intellect, ideality, and reason.66 The possibility of losi ng ones individuality and subjectivity was a fear especially pertinent in the fin-de-sicle, wh en notions of male subjectivity and individuality were becoming increasingly difficult to quantify in the face of capitalism and modernity. 65 Sigmund Freud. Civilization and its Discontents Transl. James Strachey. London: Hogarth Press, 1973. 66 Marianne DeKoven. Rich and Strange: Gender, History, Modernism. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1991: 30.
49 The femme fatale is the manifestation of these anxieties over the uncertainty of womens sexual states, her sexual difference from men, and her potential to consume him in the sexual act, to return him to the oceani c loss of self. She is at the bottom of the three-part spiritual hierarchy as Mathew s explains it: she embodies all the bad femininities that the pure woman supposed ly performs and which the Androgyne has weeded out of his performance of traditional good femininity: she is sexually aware and active, a desiring woman with ambitions of power or sexual dominance; she is associated not with mothers and virgins but with fallen women and murderesses. The femme fatale appears in many forms in fin-de-sicle art and literature, inhabiting Biblical forms in Salome and Jud ith, mythological and fantastical forms in the sphinx and various Greco-Roman witches and murderous queens such as Medea or Clytemnestra, and most often finding a home in the symbolic and al legorical equations with vampires, prostitutes, succubi, angels of death, etc. Indeed, despite her position on the bottom of the spiritual food chain, the femme fatale is easily the most popular subject of fin-de-sicle art and literatu re, far more so than the Andr ogyne. She is often portrayed as destructive not only to those men she means to consume within her allencompassing sexual desiresa characteristi c of the phallic woman, which I will describe at length in the follo wing chapterbut also to hersel f, falling victim to her own wiles and desires time and again, as Salome is crushed to death by Herod after kissing the severed head of John the Baptist in Oscar Wildes play Salome or as the sphinx throws herself from a cliff to her death once Oedipus has solved her deadly riddle in Oedipus Rex.
50 The femme fatale exploits male anxieties about female sexualityits simultaneous invisibility and multiplicity in co mparison to the one of the male genitals, its disturbing physiological difference from male anatomy, its innerness that causes men to associate womens bodies forever with th e physical and sexual, and its threat of returning one to a state of undifferentiated fusi on through the sexual act. It is this anxiety that makes the femme fatale such a popular image, one which ushers forth both fear and fascination, temptation and disgust in the male artist and viewer. Yet the Androgyne still retains its lofty posit ion as spiritually superior to both the femme fatale and the pure woman. This is, as I have mentioned, because the female body will always be incapable of spiritual transcendence: because her sex lies within her, unseen and unable to show that she is se xually active, this means that women are inextricably bound to sex, to the body, to sexas-the-body, to monstrous Nature versus the transcendent Culture of maleness.67 While the male can claim a state of purity and nonarousal with the flaccid penis, thereby legitimating his ase xual claims to Neo-Platonic Mind over Body spiritual and mental superior ity, the nude female body always leaves one wondering whether she is sexually active a nd aware. Moreover since the female body undergoes the constant cycle of menstruation (the abject sight of blood can hardly help to soothe male anxieties), is bound to carry a fetus for nine grueling months during pregnancy, and is afforded to role of nurture r and care-giver in child-rearing, she is even 67 See Sherry B. Ortner. Is Female to Male as Nature is to Culture? Feminist Studies Vol. 1, No. 2 (Autumn, 1972), pp. 5-31. This famous article further describes the relationship between the universal devaluation of woman and nature in various world cultures, describing how women are determined biologically inferior in their relation to sexual bodily processes and how men associate themselves with culture, civilization, etc, as distinct and superior to both women and nature.
51 further inextricably bound to se x and Nature to the point that she is defined by it, be she virgin, mother, widow or whore.68 Spiritual Hierarchy Continued: Images of the Pure Woman and Femme Fatales in Fin-de-Sicle Art Let us examine images of these women as they appear in fin-de-sicle art, and their visual relation to the Androgyne. The pure woman is easy to spot in art and literature by her childish feat ures, her general air of inno cence and youthful beauty, her maternal or virginal associat ions, and often her allegorical character. French Symbolist painter Puvis de Chavannes Hope (Fig. 10) painted c. 1872, presents the viewer with the fragile, pale, and underdeveloped body of a young blonde girl, resting calmly on a clean white sheet in a green field under the pastel blues and pinks of a sunrise. Behind her are crumbling ruins: the female figure here is an allegory of Fran ce, Puvis nationalist response to her defeat in th e recent Franco-Russian war, drawing from the notion of France as feminine. In the wake of war, Puvis represents France as a young and virginal girl, holding an olive branch in her left hand in a symbol of peace and gazing sweetly above and past the viewer, looking optimistically to the future. She is inexplicably nude in a natural space (which has by now become such an accepted part of classical imagery that to the viewer there may seem nothing overtly weird about a naked woman lounging about in an open field), and though her face is directed at the viewer, her eyes are unfocu sed and do not meet the viewers gaze. Her body language shows clear signs of passivity a nd availability to the male viewer: an association with nature, a partially prostrate position on the ground, eyes that do not 68 Simone de Beauvoir bemoans the status of woman as bound to sex by their reproductive biological processes at length in The Second Sex in part one, chapter one, The Data of Biology (3-37).
52 confront the viewer, allo wing for voyeuristic consumption of her body. The small, budding wildflowers that surround her sheet ar e symbolic of her feminine sexuality, small and inoffensive, and the white sheet its elf represents the purity of her claims to truth and her untainted virginit y. She has nothing to conceal, nothing to hide. If only she had a penis and no breasts, she may even pass as an Androgyne. The pure woman and the Androgyne shar e another important quality: virginal martyrdom. Both the pure woman and the Androgyne are often doomed to die, as the artist cannot bear to allow them to pass into sexual awareness, t hus assuring the pure womans initiation into the role of femme fatale or fallen woman, and the end of the Androgynes transcendent asexuality, becomi ng just a man, capable of the same follies and desires as any other man. Through d eath, the virgin may refuse marriage, deflowering and sexual awakening, and the Androgyne may remain transcendent and pure. Pre-Raphaelite painter John Waterhouses 1888 painting The Lady of Shalott (Fig. 11) provides an image of just such a bypass of sexuality through martyrdom by the pure woman. Taken from the Victorian poem by Alfred Lord Tennyson, the woman in the painting has taken to a boa t after being cursed for many years to never look at the outside world except through a mirror, on pain of death. When the handsome Sir Lancelot rides by the Ladys island castle, she cannot help but look out the window, thus assuring her death by the curse. She leaves her castl e, takes to a boat, upon which she writes her name, and dies as the boat floats downstream to Camelot. When he and the other knights and ladies of Camelot discover her body, Lancelot remarks on her beauty in the last lines of the poem: She has a lovely face; God in his mercy lend her grace, The Lady of Shallot.
53 In the painting, the young woman sits in a boat laden with can dles and narrative tapestries (presumably telling her own story), surrounded by calm watera common literary and artistic symbol for subdued female sexualityand vegeta tion. She raises her chin and glances warily but gracefully to the side, knowing she is about to die but accepting of it and willing to go to Lancelot ev en as he has brought about her death. The symbolism of her sighting of Lancelot and her death thereby is hard to miss: within her castle, looking out at the world through a mi rror, the Lady of Shallot was virginal and untouched, but her desire to s ee the outside world was curb ed by her fear of death by some vague curse. Her desire to see the wo rld with her own eyesthe phallic act of lookingis the same as her erotic desire for Lancelot, who in riding by her window, finally convinces her to look, thus committing an act of desire and pleasure. The curse that kills her for looking is punishment for he r female desire for active, phallic looking and the eroticism of l ooking at Lancelot. So that she might not be soiled, she is killed for her own good: rather than becoming a phallic woman, capable of looking and desiring and taking pleasure in these acts, she dies a passive death as a virgi n, a death and virginity that are praised by Lancelots remark on her beauty at the end of the poem. This image is not so different than the Neo-classical painting Death of Bara in which a young boys virginal and peaceful death is seen as martyrdom for the state as well as martyrdom for the sake of his own youthful purity in the eyes of the artist and viewer. Both the pure woman and the Androgyne must die for the artist and the viewer, who need them to stay pure in order to remain the traditional good feminine, untarni shed by sexuality, just as Lancelot could
54 only praise Lady Shalotts beau ty if she remained pure through death, rather than alive and lustful, looking. The femme fatale, on the other hand, i nhabits myriad forms both human and hybrid, human and supernatural. Belgian Artist Felicien Rops is well-known for his obsession with these wanton women in his wo rk, including several pornographic images in his repertoire of drawings. His work show s a particular interest in womens sexuality in relation to Christian and pa gan-Satanic religious imagery. Rops 1878 watercolor painting Temptation of Saint Anthony (Fig. 12) epitomizes this preoccupation: a naked woman with long, fl owing red hair smirks down at an elderly ascetic Anthony from a large wooden cross. She is accompanied by a horned and cloaked demon, a large pig who looks up almost revere ntly at the woman, and Christ himself, having been presumably forcefully dismounted and replaced by the lustful image of woman Anthony has conjured in his mind. The de mon contorts its face into a comical and lascivious slaver, grinning gleefully at the womans body and the spiritual conflict experienced by Anthony, and his long grey hands claw at the waist and loincloth of the falling Christ figure. The nude woman mimics Christs posture in the most sacrilegious way: instead of a delicate halo, she dons flowers in her wild hair; while Christs arms are uplifted in suffering, martyrdom and imploring devotion to God, hers are lifted so as to better expose her round breasts and seemingl y offer herself completely to Anthony; instead of being nailed to the crossChrists hands still bear nails even as he has been displacedher wrists are tied by ribbon, denoting a sadomasochistic bent to her sexual advances. Above her head, the inscription that would say King of the Jews reads instead Eros, and the plump putti that would have been grieving the death of Christ are
55 instead transformed into horrific half-skeletons, their bottom halves still fleshy and round but their wings, faces and torsos reduced to hideously grinning bones. The uplifted face of Christ, too, is shadowed in such a way that seems to mimic the eye sockets of the puttis skulls. Amongst his books, Saint Anthon y, his long beard wild as he withdraws slightly and sinks to his knees before the appa rition, brings his hands to his face in horror. Yet he does not shield his eyes from the lustful woman, but rather peers at her in psychic turmoil, both outraged at the acts of this si nful demon and desirous of the womans body. In The Temptation of Saint Anthony Rops makes a clear connection between female sexuality and both physical and spirit ual deaththe appearance of the woman on the cross transforms the putti into angels of death who distribute flowers (symbols of female sexuality) gleefully, and the face of Christ has become skull-like in his replacement by thoughts of lust. The pig may be seen to represent the man ensnared by lust, worshipping sex and being reduced to an animal, physically and spiritually befouled and thus incapable of spiritual and emo tional transcendence. Indeed, the painting memorializes the single mome nt of a saints weakness and the havoc it wreaks, invoking demons and harbingers of death by the mere thought of womans sexuality. The fear of physical death is linked to the fear of ve nereal disease brought on by prostitutes, a common occurrence for the upper-class men who would have visited prostitutes regularly in the nineteenth century. Spiritual death was also, as I have discu ssed at length, a major concern for male artists and viewers who vi ewed female sexual anatomy as dangerously mysterious and beyond the visual prominence of the erect or flaccid penis, something which threatens to consume and destroy male subjectivity in the sexual act.
56 The conflation of women with both physical and spiritual death is repeated in Rops work constantly: the e xplicitly Satanic 1882 drawing The Sacrifice (Fig. 13) depicts a faceless Baphomet-like devil, his tors o mostly composed of a leering cow skull, levitating in the air above a woman lying prostrate on what seems to be both a sacrificial altar and a tomb. The devils long, snake-like penis curls down impossibly around its legs to enter between the womans legs, and she wr ithes in toe-curling ecstasy, wild-eyed and seemingly insane, as two death-putti from The Temptation look on. The sacrifice is that of the womans purity, her ecstatic transition from pure woman to femme fataleshe is literally making love to deat h, and her initiation into sexua l awareness represents her initiation into a role of feminine-erotic death-bringer to the men who will now be subject to her wiles, threatened by her all-consuming lust. When women appear in images and literature alongside Androgynes, they are usually femme fatales; pure woman are more often figured alone or with other inoffensive women, in the feminine, domes tic sphere where they belong. These femme fatales are often seen pitted against the A ndrogyne in a sexual power play, in which the Androgyne always inevitably emerges triumphantmany times leading to the demise of the femme fatale. Moreaus famous 1864 painting Oedipus and the Sphinx (Fig. 14), derived from Ingres 1808 painting of the same subject, displays this sexual tension, and also provides an excellent example of how the femme fatale is often transformed into hybrid creatures, particularly the sphinx, an es pecially popular figure in the fin-de-sicle, symbolizing both Freuds rhebus (the riddle of the nature of femininity,) and the phallic, dangerous thinking-woman. 69 69 Gallop, Jane. The Daughter's Seduction: Feminism and Psychoanalysis Ithaca, NY.: Cornell University Press, 1982, p. 59.
57 Oedipus body is similar to that of St Sebastian in the previously-mentioned drawing St. Sebastian and the Angel from 1878, an idealized classical male formless soft and more muscular than other Androgynes but still lithe a nd youthfulwith long, golden hair and a graceful, feminine pos e, but now holding a phallic spear. The Androgynes apathetic and calm e xpression is not locked on a penetrating arrow, as in St. Sebastian ; instead he is locked in a fierce f ace-to-face stare with the sphinx, who has crawled up his torso and is posed to tear him to pieces should he answer her riddle incorrectly. Bestowed with a sinewy, sensuous panthers form and large eagle wings, the sphinxs human face and breasts seem complete ly out of place with the rest of her powerful body: she wears a tiara and her hair is decorated; her breasts are small and soft, her face is one of inoffensive beauty, pretty rather than sexy. Her profile, referencing Greco-Roman portraiture, wears a blank expr ession and seems to be passively hypnotized under the stern eye of Moreaus Oedipus. Her feline body is at full attention, confronting Oedipus in a highly sexual, desi rous manner, and her paws cl aw dangerously close to his naked flesh. However, despite the aggressive sexual position the sphinx has taken, it is clear at first glance that Oedipus is in control. Here we see the highly feminized features Moreau and other Symbolists are known for: a pale and lithe, untoned body, long hair, soft facial features, demure expressions and gestures. Regardless of these obvious feminine features, however, Oedipus is still undoubtedly phallic: his staff asserts his phallic power over the sphinx, and the strategic placement of his cloak and th e sphinxs back paws draw attention to his pubic area, reminding us that he is still male still empowered. He meets the gaze of the sphinx with bored disinterest in her sexual advances, expressing hi s transcendence of
58 vulgar sexuality and of the sphinx entirely, who, as the femme fatale, surrounded by the bodies of her previous (male) victims, has met her match: a man she cannot seduce, cannot kill, cannot castrate. The Androgyne triumphs over Woman. Indeed, the only moments when the Androgyne ever seems to retain any phallic masculinity is when he is figured with a female figure, over whom he asserts his superiority compositionally a nd gesturally. In another rendition of Oedipius and the Sphinx by Belgian Symbolist Fernand Khnopff, his famous LArt/ Des Caresses (Fig. 15) of 1896, the spiritual and asexual mastery of the Androgyne is just as apparent as in Moreaus interpretation. Khnopff uses himself as the model for Oedipus, the great artisthero, and his sister for the sphinx. Mu ch like Moreau, Khnopff emphasizes the Androgynes control over the woman/ femme fa tale figure through his divine disinterest in her sexual advances. The sphinx has been heartily exoticized, given the long, speckled body of a leopard and removing it from Greco-R oman setting further by placing the two figures in a desolate, unidentifiable desert-l ike landscape with some sparse, vague, almost Surrealist structures. The sphinxs face, fam iliar to his work the broad, masculine jaw of his sister nuzzles sinisterly agains t Oedipuss (Khnopffs), while the androgynous artist-Oedipus stares blankly into the distance, having rise n above the sphinx and her sex appeal (Fig. 16, detail). Like Moreaus Oedipus, Khnopffs Oe dipus also holds a phallic scepter, and his casual, passive pose is sti ll the focus of power and the compositionwe could remove the sphinx from this painting entirely and Oedipus w ould still hold his own space in the painting. The sphinx needs Oedipus, but he does not need her: he has left her behind for a higher plane of existence.
59 Homosocial Homoeroticism: A New and Improved Feminine Erotic Despite the fin-de-sicle claim of th e Androgynes so-called pre-sexual, nondesiring nature, clearly these images are sites of deep sexual tension and erotic investment for the male artist, both for male and female forms. As I discussed in the first chapter, the Androgynes claims to supposed asexuality is complicated by the obvious homoerotic role he plays in relation to th e male viewer. Functioning as a male-bodied replacement for the feminine-erotic, he r ecalls images of pede rastic desire and homoerotic dominance through the enactment of youthful innocence, submissiveness and passivity: a homoeroticism that similarly info rmed the template for the Neo-Classical and fin-de-sicle Androgynes and the classical ephebe, the eromenos In her essay When the Goods Get T ogether, Luce Irigaray boils down the system of marriage and male-male social exchange into what she labels a male homosexual economonyor as she says, a h ommosexual economy, using two ms to denote the male/male quality of shared samen essin which Woman exists only as the possibility of mediation, tr ansaction, transition, transf erencebetween man and his fellow-creatures, indeed between man and himself.70 This male homosexual economy is defined thusly: The trade that organizes patriarchal soci eties takes place exclusively among menthe work force, products, even those of mother-earth, would thus be object of transactions among men only. This signifies that the very possibility of the socio-cultural order would necessitate homosexuality .71 However, the problem with this economical homosexuality is the problem of pleasure and desire, realms afforded to women as base and perverse, realms which acting upon 70 Luce Irigaray, When the Goods Get Together in New French Feminisms: An Anthology Ed. Marks, Elaine, and Isabelle de Courtivron. Amhers t: University of Massachusetts Press, 1980: 108. 71 Irigaray, When the Goods Get Together 107.
60 would cause a certain symbolic order [to] come to an end.72 When the penis itself because simply a means of pleasure, a nd indeed a means of pleasure among men, the phallus loses its power Pleasure, so it is said, should be left to women, those creatures so unfit for seriousness of symbolic rules.73 In this arrangement, de sire itself becomes an economic entity, one controlled by homosexual exchange, even the desire and exchange of women between men. In her criticism of Irigarays close read ing of Freuds 1933 essay on Femininity in Speculum de lautre femme Jane Gallop furthers this theory of a male homosexual economy: There is a certain pederasty implicit in pedagogy. A greater man penetrates a lesser man with his knowledge. The homo sexuality means that both are measurable by the same standards, by which measure one is greater than the other. Irigaray uncovers a sublimated male homosexuality structuring all our institu tionsthose structures necessarily exclude women, but are unquestioned because sublimated-raised from suspect homo sexuality to homology to the sexually indifferent logos, science, logic.74 For Irigaray and Gallop, the homo asp ect of homosexuality, homosociality, and homology means that men are measurable by the same standards. Women, in their mysterious sexual difference which evokes the unmentionable and destructive worlds of pleasure and desire, are not measurable by the same standards of men, capable of achieving a non-sexual physical st ate through flaccidity, and t hus are excluded from the privileged status shared by all men over wome n. The Neo-classical st udio is itself an epitome of this all-male homosocial space, one certainly suggestive of homoeroticism, as the artists and their nude models were all male. This homo status does not, however, extend to a sameness of measurement between me n of different ages, races, classes, etc: 72 Ibid. 73 Irigaray When the Goods Get Together 108. 74 Jane Gallop. The Daughters Seduction: Feminism and Psychoanalysis Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1982: 63-4.
61 in fact, a male homosexual economy is dependent on the existence of a greater/lesser dichotomy, an erastes / eromenos type of relationship of pederastic pedagogy and initiation, one that functions within the sphe re of homoeroticism but which must never culminate in homosexual acts, for the fear of a loss of trans cendence through base pleasure. Unlike in the Neo-classical Repub lic, where male effeminacy was condemned but the notion of homosexuality had not yet been identified, the fin-de-sicle threat of homosexuality as perversity and sexual de generacy was a cause for deep concernone which even hindered the ability for homoero tic exchanges in the arts as the Androgyne slowly faded in the face of modernity and the primacy of the female nude. Despite the actual or suspected homosexua l preferences of se veral fin-de-sicle artists and writers, includi ng Arthur Rimbaud, Aubrey Beardsley, Oscar Wilde, Andre Gide, Edward Burne-Jones, etc, the blatant homoeroticism but purported asexuality of the Androgyneoften used, especially by British artists like Wilde, Beadsley and BurnJones as a non-too-ambiguous medium with which to bring up issues of homosexuality without fear of direct retr ibutionserves to further ex clude women by removing them from their natural role as mediator, object of transaction between (active, greater) man and (passive, lesser) man, replacing them as the new, perfected feminine-erotic, one without the threat of sexual difference and loss of male subjectivity. While the relationship between the active/masculine vi ewer and the passive/ feminine Androgyne plays out the pederasty of male pedagogy, the h omo-sexuality of their eroticism ensures male mutuality and sameness, the equal standards by which they measure themselves against women.
62 Through the Androgyne, male artists in both the fin-de-sicle and the Neoclassical period, reacting to social change and particularly changing gender relations brought about by womens movements, could re inforce the notion of male superiority and traditional female domestic roles through the simultaneous glorif ication of the male nude as superior to females and the mobilizati on of female figures as either allegories for goodness or harbingers of death.75 The homoeroticism common to many of the Symbolist androgynes served, among other thin gs, to further distance male sexuality from that of women, writes Mathews. T he feminized male body had a number of metaphorical significations for masculinity att ached to itAs such, it could be held in both spiritual and homoerotic meanings .76 In Gustave Moreaus Jason and Medea of 1865 (Fig. 17), the mythological couple is presented to us in the pr ime of their coupling, long befo re Jason would betray Medea for another woman and she would murder th eir children to exact revenge on her husband. Jasons body fully faces the viewer, his hips sw ayed femininely to the side as he stands triumphantly on the eagle-dragon he has defeat ed to reach the golden fleece, which the love-stricken Medea has helped him achieve using her magical powers. His eyes are uplifted in a sign of his transcendence, hi s face is quite young and fair, his body is lean, smoothed, and lacking tone like a youth. Though the painting potentially holds significant psychological tension for the view er, who presumably knows that Medea, a 75 In the first chapter I spoke at length about the similarity between Neocla ssical and fin-de-sicle social environments, partic ularly the changing relations between men and women, and how this caused male artists to escape into the fantasy of the Androgyne. Similarly, as I have shown in this chapter, male artists reinforced this escape route as a primary and superior figure through the depiction of women as either pure women or femme fatales. In the Neoclassi cal period, we may see thes e images clearly in such depictions of helpless and utterly feminine women in Davids Oath of the Horatii or in the many visual associations of women with the Terror, as in Davids Intervention of the Sabine Women where the woman in red is meant to represent the horror and chaotic destruction of the Revolution, a similar chaos and destructive power we have seen associated w ith the femme fatale in the fin-de-sicle. 76 Mathews 111-2, emphasis mine.
63 sorceress who kills several people for revenge over the course of the story (including her own children), is a destructive feminine for ce who will eventually ruin Jason, the way the image is presented shows our androgynous Jas on in a position of power over her. She is enamored with him; her eyes are fixed on hi s face. She stands behind Jason, allowing him to control the situation, submitting to him out of love for his beauty. As for Jason, he fulfills the role of the Andr ogyne perfectly, enacting feminine qualities as a sign of his claim to spirituality and emo tionality, but it could not be more obvious that he is the male-in-power: the spear he holds is unmist akably phallic, and the robe tied around his waist does not only cover but emphasizes and ev en mimics and exaggerates the shape of his male genitals, calling the viewers at tention to his undisputable maleness, his superiority. The same attention is drawn to the Androgynes genitals as a signal of his male-bodied superiority in Moreaus Oedipus and the Sphinx. Faced with the rise of feminism, an d thus in the increase of women in intellectualism, the arts, a nd the public sphere, fin-de-sicle artists employed the Androgyne in such a way that made women completely unnecessary; he replaced her as the pure, passive, sexually desirable and yet se xually self-ignorant object of adoration and affection by the male artist-subject. Though the figure of Woman still functions as the object of transaction between menthe artis t and the viewer, the Androgyne and the viewerthe languid Androgyne represents bot h a homological solidarity between all men in their superiority to women, and ev en furtively suggests a cancellation of the object of transactionWoman in all contextse ntirely, by replacing her as the feminineerotic art object and assuming that he is everything a woman should be and more, fulfilling the male subjects (homo)erotic fantasies of dominance.
64 Moreaus Medea still retains the role of desirable woman: she is submissive, her genitals are covered with suggestive but not obscene flowers as a symbol of her sexuality, and she shows an obvious adoration of Ja son, joining the viewer in the artists glorification of androgynous male beauty. Repres entative of the artists ideal vision of humanity and himself, and also of his erotic aestheticsMoreau was a bachelor his whole lifethe figure of Jason is the foremo st object of beauty in this painting. The viewers voyeurism is directed toward s his body, made feminine and therefore consumable and non-threatening by the viewers gaze. The male artist/viewer and Jason interact with each other in tw o conflicting ways: in a way, he has replaced Medea as the Art Object as the major focus and erotic object of the painting, but at the same time, the artist measures Jason and himself to the sa me standards of male ness and homosociality. Medeas presence in the painting holds up th e necessary transacti on of women between men (the male artist-viewer and Jason), thus securing the viewers identification with Jason as superior to Medea and all marketable women.77 Withdrawal and Escapism: Androgyne as Reinforcing Male Primacy In this chapter I have attempted to explain the underlying truth of the Androgyne, the misogynistic and antagonistic goals that lay beneath the veneer of asexual transcendence and a rec onciliation of the sexes that artists of the fin-de-sicle glorified in him. Though misogyny and anti -feminism are clear goals for many male artists, writers and scholars of the period, the majority of the goals of the Androgyne 77 The lesbian throws a wrench into this system, as Irigaray discusses in When the Goods Get Together: by refusing to go to market. Irigaray suggests that women could maintain their own trade amongst themselves, refusing the virility complex Fr eud has associated them with and creating their own economy of feminine desires unregulated by male overseers, freed from the role of mediating object of transaction.
65 were probably unconscious. For example, the ho moeroticism of these images is in some cases potentially purposeful as they were completed by actual or suspected homosexual authors and artists. However, the average ma le artist must have somehow felt that the threat of homosexual desire evoked by this odd figure was overpowered by the need for creating a new feminine-erotic art object, one that did not threaten the male artist and viewer with the lack of the female genita ls, her association with grotesque sex and inferior nature, and the fear that in the sexual act she could consum e the male, fusing with him and returning him to the oceanic fee ling of non-individualization and a lack of subjectivity as that experienced by the infant with his mother. I have shown that the Androgyne is figured in relation to two types of women, the pure woman and the femme fatale, who are figured with him in spiritual hierarchy to each other: the Androgyne at the top, malebodied, feminine-acting and transcendent, the virginal pure woman in the middle as the good feminine who is still incapable of transcendence because her body is bound to sex and nature, and the femme fatale at the very bottom as the embodiment of the b ad feminine: the carnal, independent and destructive sexual woman. I have shown that in relation to these female figures, the finde-sicle Androgynelike the Neo-Classical ephebe before himeffectively replaces women as the ultimate feminine-erotic object, becoming everything a female erotic object should be to the male viewerpassive, sens itive, sexually pure a nd non-desiring and at once sexually available, etconly better, sin ce he does not have a female body, which is a slave to the sexual processes of menstrua tion, pregnancy, birth, child-rearing, etc; nor does his body cause fear of losing ones male subjectivity in the lack of the female sexual organs.
66 Instead, the Androgyne reinforces the primacy and naturalness of male superiority over women, even as he himself becomes the lesser man in a pederastic exchange of homoerotic economies. By allowing the Androgyne to become the eromenos to the artists/ viewers erastes the homo social and homo erotic quality of their unequal exchange of masculine/feminine power creates a system in which the female feminineerotictraditionally, the object of transaction be tween men in a homosexual economyis both shared as an object of male domination and also becomes unnecessary, excluded entirely from these new re alities of artistic creativity, subjectivity, sexuality, spirituality and power. As I explained in the last chapter, the Androgyne offers an escape route for the male artist from the difficulties and anxieties of the real world, particularly from the increasing power and visibility of women in the public sphere. This escape within ones own created realities is an all-male world wh ere women are put in their place or banished entirely, where the threat of homosexuality is overpowered by a desire for homosocial dominance and control over female agency, a nd in which the male artist and viewer are established as erastes, as the greater man, a man who has the power to control not only women but other menAndrogynes. The entire purpose of the Androgyne seems to be a reinforcement of the male artists and vi ewers masculinity, subjectivity, and agency elements of male identity that many felt we re slipping away with the ever-quickening pace of modernity, the changing nature of gende r relations, and the decreasing stability of the individual. The Androgyne is not the only ambiguously gendered figure in fin-de-sicle art and literature. Indeed, there is a figure that serves nearly as his opposite, the reverse of
67 everything the Androgyne stands forasexua lity, male-bodied transcendence, lofty spirituality. This figure is the Hermaphrodite, who I will dedicate the re st of this project to discussing in relation to the Androgyne, fin-de-sicle artists and authors, their audiences, and its contemporary possibilities for queer and femi nist theorists and artists. In the following chapter I will examine the figure of the Hermaphrodite as an ambivalent and somewhat rare occurrence, but one which is continually alluded to in the form of the femme fatale. I will examine images of the He rmaphrodite in the work of visual artists including Aubrey Beardsley, who depicts He rmaphrodites in their true form, and many other artists who merely allude to hermaphroditic perversity in their images of femme fatales. I will also discuss the poem Hermaphroditus by Charles Swinburne as a fin-desicle literary interpretation of the classical sculpture of Hermaphroditus found in the Louvre. Furthermore I will discuss the relatio nship of actual hermaphrodites of the 19th centuryintersexed people with indetermin ate or ambiguous genitaliato the artistic and literary figure of the Hermaphrodite, citing both a medical photograph by Nadar and the published memoirs of Al exina Herculine Barbin.
68 CHAPTER THREE BENEATH THE WOMANS AND THE WATERS KISS: THE HERMAPHRODITE IN NI NETEENTH-CENTURY ART AND LITERATURE In the two previous chapte rs, I have focused entirely on the Androgyne of the finde-sicle (and its Western pred ecessors, particularly the Neoc lassical ephebe), describing its characteristics as defined by its creators (such as the Symbolist mystic Sar Josephin Pladan) and eventually reve aling through feminist analys is its underlying misogynist and anti-feminist meanings a nd goals. In the previous ch apter I concluded that the Androgyne, both of the fin-de-sicle and the Neo-Classical period, are clear attempts for male artists and viewers to withdraw from changing social environments, perceived as threatening to male subjectivity and marked particularly by changes in gender relations with the rise of womens m ovements. Confronted with wo mens political presence and power before and during the French Revolu tion and First Wave feminist movement during the fin-de-sicle, ar tists of these periods react ed by inventing a new and improved feminine-erotic art object, one inte nded to absorb and usurp womens positive attributescreativity, sensitivity, spiritualitya nd reinforce female subservience when coupled with essentializing images of women as either pure women or femme fatales. Ultimately, using Irigaray and Gallops work on homosociality, I have concluded that the Androgyne is not only attempting to absorb and dominate female figures in art, but also speaks of the male social incentive to exlude women from social
69 and artistic realities altogether replacing her entire ly with a feminine erotic perceived as physically and spiritually superior. In this discussion of the Androgyne and its analysis as an anti-feminist and exclusively male-oriented figure in art and ae sthetics, I have set the stage for another figure of the fin-de-sicle, one which also has its roots in classi cal art and mythology, a figure that we might say is the opposite count erpart of the Androgyne in nearly every aspect: the Hermaphrodite. The Hermaphrodite inhabits an ambiguous space in art and literature of the fin-de-siecle, far more so than the Androgyne, whose privileged space in the Symbolist aesthetic manifesto and his prominence in Decadent art and literature allow him a far greater amount of canvas space and, th erefore, more art historical/ theoretical analysis. In this chapter I will first describe a brief history of the He rmaphrodite and how it is depicted by Western artists, dating as far back as second-century Hellenistic sculpture and reappearing again in the fin-de-sicle. I will compare and contrast the iconography of the Hermaphrodite with that of the Andr ogyne: while the Androgyne is typically malebodied, feminine-behaving, pre-sexual and non-desiring, and spiritua lly transcendent, I will show in this chapter that the Hermaphrodite possesses both male and female sexual characteristics and holds the potential for bot h masculine and feminine behavior and the possibility for heterosexual and homosexual ac ts and desires. Furthermore, I will show that because of its incorporation of female as well as male sexual attributes, the Hermaphrodite functions as an anti-Androgyne, a sexual and perverse figure associated with dark femaleness and the phallic female. It may be said that the Hermaphrodite is regarded as both impotent, ster ilized male and aggressive, ca rnal female, a result of its
70 associations with the oceani c loss of self and male subj ectivity through se xual union with Woman. In this sense, the Hermaphrodite and the femme fatale are two representations of the same fear of the oceanic feeling and may be related to each other, as I will show. Significantly, Hermaphrodite is found only in its true forma figure with male and female sexual organsin limited images and lite rature in the fin-de-siecle, including the art of Aubrey Beardsley, the poem Hermaphroditus by Swinburne (see Appendix A) and Conte de Lautramonts Les Chants de Maldoror. In these contexts it is meant to subvert an audiences notions of desire, sex, sexuality, gender, etc. Far more frequently than not, however, the fear of the oceanic feel ing that the Hermaphrodite represents is not used subversively, but is merely alluded to in more tradi tional artists im ages of the femme fatale as the phallic woman, often in the form of the hybrid sphinx and other female sexual monstrosities, as I will show us ing visual analysis of several images. I will analyze these images and texts in this chapte r to illustrate the role of the Hermaphrodite in artistic practice and to society at large. I will also show how the medical imperative to know perverse sex and bodies would lead to the sensationalizing of intersexuality in the nineteenth century, referencing medical photographs by Nadar and the memoirs of Herculine Barbin to illustrate both why medicine might play a major role in why the Hermaphrodite might have been implemented as a figure of ultimate perversity, and also how the medical and artistic sensationalization affected the lives of real nineteenth century intersexed people.
71 Contexts and Definitions Although the Hermaphrodite and the Andr ogyne inhabit very separate and even oppositional spaces and meanings in Western aesthetics and understandings, the two are often conflated in non-Western cultures as e qually symbolic of the spiritual and creative union of male and female. For example, as mentioned in the first chapter, in Hindu religion Siva Ardhanarisvara is depicted as physically both male and female, bifurcated and clearly identified in most representations and it is understood that it is from this hermaphroditic incarnation of Siva that uni verse was born and populated. Traditionally, the Hermaphrodite often evokes an originating creative force, wherein life springs into the world from a body that is self-sufficien tly reproductive, possessing both male and female qualities. In the Western world, th e Hermaphrodite, like the Androgyne, finds its roots in the classical period. Whereas the Androgyne is espoused by Aristophanes in Platos Symposium as the origin of carnal and romantic love, that which pre-exists desire and difference, the origins of the Hermaphrodite in classical mythology are less idealistic. Hermaphroditus, the son of Hermes and A phrodite, was a beautiful young man who was noticed by the nymph Salmacis as he undressed and prepared to swim or bathe in her pond. Although Salmacis is described as passive and feminine in comparison to her fellow nymphs, the sight of Hermaphroditus a nd her desire for her transformed her into an aggressive, sexual pursuer. After Herm aphroditus rejected her advances, Salmacis grabbed the young man and wrapped herself ar ound him, dragging him under the waters of her pool. Praying to the gods that they ne ver be separated, the two bodies were fused together, and when Hermaphroditus stepped out of the water his body had both male and female sexual characteristics. Kari Weil notes in Androgyny and the Denial of Difference
72 that in this myth, much like Echo in the myth of Echo and Narcissus, Salmaciss body and name are totally effaced in the enfeeb led figure that emerges from the pond, but half a man.78 In this respect, we might read this myth as the ruination of the ephebic Androgyne by the force upon him of carnal kno wledge by a femme fatale, the impure woman who destroys herself as she seduces and destroys men. The very basic difference between the origins of the Androgynethe splitting creator of the sexesand the Hermaphroditethe fusing effacement of distinct sexescoupled with th e tale of loss of male subjectivity and privilege with the incorporation of female physical attributes, marked by female lust for Hermaphroditus, sh ows just how deep-seated and historically extensive the unease over the concept of the Hermaphrodite has been. Yet despite this unease, in the Louvre Museum one can sti ll find the seventeenthcentury copy of the second century Hellenistic marble sculpture Sleeping Hermaphroditus (Fig. 18 [front view], Fig. 19 [back view]) just one of many ancient Roman copies of the same subject. And despite the high levels of social and individual a nxiety surrounding sex and gender during the fin-de-sicle, one may find images and texts describing the Hermaphrodite in deeply ambivalent waysthe repulsive se ducer, the impotent auto-erotic lover, the castrated Puck. While holding positive and creative roles in some cultures, the Hermaphrodite in Western art and literature of th e fin-de-sicle might be read as the complete contrast to the Androgyne as exalted by Pladan and others, though nobody had written a manifesto to the Hermaphrodite as Pladan did for the Androgyne. The Androgyne is male-bodied, traditionally feminine-behaving, non-desiri ng, and spiritually transcendent. The Hermaphrodite, on the other hand, is both male-bodied and female-bodied, possessing 78 Weil 19.
73 both sets of sexual organs. If we are to follow the formula of the Androgyne, who is spiritually transcendent because of his asexuality which is only granted to him because of his male-bodied privilege, we may assume that the Hermaphrodite is incapable of transcendenceeven more so than the femm e fatale! By possessing female organs, the Hermaphrodite signifies the base femalness that ties women to their sex and makes them incapable of asexual transcendence, Furt hermore, by possessing both male and female organs, the Hermaphrodite implies sexual unionthe sexual act itselfmaking the Hermaphrodite analogous to the man who has succumbed to female sexuality, negating his transcendent, privileged status and locked in endless intercourse with his base, female counterpart. Ovids myth illustrates this logi c perfectly: Salmacis, the femme fatale, drags the androgynous young Hermaphroditus down to her spiritual level out of aggressive desire, and through this act turns Hermaphrod itus into less of a man, a man incapable of transcendence. It could be said, therefor e, that Hermaphroditus, despite retaining his name and identity while Salmacis is erased wi thin him, is predominately female, indeed ruined by femalenessthe complete opposite of the asexual, male-bodied, transcendent Androgyne of Pladan s imagination: the anti-Androgyne. The Hermaphrodite is especially marked by ambivalence due to its implications of sexual intercourse and a loss of male subject ivity, or the fear of the oceanic feeling, a concept I briefly described in the previous chapter. Once again, Freuds concept of the oceanic feeling is related to a male fear of a return to infant or oceanic sexuality (wherein one is united with the Mother) through sexual in tercourse, wherein one risks fusing with Woman and losing himself and his privileged state of male transcendence. Thus in masculinist discourse, Man is produced as the transcendent and Woman as the to
74 be-transcended, fearing Woman as a consum ing force wherein a man might lose his individuality and subjectivity. If as I described in the previ ous chapter, the femme fatale represents the potential for man to lose his subjectivity through the sexual act, then the Hermaphrodite represents Mans failure to transcend Woman, the moment of sexual union where the ability to transcend is lo st and the man loses his privilege and individuality. However, whereas sexual inte rcourse with some femme fatale is only a temporary loss of transcendence and individual ity, the Hermaphrodite is stuck forever in this state of fusion and oceanic non-differen tiation, stirring up a great deal of anxiety in the male artist and his audience. Despite the fear it conjures about unstable selfhood and a loss of transcendent privile ge, the Hermaphrodite is al so a creature of desire representing intercourse itselfand thus the artist and his audience are torn between a simultaneous revulsion from and powerful at traction to this unusual and potentially dangerous figure. Decadent Desires: The Perverse Herm aphrodites of Aubrey Beardsley Due to these effects of the Hermaphrodite upon the (presumably male, heterosexual) artist and viewer, it is hardly surprising that it appears far less often in finde-sicle art and literature th an the Androgyne, who plays a re assuring role rather than a subversive one. 79 As such, the Hermaphrodite rarely occurs in its true forma man 79 It is important to note here that I am making a generalization, assuming (for the sake of simplicity) that a) most viewers of these works will be heterosexu al men and b) that most images of the Hermaphrodite are produced by heterosexual men. I would, however, argue that images of He rmaphrodites in their true form might perhaps be more readily produced by homosexual or sexually ambiguous artists of the Decadent movement because of their social situation and their ability, as a marginal group within a marginal movement, to critique the images produced by their heterosexual contemporaries. Beardsley, in particular, is known for his general lack of concern for public acceptance, in f act striving to incite controversy through his grotesque and often sexually explicit images, many of which involve Hermaphrodites, both true and impliedthis flippanc y is attributed to his homosexuality, his connection
75 with breasts/ a woman with a penis.80 As I have mentioned, du ring the fin-de-sicle the figure of Androgyne-as-ideal, espousing the ove rcoming of difference and desire, was losing its popularity due to increasing anxieties about homosexuality, promiscuity and degenerescence.81 The few depictions of the Herma phrodite in the fin-de-sicle might actually be seen as a parodi c reaction against the Romantic Androgynes of the Symbolists on the part of more cynical artists and authors such as the Decadents. According to Chris Snodgrass in his book Aubrey Beardsley: Dandy of the Grotesque the fin-de-sicle Hermaphrodite was in fact often used as a deliberate mockery by De cadent artists of the high-minded spirituality and asexua l purity the Androgyne stood for: [E]specially as the century waned, the androgyne gave way increasingly to the hermaphrodite, a sterile self-enclosed monste r that became a symbol not of communion, perfection, and virtue but of selfishness, corruption, and sinThe decadents mingling of phallic worship (originally a tribute to the natural generative power of the garden god Priapus) with the androgyne/hermaphrodite icon became increasingly a sign of sexual inversion rather than procreative power. In its unrealizable quest for complete unity, the hermaphrodite was, in effect, a cruel parodic critique of the ideal androgyne. Far from evincing romanticized resolution, the anatomically explicit hermaphrodite emphasized starkly graphic self-contradiction.82 with Aestheticism and Decadence, and his knowledge of his own impending death from tuberculosis. I cannot, fully speak for the sexual preferences of La utramont or Swinburne, except to note that both writers include certain homoerotic themes in their work. A study of the fin-de-sicle homosexuals (and the lesbians) relationship to the Androgyne (and the He rmaphrodite) is an entire different and fascinating subject I do not cover in this study for the sake of brevity. For more information, however, one might read Martha Vicinus The Adolescent Boy: Femme Fatale of the Fin-de-Sicle? Journal of Sexuality Vol. 5 No. 1 (1994): 90-114, which deals with the Androgyne (as we have defined him) in gay and lesbian fin-desicle literature. 80 I realize it is problematic to use the phrase true Hermaphrodite to describe its controversial man with breasts/woman with penis form, due to the Hermaphrodites nominal and conceptual relationship to intersexed people. A true Herma phrodite does not actually exist, because intersexed people are not hermaphrodites being both physiologically male and female is impossible, and most intersexed people fall into a wide variety of different types of intersexuality, few if any of them resembling this basic formula of man with breasts/woman with penis. When I use the phrase tru e Hermaphrodite, then, I am only attempting to distinguish implied images of the He rmaphrodite from the original hermaphroditic form borrowed from Greco-Roman sculpture. I will discuss the relationship between intersexed people and the literary and artistic figure of the Hermaphrodite at length in both this chapter and chapter four. 81 Degenerescence is a word used by Foucault in The History of Sexuality to describe the Victorian fear of physical degeneration of ones offspring if one engaged in non-normative sexual activities or thoughts. 82 Chris Snodgrass Aubrey Beardsley, Dandy of the Grotesque New York: Oxford University Press, 1995: 58.
76 The young English Decadent Aubrey Beardsley is infamous for his sacrilege, his sexual explicitness, his use of exotic oriental gr otesques, and his blatant disregard foror outright confrontation ofVictorian values. Young and dying from tuberculosis, Beardsley had little reason to put on airs of propriety a nd conservatism, especially considering his homosexuality and the Decadent circles he associ ated with. Though it would seem that Beardsley incorporated Andr ogynes into his work with some frequency, even these seemingly innocent youths are not safe from Beardsley s lecherous craftin The Toilet of Salome (Fig. 20) the androgynous figures in the presence of the partiallynude Salome suggest arousal and masturbati on in the position of their hands and the stiffness of their limbs, hardly the mark of a non-desiring Androgyne.83 Beardsley generally turned up his nose at the idealisti c, spiritual and beauty-worshipping elements of androgyny, turning instead to images of gender-bending in both men and women as caricature, parody and mockery, including va rious Wilde-esque, rotund, opulent and womanish noblemen, as in the Abb from Under the Hill (Fig. 21). One example of hermaphrodism in Beards leys work that stands out above the others: the uncensored first edition of the frontispiece completed for Oscar Wildes 1894 play Salome (Fig. 22). The image was not accepte d, unsurprisingly, by the editor due to its outrageous and explicit naturethe censore d version would later remove the presence of male genitals. In this image Beardsley has imagined two figures in a maze of flora, a totem-god and a worshiper figure. The god/de ss shown here is a true Hermaphrodite possessing both breasts and a pendulous penis an d testes, and suggesting the presence of a vagina in the long slit that runs from the navel to the pubis. Dist urbingly, the nipples and navel of this horned creature have been replaced with droopi ng, wrinkled eyes, and 83 Snodgrass 65.
77 though it stands long and upright as a phallic totem pole, the Hermaphrodites arms are missing, and its legs are fused into an undiffe rentiated totem beneath its genitals and angular, spiked hips, suggesting castration. The horned and cackling Hermaphrodite figure shown here evokes pagan phallic wors hip, probably referenc ing the armless and sneering satyr statue in Poussins Bacchanalia of 1631-1633 (Fig. 23). Beardsley often depicted Pan as a Hermaphrodite or in the company of hermaphroditic figures, and he also references the hedonistic god Dionysus in the transformation of the Hermaphrodites hair and limbs into a tangle of vines.84 The worshipper figure who kneels at the feet of this totemic, phallic god/dess meets the viewer s eyes with a knowing laugh that mimics the toothless, gaping mouth of the Hermaphrodi te. Hands pressed together in prayer and possessing sharp, angular wings in a parody of an angelic or cherubic figure, the worshippers semi-erect penis a nd medusa-like hair align him with the degenerate cult of the Hermaphrodite. Beardsleys depictions of hermaphrod itic figures, blending both positive and negative values and both overt and implied mi xings of gender presen tation, sexuality and physical sex, are not limited to this obvious image of true, physical hermaphrodism. Instead, Beardsley imagines some form of hermaphrodism in many of his figures, accentuating gender in gross, excessive parody and producing portly dandies, overbearing, phallic women, lecherous dw arfs, fetus-headed monsters, japonais grotesques, and other figures of sexual treason. Beardsleys invocation of hermaphrodites can be read not only as a di savowal of the idealism and sexless spirituality of the Androgyne, but also as a Decadent representati on of perverse sexuality and unchecked desire: 84 Snodgrass 58.
78 In Beardsleys art the hermaphrodite, certainly one of his favorite figures, became this emblem of solipsistic, unfulfilled desireparticularly homosexuality, onanism, and that vice supreme cerebral lechery, all of whic h characterized to Victorians decadent disillusionment and withdrawal from practical life.85 In Le Mort DArthur we can find another image of a tru e hermaphrodite in Beardsleys illustration for the heading of chapter twenty-six, book nine (Fig. 23). The youth possesses both a penis and breasts, and surr ounded by thorny vines he stares into the black center of a rose. The orifice-like black hole and layered flower petals in the rose suggests onanism and the auto-erotic, self-contained possibilities of the Hermaphrodite, a closed system in which fin-de-sicle arti sts visualized insatiable Decadent desire: Sexually self-enclosed as both male a nd female, the hermaphrodite became the conventional icon of pure eroticism associated with those less than pure latenineteenth-century lovers who presumably coul d achieve no sexual satisfaction in reality (only in lecherous fantasy) and whose desi res only increased for not being fulfilled.86 The rose might also be seen as a fractured mi rror, mimicking the self -love of Narcissus or a lady at her toilette while revealing this se lf-containment to be fractured, unresolvable, unfulfilling. Also, the abundance of roses mi mics the abundance of desire and sexual organs on the Hermaphrodites body. The plight of the desirous Hermaphrodite is further represented by its entrapment in a tangle of thorny vines, su ggesting the prickly nature of its situation and the pain of unfulfillment, isolation, and difference. Tortured Genius: The Tragic Hermaphrod ites of Swinburne and Lautramont This imagining of the Hermaphrodite as de sirous yet unfulfilled and isolated in its self-difference was not w ithout its sympathizers. Though always a perverse and controversial figure, the trag edy of the Hermaphrodite was not lost on the poet Algernon 85 Snodgrass 60. 86 Ibid.
79 Charles Swinburne. In 1863, Swinburne wrote the poem Hermaphroditus, inspired by a visit to the famous second-century marble sculpture Sleeping Hermaphroditus in the Muse du Louvre (see Fig. 18, 19). Swinburne sets the strong, sensuous tone of the poem in the first stanza: the Hermaphrodite is asl eep, its eyes closed, living in a half-world between sleep and life (stanza 2, line 1). Swinburne speaks of two lovesmale and female sexthat struggle with each other in sexual tension within the single body of the sleeping Hermaphrodite. Although it sleeps peacefully, its body is a site of emotional and sexual warfare: a beautiful and desirous/ desiring body that is cursed with the simultaneous passion and despair of being both male and female. The second stanza is highly sexual, referring to manifold sexual pos sibilities: as both male and female, the Hermaphrodite displays a goldbearing alchemical wedding of the sexes with lips and limbs, referencing the sorcerers stone a nd immortality in alchemical androgyny (lines 2-3).87 Yet these erotic descriptions are coupled with the reality of the waste wedlock of a sterile kiss, a body which in its united nature that canno t produce the fruitful feud of hers and his: an auto-ero tic but non-productive, impotent body (lines 4-5). Swinburne speaks of the nature of physical pleasure and sexual difference, naming man and woman as death and sin, two irreconcil ed sexes which Lovelike the sleeping Hermaphroditecloses his eyes to and will not approach. Alternatively, this may mean that Hermaphroditus is the pleasurehouse created by Loveblind Erosin which man and woman sit, and which Love cannot enter due to the self-sufficient and solitary nature of the Hermaphrodite (lines 10-14). In the third stanza, Swi nburne notes that the tragedy of the Hermaphrodite is that it will never be either man or woman, and therefore 87 Catherine Maxwell. The Female Sublime from Milton to Swinburne: Bearing Blindness Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press, 2001: 209.
80 it will never earn the love of a woman or a man, despite the duality of sexes it possesses and the multitude of sexual possibilities it implies. Swinburne muses why some god would have made the Hermaphrodite, who cannot be loved or reproduce, so beautiful? Why spend so much beauty on a thing that is a thing of barren hours? (lines 9-14). In the final stanza, Swinburne is ultimately not sure whether the Hermaphrodite is a creature inspiring or deserving love or fear; yet still the beauty of the Hermaphrodites body and the stoicness of its tearless eyes in the f ace of such tragic solitude is powerful to Swinburne, so powerful that our tears like blood should flow (lines 1-6). Swinburne ends by referring back to the birth of the Hermaphrodite beneath the womans and the waters kiss with the fusing with Salmacis, when his boyish qualities were feminized (lines 9-13). In the final line, Swinburne dryly asks what de sirethat is, normal desire, a love that is blind to any other love than itselfwould know about such indescribable beauty: But Love being blind, how should he know of this? (line 14). Catherine Maxwell offers a strong analysis of Hermaphroditus in The Female Sublime from Milton to Sw inburne: Bearing Blindness in which she explores the ways in which Swinburne figures the Hermaphrodite as a way of denying fixed meanings of desire, and also as a tragic metaphor for the ma sochistic, tortured De cadent artist-genius. First, Maxwell notes that th e Louvre sculpture which inspir ed Swinburne tricks the eye through the sinuous and twisting fo rm of Hermaphroditus, so th at the feminine hips and back of the figure nearly hide the small male genitals, making the figure seem female at first glancea blurring of forms that Swi nburne attempts to mimic in his writing style.88 Maxwell explains how Swinburne uses opaque descriptions and loose sonnet forms to compliment the indeterminate nature of the Hermaphrodite, constantly oscillating 88 Maxwell 202.
81 between fantasy and reality in order to blur and deny fixed meanings.89 Swinburne unites various opposites in the text, including beauty and the grot esque, pleasure and despair, abundance and loss, self-sufficiency and soli tude, attraction and repulsion, virginity and carnality. Using always-changing antitheses and contrasts, Maxw ell describes how Swinburne pictures the Hermaphrodite as a between figure, both indicating and crossing various boundaries.90 Maxwell always examines how Swinburne pairs the Hermaphrodite with a li terary technique called chiasmus (Greek for crossing), in which one turns words in AB:BA form around in a sentence to contrast and highlight meanings.91 Swinburne uses this technique severa l times, once in the first sonnet (lines 13-14: A strong desire begot on great despair; A great despai r cast our by strong desire) and again the third s onnet (lines 6-8): Yet by no sunset and by no moonrise Shall make thee man and ease a woman's sighs, Or make thee woman for a man's delight.92 This use of chiasmus implies moments of intersection, the crossing of boundaries that Swinburne attributes so str ongly to the Hermaphrodite, allowing the figure to become one of ultimate potentiality.93 The character of the Hermaphrodite is one of doubleness and suspension, of transitions and in-betweens, ope rating in a system of fluctuating relations that makes identifying figures and mean ings difficult, if not impossible. This sense of indeterminacy and potentiality, coupled with a Decadent examination of desire, relates Swinburnes Hermaphroditus to the hermaphrodites that populate the work of Aubrey Beardsley; both artists use hermaphroditic bodies to 89 Ibid. 90 Maxwell 203. 91 Maxwell 204. For example, John F. Kennedys famous phrase, Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country. 92 Maxwell 204-5. 93 Maxwell 202.
82 challenge accepted ideals about sexuality, perv ersity and normality. As Maxwell notes, Swinburne uses the word love seventeen times in Hermaphroditus, sometimes as a term of endearment towards the Hermaphrodite and sometimes as a name for Eros, the blind god of love.94 Maxwell makes the interesting claim that Eros blindness signifies his inability to recognize love other than his ownblind, normal, heterosexual love highlighting the potential for homosexual, le sbian and bisexual possibilities in the Hermaphrodite. 95 This also implies that the Hermaphr odites perverse love isnt much different than the normal love of Eros w ho is so blind he cannot recognize himself in different guisesafter all, they share the same mother Aphrodite, the goddess of desire.96 Thus the dry, mocking nature of the final line of the poem reveals Swinburnes use of overlapping identitiesE ros and Hermaphroditusto ques tion the nature of desire and how it is present an d absent to itself.97 While Beardsleys Hermaphrodites wallow in perversion and operate in grotesque forms, Swinburnes Hermaphroditus invents a bodily space where desire fills both normative and perverse roles, extolling the potential for multiple forms of desire and identi fication in the hermaphroditic body. Like Beardsley, Swinburne uses hermaphroditic figures and the conflicting feelings of attraction and revulsion that they evoke to for ce his readers to reconsider the nature of normal desire and sexuality in themselves. Swinburnes imagining of the Hermaphrodite in this unusual poem is also reminiscent of an earlier te xt by Conte de Lautramont, a section from his late 1860s poetic novel Les Chants de Maldoror Little is known about Lautramont, (the 94 Maxwell 205-6. 95 Maxwell 207. 96 Maxwell 206. 97 Ibid.
83 pseudonym for Isidore Lucien Ducasse), who died when he was only twenty-four in 1870. Maldoror consisting of six cantos, was to b ecome deeply influential for later artists, particularly the Surrealists. Despite this later association with the Surrealists, Lautramont is often considered to be an early Decadent due to his impious romanticism and outright rejection of ninete enth-century values. The stor y describes the wanderings of Maldoror, a figure who has embraced evil and commits himself in opposition to God and humanity. The text follows his various musings on pain and cruelty and his many adventures, which include making love to a frenzied shark, encountering one of Gods hairs, meeting Satan in the form of a fr og, combating an angel, observing an insane woman, spreading lice while flying over the world, and hallucinating about God devouring humans with his toes. In one of these unusual meetings, Maldoror comes upon a sleeping hermaphrodite in a grove, his face stained with tears and watched over adoringly by birds, trees, the moon and the stars. Maldoror describes the life of the herma phrodite as one of intentional solitude, in which the hermaphroditesignificantly refe rred to as malepurposefully isolates himself for fear of an imaginary dange rdiscovery of his eternal secret and subsequent condemnation.98 Yet Maldoror notes that all t hose he meets respect and even admire him (even those who have guessed his eternal secret) Thinking himself a monster, when he encounters a man and a woman the hermaphrodite experiences his body as split in twain from head to foot, a nd each new part yearns to embrace one or another of the strangers.99 Out of pride and for fear that joining with either a man or a woman would eventually lead to being re proached, the hermaphr odite instead cries 98 Lautramont, Conte de. Les Chants De Maldoror Transl. Guy Wernam. New York: New Directions, 1965: 70. 99 Lautramont 71.
84 himself to sleep and dreams of being fully either woman or man, or finding a world inhabited by other hermaphrodites. Yet desp ite his self-loathing, both Maldoror and the natural world around the hermaphrodite seem to recognize the exquisite beauty and uniqueness of this creature about whom nothing seems natural.100 Birds, trees, even Night herself alter their states to watch, a dore and be near the sleeping hermaphrodite, despite its non-naturalness. Maldoror is so intensely moved by the plight of the hermaphrodite that he weeps upon recounting it s story and begs it not to open its eyes, not to awaken from his happy dream world into the despair of non-differentiation and solitude. Comparing the Hermaphrodites of Be ardsley, Swinburne and Lautramont Swinburne and Lautramonts hermaphrodi tes share several similarities. Both Swinburne and Lautramont conceive of the hermaphrodite as a deeply moving and selftorn figure, referring to its body as split, or a house wherein man and woman sit on opposite sides. Particularly strong is the two au thors emphasis on the tr agic nature of the Hermaphrodite. While Swinburnes depiction of Hermaphroditus loneliness is more subtle and caustic, Lautramont openly w eeps alongside his tear-soaked hermaphrodite, unable to console himself in the face of such sorrow. This tragic nature is, as with Swinburne, one Maldoror (and Lautramont) sees within himself, the self-sufficient, misunderstood and tortured genius, a creature of unusual beauty, who is doomed to a life of solitude. Both Swinburnes and Lautram onts personal masochism and anti-social tendencies are apparent in these texts, identifying strongly with a figure that is unresolved and, in Les Chants de Maldoror, actively participates in hi s own distancing from society. 100 Lautramont 69.
85 Maldoror even describes an account of th e hermaphrodite smiling calmly while being bound and whipped by masked men, a highly sugge stive scene that is a testament to the hermaphrodites preferred state of torment. Like Beardsley, Swinburne and Lautramont have invested themselves in the image of the hermaphrodite, and employ this figure in unusual and subversive ways. These are a few of the rare examples of the true Hermaphrodite in fin-de-sicle art and literature, a figure which despite its rareness is clearly rife with complex meanings and associations for both the arti sts who implement its image and the audience they mean to shock. Swinburne, Lautramont, and Beardsley, despite the differences in their use of the Hermaphrodite, rely on the strong ambivalent reactions it evokes from all audience members, male and female, in order to create subversive meanings. Yet it is very difficult to find images of true He rmaphrodites in the art of the fin-de-sicle even in Beardsleys work, the uncensored frontispiece of Salome and the small illustration for Le Mort DArthur are the only two images in his portfolio where a Hermaphrodite is clearly shown with both male and female sexual organs.101 I believe this is because Beardsley, Swinburne and Lautramont, as Decadents and scandalous social outcasts in their respective ways, were more willing to confront and implement the true Hermaphrodite form than the average, respectable heterosexual male artist or viewer, for who these images were designed to shock and appall. Beardsley, Swinburne and Lautramont all employ the true Hermaphr odite in their work because they identify with it and its effects on people, though for different reasons. Beardsleys identification 101 I might suggest that one is more likely to find th e Hermaphrodite in literature than in art, simply for the a picture is worth a thousand words factorthe image of Beardsleys Hermaphrodite from Salome is much more effecting and disturbing than those of Swinburne and Lautramont, an effect contributed to by its visual presence rather than linguistic description. Not many artists were as bold in their content as Beardsley, who himself depicted true hermaphrodites only sparingly.
86 with the Hermaphrodite is one of scandal and aggressive subversion of heterosexual Victorian values which he, as a homosexual ma n fatally afflicted with tuberculosis, saw himself existing in opposition to. Swinburne and Lautramont, on the other hand, identify with the Hermaphrodite in a similar way that we have seen the Sy mbolists identifying with the Androgyneas a tortured artist-genius, isolated from so ciety, Swinburne and Lautramont see themselves in the Herm aphrodites self-sufficient isolation.102 Furthermore, Swinburne and Lautramont break away from Androgyne-worship in the way they envision the Hermaphrodite as tragically unresolved, simultaneously virginal and also the site of abundant self-contained sexual desire For them, the Hermaphrodite symbolized a turn away from the coarse real ity of Victorian sexuality towards a fantasy world in which they could channel a multitude of eroticisms and outlandish, often masochistic desires, rather than a retreat into exclusive male homosocial eroticism.103 Although Lautramont creates Maldoror to be a being of supreme and subversive evil, and although Swinburnes Decadent values are clear in his use of the Hermaphrodite to challenge his audiences conceptions of sens itive issues like sexuality and desire, both authors retain the Romantic need for an id eal, beautiful form through which they can escape from the instabilities and uncertainties of reality. This escape is particularly clear in Les Chants de Maldoror as this supposedly evil being openly weeps and prays for the hermaphrodites happiness, a small point of light and brilliant beauty in a dark and twisted world. 102 Maxwell 207. 103 Maxwell 208.
87 Castration and the Oceanic Feeling: The Hermaphrodite and the Femme Fatale as Phallic Woman These few examples, however, are not all there is to see of the Hermaphrodite in fin-de-sicle artthe horro r of the oceanic feeling invoked and epitomized by the Hermaphrodite can be found almost everywhere in various, less controversial implied forms. Unlike the Androgyne, who relies on a system of homosocial homoeroticism to reassure shared male privilege and subj ectivity through the exclusion of women, the Hermaphrodites duality of sexual tra itsboth male and femaleaggravates the perceived problem of sexual difference in the male artist and viewer. While this aggravation of insecurity and instability of self and subj ectivity was sympathized with and embraced by some, like Beardsley, Swi nburne and Lautramont, the majority of artists and viewersthose who these Decadents meant to shock and challenge with their usage of the Hermaphroditeviewed thes e dually-sexed figures as horrific and dystopian. Although we might not find Hermaphr odite figures in the work of Khnopff, Moreau, or Rops if we attempt to find one overt as in Beardsleys Salome frontispiece, I believe that the subconscious oceanic dread that the Hermaphrodite epitomizes are a major element of fin-de-sicle art, disguised in other forms that skirt around the anxiety and confusion that the Hermaphrodite evokes when fully revealed, as in Beardsleys drawings. The primary agent of this implied hermaphroditic, oceanic imagery is the femme fatale. The femme fatale, I claimed in the previous chapter, is perhaps the most popular figure in fin-de-sicle art and lit erature, outnumbering both the Androgyne and the pure woman by far. In my opinion, it is in the femme fatale that fin-de-sicle artists
88 most often express their anxi eties and fears about sex, se xuality, gender relations and perversions of the mind and the bodythe same anxieties and f ears that are unfolded in representations of the Hermaphrodite. Th e femme fatale and the Hermaphrodite are both dangerous and attractive figures to the ma le artist or viewer, who in producing or observing their images threatens his sens e of male privilege and subjectivity by confronting sexual difference. Both the fe mme fatale and the Hermaphrodite also represent the threat of the c onsuming, oceanic loss of self and the loss of transcendence through the sexual act, yet in producing their image the artist betrays his attraction to these threatening forms and details his own desire for sexual union. As I have mentioned, the femme fatale of the fin-de-sicle appears in a multitude of varying forms, from biblical and historical reference to mythological beast. One of the most prevalent incarnations of the femme fata le in the fin-de-sicle is not so specific, however: the femme fatale may often appear as a phallic woman. The Freudian notion of the phallic woman is described by the In ternational Dictionary of Psychoanalysis as a childs fantastical imagining of a woman (the mother) who possesses phallic attributes. The term also describes a womans or mothers fantasy to retain a phallus internally after sexual intercourse.104 Like the femme fatale, then, th e phallic woman seeks carnal union with men, but she does so aggressively and in order to gain phallic power, which she, lacking a penis, cannot possess. Salmacis herself, whose lust effaced both Hermaphroditus masculine privilege and her own identity, is seemingly much less femme fatale than a phallic woman. While a femme fatale lures men to their downfall through feminine wiles and irre sistible sexuality, Salmacis advances were in fact 104 "Phallic Woman." International Dictionary of Psychoanalysis Ed. Alain de Mijolla. Gale Cengage, 2005. eNotes.com 2006. 9 Mar, 2010
89 rejected by Hermaphroditus before she took it upon herself to sexually assault him, thus stealing his phallus and literally taking it into herself by irrevocably putting herself into him. Many of the examples of femme fatales wh ich I gave in the previous chapter were also phallic women, including Rops Sacrifice and both Moreaus and Khnopffs versions of Oedipus and the Sphinx I would argue that all sphinx figures are indeed phallic women, due to their animal hybridity (suggesting phallic bestiality) and their desire to consume the men who attempt to pass, just as the phallic woman desires to consume the phallus by taking it inside her. After all, death is the ultimate form of castration, the revocation of ones phallic agency, and the grea test threat to ones subjectivity next to sexual intercourse (to which death is intrinsically related). Despite their associations with death a nd castration, both the femme fatale and the phallic woman are clearly invested with erot icism and sexual intrigue on the part of the artistsdespite the Satanic ethos of Rops Sacrifice or the cannibalistic horror of the sphinx, the sensuality of these female fi gures, however grotesque, cannot be ignored. There is a two-fold and torn relationship be tween the femme fatale or the phallic woman and the artist/viewer, one of simultaneous desire and repulsion, a recognition of desire and a terror of the castra ting unknown of Woman and the oceanic return to nondifferentiation. As I have shown, the Herma phrodite also evokes this simultaneous attraction and repulsion, serving as the epitomi zation of the fear of the oceanic loss of subjectivity that the femme fatale and the pha llic woman also threaten. Because of this shared anxiety caused by simultaneous attractio n to and repulsion on the part of the male artist and viewer, I believe that the Herma phroditeoften read as predominately female
90 due to its sexed qualityand the femme fatale as she appears as the phallic woman are subconsciously interconnected in their repr esentation of the oceanic feeling, and can therefore be related to each other subliminally in the art of the fin-de-sicle. Both the Hermaphrodite and the phallic woman repres ent the ways in which female eroticism (associated with base female ness-as-Nature regardless of it s participants) feminizes and mutates male subjectivity in a masochistic, destructive act of loss and enfeeblement. Thus, the femme fatale as phallic woman and the Hermaphrodite are, though not one in the same, indicative of the same anxieties a bout sex and sexuality in the fin-de-sicle, exasperated by a changing society and changing gender relations. One of the most visually blatant imag es wherein the femme fatale and the Hermaphrodite seem to inform one a nother is Franz von Stucks 1891 painting Sensuality. (Fig. 25) A harsh contrast to the pastel, pristine beauty of his Innocentia here he has painted a dark scene invaded upon by a lurid yellow, orange and red decorated surface, possibly the back of a sofa. A nake d woman, completely entangled with a huge black snake, leans against this orange space, looking out at the viewer from the darkness, her face almost completely obscured. Whereas in Innocentia his strong, lively brushstrokes add to the gauzy, transcendent f eel of the painting, here his handling of the paint is far more inconsistent, consisti ng of both heavy, sloppy brushstrokes on the orange cloth and tighter, tens er and blurrier strokes on the forms of the woman and the snake. The snake wrapped around the womans body is reminiscent not only of traditional Eve and the Serpent iconography, but also of the snake encircling the eggthe alchemical symbol for androgynous or herma phroditic union, a popular subject in the fin
91 de-sicle.105 The way in which the fat, black, glistening body of the snake slithers around and between the legs of the naked woman is also highly reminiscent of the long, serpentine penis of the Baphomet-god in Rops The Sacrifice The phallic snake situated between her legs suggests both sexual inte rcourse and the posse ssion of a penisthe hermaphroditic possibility in the phallic, de siring female. Furthermore, the image also seems to mimic the Hermaphrodite figure in Beardsleys frontispiece for Salome The womans arms and legs are obscured by the sn ake, turning her into a totem, and her darkened and obscured face is almost replaced by that of the snake that emerges from the darkness over her shoulderits flat, fanged gr in and sharp eyes seem akin in form and malice to the horned, laughing and s lit-eyed face of the totemic Salome Hermaphrodite. Though I doubt there is a direct borrowing of forms between von Stuck, Rops and Beardsley, it seems to me that the recurren ce of these themesphallic femaleness, pagan or serpentine forms, and the implication of both a womans possessi on of and penetration by a penisconjure the same fear of the o ceanic feeling and ambivalent attraction and repulsion felt about both the femme fatale and the Hermaphrodite. Similarly, the hybrid nature of the Hermaphrodite is carried ove r into images of the femme fatale as sphinxes and other part-animal anomalies, as in Khnopffs LArt/ Des Caresses Khnopff places his sisters face and his own face side-by-side in this image, assigning himself to the role of Oedipus and his sister to that of the sphinx. His sisters weirdly masculine jaw and wide face almost mirror her brothers, but their expressions are entirely different; he gazes dreamily into space, unconc erned with the bleak world 105 Maxwell 209: Alchemy has a long history of appearances in literature, and alchemical imagery was widely used throughout the nineteenth century, par ticularly in the French aesthetic tradition with which Swinburne was familiar, as an illustration of the proce ss by which the literary artist turns his raw materials into enduring imaginative creations.
92 around him, and she nuzzles him aggressively, her eyes closed in erotic rapture. Her carnality and lustful attitude is intensif ied and represented by her hybrid animal body, associating desire, sex and the feminine with bestial hunger and a cats graceful but traditionally sinister and feminine associations in Western art. This bestiality and carnivorous, devouring aspect of the sphinx is what makes her both a phallic female and a femme fatalethe destructive (and self-des troying), desiring, phallus-consuming woman. In the sphinx, the shared anxiety induced by the femme fatale as phallic woman and the Hermaphrodite about the oceanic loss of ma le subjectivity through sexual intercourse or submission toor literal consumption bythe desiring, phallic woman is expanded upon through the inference of hermaphroditic bodies in non-human or part-human forms, combining dangerous, phallic animalism with recognizable but terrifyingly aggressive femininity. In these implied hermaphroditic images, I believe it is reasonable to read the femme fatale as phallic wo man and the Hermaphrodite in subconscious communication with each other in the work of nineteenth centu ry artists, particularly those of the fin-desicle. Both figures are representatives of male anxiety about changing gender relations in the West, the increasing instability of self and the body in the face of modernism, technology and medicine, and the reactionary stance against wome n, womens sex, and non-traditional, independent femininity brought on by womens movements around the turn of the century. The Hermaphrodite and the femme fatale as phallic woman are not the same figure, per se : while the femme fatale and the phallic woman occur in a variety of forms and contexts (often separate fr om each other) in the fin-de-sicle and beyond, they do not always imply hermaphroditic forms. I do believe, however, that the
93 Hermaphroditealways non-transcendent and sexed and therefore always physically female-dominatedis always both a femme fatale and a phallic woman, always threatening the viewers sens e of individuality and subjectivity through its seductive yet repulsive, oscillating and indeterminate nature. While the femme fatale has almost always been a strong presence in Western artthough enjoying special attention during the fin-de-siclethe Hermaphrodite is a rare and unusual figure, one wh ich appeared sparingly in its true form at the end of the nineteenth century and even more rarely beforehand. Like the resurgence of the Androgyne, the event of modernity and other ch anging social factors in the nineteenth century must have triggered an aesthetic n eed for the Hermaphrodite, though its relation to the artist and the viewer was one of anxiety and subversion rather than reaffirmation and withdrawal. But why specifically the Hermaphrodite? Why would this seemingly random physical anomaly become so imbued in fin-de-sicle sexual anxiety and artistic production? What do Hermaphrodites have to do with nineteenth century society? The Impact of Nineteenth-Century Medic ine and the Fin-de-Sicle Hermaphrodite on Intersex Realities The literary and artistic figure of the He rmaphrodite is, of course, nominally and loosely conceptually relate d to the real-life herma phroditethe intersexed body. Today, medical authorities typically estimate that one in fifteen hundred to two thousand births are ambiguous enough to be seen by a sex differentiation specialist. 106 Although 106 In Anne Fausto-Sterlings article How Sexually Dimorphous Are We? Review and Synthesis, she reveals that not only is the nu mber of people born with non-standard sexual ch aracteristics closer to one in one hundred, but that there are a wide variety of different forms of intersex and non-standard bodies, each with its own set of statistics and unique physical presentation. For more information see Blackless, Melanie, Anthony Charuvastra, Amanda Derryck, Anne Fausto-Sterling, Karl Lauzanne, and
94 the nineteenth century was one of stabili zationthe regulation of resources, the advancement of medicine and technology it was also a period of intense selfdestabilization, as I have described at length in the previous chapters. In The History of Sexuality, Foucault describes the three reinforcin g institutions of self-regulating power structures regarding sexuality: civic law, the Christian past oral, and medicine. Medicine and psychoanalysis were particularly powerfu l authorities in late nineteenth century society with the popularization of Positivism and other rational schools of thought. So, too, did the late nineteenth century employ th ese medical authoritie s to sate the evergrowing Victorian obsession with sex, sexuality and its perversions and the effects of perversion on the body. Fueled by the bourgeois fear of degenerescence and bad blood as it was tied to sex and the body, medicine and psychoanalysis set about beginning to know sex, se xuality, and perversion.107 For the good of society, and at the demand of society itself, medicine and psychoanalysis had by the turn of the century established and documented a wide array of non-normal bodies, behaviors, neuroses, etcall against which normal sex, sexual ity, behavior and bodies were defined. When nineteenth century medicine and society sought to define and institutionalize all non-normal bodies, few c ould have seemed less normal than the intersexed body. Here was a body which, seen in the eyes of society and medicine as both male and female, offered th e possibility of perversity in every act; a body incapable of engaging in normal behavior due to its non-conformity to a heterosexual, Ellen Lee. How sexually dimorphic are we? Review and synthesis. American Journal of Human Biology. Vol. 12 (2000): 151-166, or visit the website for The Intersex Society of North America at
95 mono-sexual model of health and normal physiology. The resurgen ce of the literary and artistic figure of the Herma phrodite in the fin-de-sicle is, I think, intrinsically tied to the nineteenth century medica lization of intersexed bodies and other perversities. By the fin-de-sicle, interse xuality as a disorder was known and documented by the medical community, and that knowledge would ha ve been available to society at large. And also in the fin-de-sicle, the Hermaphrod ite was appearing in its true form in the work of subversive Decadents and, more co mmonly, implied through the femme fatal as phallic woman in the work of ma ny other artists. It can only be assumed that the lives of intersexed people in the nineteenth centur y and societys understanding of them were strongly affected by this intense fascination and anxiety in both the artistic and medical communities surrounding inters exuality and the perverse possibilities of the Hermaphrodite figure.108 In 1860, the French photographer Gaspar d-Flix Tournachon, known as Nadar and famous for his portraiture, was commi ssioned to document the examination of an unnamed intersexed woman (we might presum e she identified as female due to her feminine dress in the photos) by Dr. Armand Tr ousseau, a professor at the medical clinic of the Htel Dieu in Paris. The series of nine photographs that were produced from this examination are the first ever photodocumenta tion of an intersexed person. Upon viewing these images, we may get a glimpses of not only the late nineteenth century social obsession with non-normative sex and bodies, but also the beginning of the medical process of knowing intersex ualityan act of exposure an d institutionalization that would eventually lead to the current debate about intersexuality in medicine, namely the 108 For more information on nineteenth century medical treatments and understandings of intersexuality and how this affected the lives of Vi ctorian intersexuals, see Alice Dreger, Hermaphrodites and the Medical Invention of Sex Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press, 1998.
96 medical imperative to correct intersexual bodies. Indeed, in a letter to Nadar, Trousseau writes: My dear friend, you must, I repeat, you must immediately do the photographic portrait of the young woman whom my friend Dr. Dumont-Pallier will bring to you. She suffers from a very strange malady that must be depicted so that in several months we can gauge the results of the treatment. See this young person and photograph her strange infirmity with as much truth and art as you can.109 In the images Nadar has purposefully excluded or covered the face of the patient to hide her identity.110 In the rest of the photographs, the viewer is hit with stark, shocking images of physical examination. The two most graphic photographs fe ature, respectively, a head-on shot of the patients genitals (Fi g. 26) and a three-quarte rs view. (Fig. 27) In both images the prostrate patient covers her f ace with her hand. Both images also include the disembodied hand of the physician reaching in from off-camera to pull, spread and separate the patients genitals to better e xpose their anomalous quali ty to the camera. The shock of these photos does not come from the physical difference of the patient, I think, but instead from the striki ng similarity of these forms and the overall ethos of the photographs to pornographic images The spread legs, the disembodied hands that seem to belong to the camera, the seemi ng shame of the covered face all add to the cold, removed and degrading feel of the photographs. Medicine and pornography share a multitude of similarities, after all. Both function in a harsh dichotomy of examiner/examined, knower/known. Both rely on the complete obj ectification of the body-as-flesh, turning the body in to a malleable, often univers alized and highly regulated object. In these images, Nadars camera functions as the eye of the physician, just as the 109 Quoted in Schultheiss, Dirk; Herrmann, Thomas R. W., and Jones, Udo. Early Photo-Illustration of a Hermaphrodite by the French Photographer and Artist Nadar in 1860. Journal of Sexual Medicine 3.2 (2006): 357. 110 This does not account for the one full-body portrait of the patient, showing her nude body and her facethis image may exist in order to display her facial attributes, which seem more masculine, as a symptom of her malady.
97 camera stands in for the eye of the pornogr aphy watcher, seeking to know the object through the gaze and furthering its objectific ation through the invasion of privacy, the imperative to make the private public. The feeling of invasion, decentralization and powerlessness is not uncommon to those w ho have undergone a physical examination. Though this unknown subject in Nadars phot ographs was presumably a consenting participant and Nadar seems to respect her desire to remain anonymous, the sense of maximum exposure, the distancing and objectifying gaze of the camera, and the seeming shame signified by the patients covered face give the photographs a cold and invasive quality, if not pornographic and deeply disturbi ng in its complete objectification of the subject. Furthermore, in its mission to know, the medical community retains the goal of correction and the exposure of perve rsitythis makes the nearly pornographic exposure of the patients genitals especially upsetting. She is now an institutionalized body, a body falling under the category of to be corrected, and the gaze of the physician and his gesturing hands are charged with a sort of judging curiosity, a will to condemn and an authoritative imperative to normalize. Though these images were not published, their intent is clear and only adds to their disturbing quality: to make the patients most private and sensitive areas and differences known to the medical community and to society at large, so th at they might know it and correct it. We do not know what became of the intersexed patient shown in Nadars photographs, so it is impossible to say how these photographs, or simply the submission to medical examination, may have affected he r life. We do, however, have evidence that the medicalization of inters exuality had a strong and often devastating effect on intersexed individuals in the nineteenth century. Originally published in 1874 in a French
98 medical journal, the memoirs of the 19th-century intersexed person Alexina (or Abel) Herculine Barbin were discovered by Michel Foucault in the French Department of Public Hygiene and published again in 1978 as Herculine Barbin: Being the Recently Discovered Memoirs of a Ninet eenth-Century French Hermaphrodite along with his commentary and the medical in formation describing her body.111 This autobiography documents the brief life of Alexina, born in 1838, a poor, devoutly Catholic girl who until her early twenties lived her life as a woman in various all-girls schools as both a student and, later, a teacher, and who had engaged in exclusively female-female sexual and romantic relationships. After experiencing a bdominal pains and confessing these pains to a priest, who convinced her to break the sanctity of confession and submit to a medical examination, she was discovered to be a male pseudo-hermaphrodite in 1860, having both a small vagina and an internal penis and testes. Alexina also shaved her face and did not undergo menstruation during puberty, nor did she develop breasts. Legal authorities determined that Barbins sex was really ma le, and Alexina continued to live as Abel Barbin until his suicide in 1868, after leaving his lover and writing these memoirs as part of therapy. The memoirs themselves ar e heart-wrenching and nave, and the young Alexina sees herself powerless in the face of medical and legal authorities who inscribe maleness on her body, causing severe depres sion and her eventual suicide. In Foucaults introduction to Barbins memoirs, he carries over many of his assertions from The History of Sexuality to prove that the regu lation of sexuality and identity is only a historical event of the past few centuries. He traces the history of hermaphrodismmore appropria tely, intersexualityfrom ancient society to the 19th 111 The memoirs were originally published as The Medical/Legal Issue of Identity in Relation to Irregular Formation of the Sexual Organs.
99 century, a part of his academic goal to produ ce genealogies of sexualities. Following his theory that pre-17th century sex was considered an act instead of an essential identity Foucault states that instead of having one t rue sex, for centuries it was quite simply agreed that hermaphrodites had two.112 While it is true that there is evidence of a number of executions [of hermaphrodites], both in ancient times and in the Middle Ages, Foucault notes that there is an a bundance of court decisions of a completely different type concerning intersex rights, which reveal that rather than being condemnedlegally and/or sociallysimply for being ambiguously or dually sexed, intersexed people had the opti on of choosing either a male or female social and legal identity, despite their an atomical discrepancies. 113 Changes of option, not the anatomical mixture of the sexes, were what gave rise to most of the condemnations of hermaphrodites in the records that survive in France for the peri od of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, Foucault remarks.114 The freedom to choose ones sex is one we are generally unfamiliar with in todays social landscape, even (or especially) in the case of infants with ambiguous genitalia. Foucault goes on to show how an inters exed persons option for choosing ones own sex was replaced as sex moved into the realm of public discourse and essentializing identity in the forms of medical, legal and religious regulation and psychiatric interpretations of desiresand bodies. Biological theories of sexuality, juridical conceptions of the individual, forms of administrative control in modern nations, led little by little to rejecting the idea of a mixture of the two sexes in a single body, and consequently to limiting the free choice of 112 Barbin, Herculine and Michel Foucault. Herculine Barbin Being the Recently Discovered Memoirs of a Nineteenth-Century French Hermaphrodite New York: Pantheon Books, 1980: vii. 113 Ibid. 114 Barbin viii.
100 indeterminate individuals. Everybody was to have his or her primary, profound, determined and determining sexual identity; as for the elements of the other sex that might appear, they could only be accidental, superficial, or even quite simply illusory From the medical point of view, this meant that when confronted with a hermaphrodite, the doctor was no longer concerned with recognizing the presence of the two sexes, juxtaposed or intermingled, or with knowing which of the two prevailed over the other, but rather with deciphering the true sex that was hidden beneath ambiguous appearances .115 With the event of bodily decipherment and the envisioning of the body as less reliable than the essential qua lities of an underlying true se x, the ability for intersexed individuals to freely choose their sex was eliminated. Rather, writes Foucault, it was up to the expert to say which sex nature ha d chosen for him and to which society must consequently ask him to adhere. Indeed, the ambiguous bodies of intersexed people, once decided upon as legally male or female could not be change d for fear that an individual might be suspected of dissemb ling their innermost know ledge of their true sex and of profiting from certain anatomical oddities in order to make use of their bodies as if they belonged to the other sex.116 If, by some diabolical and deceitful manner, an ambiguous body might through [natures] fantasies or accid entsdeceive the observer and hide the true sex, an intersexed pe rson might well be condemned for using the phantasmagorias of nature to get away with licentious behaviorthat is to say, homosexual desire.117 This attitude towards intersexed people is where we may connect the social imperative to know intersexed bodies and the artistic and literary occurrence of the Hermaphrodite in fin-de-sicle art. The regul ation and delegation of intersexed bodies to a true sex by medical and le gal authorities is founded upon th e same anxieties about the myriad possibilities for desire and sexuality represented by the Hermaphrodite in art and 115 Ibid. (emphasis mine) 116 Barbin ix 117 Ibid.
101 literature. While it may be impossible to uncover which came first, the chicken (the Hermaphrodite of the fin-de-sicle) or the egg (the medical/ psychoanalytical preoccupation with and instituti onalization of intersexed bodies) it is reasonable to draw a connection between this growing anxiety and desire to know and fix intersexuality and the appearance of Hermaphrodite figures in art and literature of the fin-de-sicle bodies which by their dual nature defied medical definitions of fixed normalcy (and epitomized unfixed non-normalcy) in every as pect. Beardsley and Swinburne recognized this always-perverse role of the Hermaphrodite and used it to their advantage to challenge their audiences notions of desire love, beauty, gender and sexuality. Other, more traditional artists like von Stuck could only depict the Herma phrodite subliminally, incapable and unwilling to see and use its disr uptive power for subversive means but still affected enough by the anxiety of the period to subconsciously produce dark, confusing and implied hermaphroditic figures in images of women, deeply telling of the role of the oceanic feeling in fin-de-sicle male sexual anxieties. The appearance of the Hermaphrodite in fin-de-sicle art and literature is directly tied to the nineteenth century medicalization and institutionalization of intersexed bodies and societys obsession with sexual perversity and physical difference: by the end of the nine teenth century, the imperative to delegate a true sex to a ll individualsand esp ecially to ambiguouslybodied individualshad reached a legal, mo ral, medical, social and psychoanalytical zenith, creating a distrustful, se nsationalizing and corrective a ttitude in medicine, art and society which intersexed pe ople still struggle against.118 118 Barbin xi-xii: The years from around 1860 to 1870 were precisely one of those periods when investigations of sexual identity were carried out with the most intensity, in an attempt not only to establish the true sex of hermaphrodites but also to identify, classify, and characteri ze the different types of perversions.
102 In the next and final chapter, I will further discuss the relationships between intersexed people and the artistic and literary Herm aphrodite, since their relationshipfounded upon obsessions with perversity and a sensationalizing f ear of the unknownis highly complex and potentially inflammatory. Yet desp ite the ignorant and unrealistic nature of the fin-de-sicle Hermaphrodite in relation to intersexed individua ls, I cannot help but think that both Beardsley and Swinburne were onto something in their application of the true Hermaphrodite form to challenge their audiences conceptions of sexuality, desire and gender. While both Beardsle y and Swinburne were flawed in their understanding of the HermaphroditeBeardsleys Hermaphrodite s extort and aggravate the Victorian fascination and repulsion of actual inte rsexed figures, and Swinburne puts the Hermaphrodite up on an idealistic pedestal, not unlike other artists treatment of the Androgynethe power it holds over both artist s and viewers and the anxiety it produces over ones own desires and identity cannot be ignored. In the next chapter, I will conclude my study by examining in what wa ys the Hermaphrodites subversive and decentralizing character might be used by contemporary gay and lesbian, queer, and feminist artists and theorist s to continue challenging norma tive ideas of sex, sexuality, gender, and desire. In order to fully understand the subversiv e capacities of the Hermaphrodite I will analyze its relation to language and signification through acts of deconstructive homographesis and Derridian di ffrance before continuing to unfurl the complex meanings and unders tandings the Hermaphrodite has and could have for an audience.
103 CHAPTER FOUR AINT MUCH OF A DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A BRIDGE AND A WALL: THE HERMAPHRODITE AS VISUAL DIFFRANCE AND NEW POSSIBILITIES FO R RADICAL EMPLOYMENT IN QUEER VISUAL CULTURE As I have explained in the previous chapter, the Hermaphrodite plays a much more ambiguous and scarce role in art and literature of the fin-de-sicle, compared to the beautiful and idealistic Androgyne. While the Androgyne can be easily spotted in the work of several fin-de-sicle artists (and Neoclassical artists as well), the Hermaphrodite is found only in its true forma figure with complete male and female sexual organs in limited images and texts from the nineteenth century. This includes the art of Aubrey Beardsley, the poem Hermaphroditus by Swi nburne, and a short selection from Conte de Lautramonts Les Chants de Maldoror. Although the Hermaphrodite does not appear as often as the Androgyne, however, the power of its presence in art and literature gives an impression of its influence over the artist As I have described, the Hermaphrodite is connected to depictions of the femme fatale as phallic female due to their shared reference to fears of the oceanic feeling. Once again, the oceanic is a Freudian term describing the male anxiety about the loss of transcendence and indi viduality in sexual union with a woman, symbolizi ng a return to the infant connection to the mother.119 Artists like Beardsley, Swinburne and Lautramont depicted the 119 For a reiteration of this definition, please see the previous chapter or refer to the glossary.
104 Hermaphrodite subversively in order to challenge their audiences values and conceptions of normal sexuality and gender presentation. This ability and willingness to subversively depict the Herm aphrodite is, I believe, connected to these artists roles as Decadents and social outside rs (particularly in the cas e of Beardsley, a Victorian homosexual dying of tuberculosis). This anxi ety involving the oceanic feeling which the Hermaphrodite epitomizes can also, however, be found in the myriad reproductions of the femme fatale as phallic female by various finde-sicle artists. This fear of the oceanic feeling was especially exacerbated in the finde-sicle by the perception that society was changing too rapidly, particularly in regard s to gender relations and the feeling of instability of the self and th e body in the face of modernity. As I explained in the previous chapter, the Hermaphrodite of fin-de-sicle art and literature is inescapably tied to the nineteenth century obsession with sex, degenerescence and perversity. In the prev ious chapter, I examined several medical photodocuments by Nadar and the posthumously published memoirs of Herculine Barbin in order to how how this his obsession with abnormal sex and bodies affected the lives of nineteenth century intersexed individua ls, to whom the Hermaphrodite of art and literature is nominally and conceptually re lated. These images and texts describe an increase in medical and legal interference and institutionalization of these non-normal bodies, who for nineteenth century society represented a body liter ally incapable of normal sex, sexuality, or behavior, being both and neither male and female. Ultimately I concluded that while Beardsleys, Swinbur nes and Lautramonts depictions of the Hermaphrodite is radical in its subversive intentions, these images are ignorant and insensitive to the plight of real intersexed people, exploiting their audiences fear and
105 fascination with non-normal bodies in order to produce an image of hermaphrodism that is both wrongly vilified a nd unrealistically idealized. Yet, while these images of Hermaphrodi tes are unacceptable in their defamatory and ignorant attitude towards intersexuals, I canno t ignore the fact th at this figure has strong and subversive effects on its audience, a quality wh ich Beardsley, Swinburne and Lautramont all recognized and acted upon. Why does the Hermaphrodite have this effect on the (presumably male and heterosexual) artist and viewer? If these problems of exploitative idealism and hist orical disenfranchisement of intersexed people can be addressed, if the forms set down by Beardsle y, Swinburne and Lautramont can be selfconsciously improved upon, how might this un ique quality of subversive ambivalence produced by the Hermaphrodite be applied to feminist and queer theory and artistic practice? What possibilities for disruption and radical anti-heterosexist, anti-patriarchal practice might the Hermaphrodite hold for femi nist and queer theorist s and artists today? In this chapter I will answer these qu estions, first by completing an analysis of Lee Edelmans essay on homographesis and Derridas notion of textual diffrance as they can be applied to the form of the Hermaphrodite in visual culture (art and literature/text). This section will introduce new theories about the possibilities for queer, gay and lesbian, and feminist artists and writers to utilize the form of the Herm aphrodite in their work as a visual and theoretical tool for negotiating ne w forms of bodily and social identification which defy binary hierarchies of gender, se x, and sexuality while also privileging the body as a space for non-essentializing identifica tion. Especially important to this study, I think, is to further examine the relationship of Hermaphroditeth e fictional artistic and literary figureto real nineteenth-centu ry hermaphrodites (lower h; a derogatory
106 term for intersexed people) such as Herculin e Barbin and the person pictured in Nadars photographs. In this chapter I wi ll confront the question of whet her it is appropriate to use real people as a template for thinking about theoretical ideas about bodily and social identity, particularly when the figure of the Hermaphrodite is such a skewed and unrealistic image of intersexed people. To demonstrate this problem I will provide an analysis of the Memoirs of Herculine Barbin, a real nineteenth-cen tury intersexed person. I will describe the problems inherent in Michel Foucaults in troduction to her posthumously published memoirs and medical documents, revealing his own unchecked idealism and misunderstanding of her situation as an intersexed person and not somebody existing outside systems of power and essent ial identification. Ultim ately, I believe that the way images of the Hermaphrodite-as-ar tistic-figure are treated and the way actual intersexed people were treated in the 19th century and beyond are of deep importance to this study, a fact that must be carefully cons idered and reflected in any theoretical or visual usage of the Hermaphrodite, if it hopes to have subversive potential in contemporary visual culture. I will provide several guide lines for how I believe the Hermaphrodite must be employed if it is to be implemented in revolutionary and productive ways, confronting the problems I have described. These basic guidelines include an emphasis on a self-conscious avoida nce of disenfranchisement and idealism, and reflect the struggles of my own artwork in my attempts to depict androgyny and the Hermaphrodite with radi cal queer intentions.
107 Homographesis, Diffrance and the Inscription of Identity To unlock the potentials of the Hermaphrodi te I have alluded to, I first had to understand exactly why the Hermaphrodite causes such ambivalence in the artist and the viewer. In order to do this, I first had to understand the underpinnings of sexual and gendered identity in language and signification. I was to co me to this conclusion through a queer theory course when I was introdu ced to Lee Edelman and his work with homographesis and textual bodies. The first chapter of Edelmans book Homographesis: Essays in Gay Litera ry and Cultural Theory deals directly with homographesis, which he defines as inscribing gayness upon a body w ith the express purpose of being able to read gayness as a legible, anatomical code.120 Based on the Foucau ltian notion that sexuality is historically re lative and socially determined through selfenforcing, interpersonal power structures, Edelman asserts th at heterosexuality is only legible as it is read against non-heterosexual models of p erversity. Threatened by the ability of homosexuality to pass as straight, he terosexuality asserts its dominance over homosexuality by creating a way of recogni zing gay bodies, writing a gay anatomy on individual bodies: Just as outing works to make visible a dimension of social reality effectively occluded by the assumptions of a heterosexist ideology, so that ideology, throughout the twentieth century, has insisted on the necessity of reading the body as a signifier of sexual orientation. Heterosexuality has th us been able to reinforce the status of its own authority as natural (i.e. unmarked, authentic, and non -representational) by defining the straight body against the threat of an unnatural homosexualitya threat the more effectively mobilized by generating concern about homosexualitys unnerving (and strategically manipulable) capacity to pass, to remain invisible, in order to call into being a variety of disciplinary knowledges through which homosexuality might be recognized, exposed, and ultim ately rendered, more omi nously, invisible once more. 121 120 Lee Edelman, Homographesis. Homographesis: Essays in Gay Literary and Cultural Theory New York: Routledge, 1994: 5. For more definition, please refer to the glossary. 121 Edelman 4.
108 This act of homographesis is di scriminatory in that its goal s are simultaneously to expose and cover up gayness as an unnatural and readable essential quality. However, Edelman theorizes that homographesis can al so be implemented by homosexual literary critics and theorists to turn the tables on heterosexist inscripti ons, instead writing gayness in places it would not usually be attributed to subvert the notion of heterosexuality as natural and non-re presentational. Edelman explains how deconstructive homographesis might break down the binary, hierarcha lized inscriptions of gay and straight and their relati onship between language, text, the body, and identity, as defined thro ugh the Derridian notion of diffrance. Diffrance as it is theorized by Derrida involve s the relationship between text and language to the objects and subjects language is supposed to define and interpellate. Lacan had already questioned the place of langua ge in his description of the mirror stage, in which a childs internal sense of self, I, becomes externalized when he looks in the mirror and mistakes the whole image in the mirror as the more stable, more real vision of himselfthus he projects I outside of his perceived unstable and un-whole body. The mirror stage marks the entrance of the child into the symbolic realm, the realm of language, since once I lies outsid e of the self, the only way to relate the self to objects (including ones own body and subjectivity) is through linguistic and textual description. The problem of symbolic naming is, of cour se, that language only functionally stands for the things it describes, but a word (signi fier) can never truly b e the thing that it describes (signified). This is where Derridas notion of diffrance becomes important. The word diffrance is a play on the French verb diffrer which means both t o differ and to
109 defer. The term refers to the inability of words to describe the things they symbolize except through difference from other objects (or signifi ers/words) and through deferring to other descriptive words. For example, the word cat is defined by the objects written, symbolic difference from dog, tiger, hat, human, cats, etc. In this sense, a word only defines an object by what it is notthrough difference and not sameness. At the same time, words can only strive to de fine an object by defe rring to endless other words, none of which are themselves equal to the objects or qual ities they symbolize. For example, if I were trying to explain what a cat really is, I co uld only say fluffy, small, whiskers, stripes, carnivore, fel ine, etc. The signifiers that are attached to this original signifier (cat) ultimately change the meaning of the signified in any further description of its difference from ot her signified objects (black cat, orange cat, cool cat, dead cat, cat burglar). The constant system of relational definition through difference and deference to other si gnifiers reveals that the relation between signifier and signified is essentially negative, without any positive relations or identifications between what is signified and what signifies it. Edelman theorizes that diffrance can be applied in homogr aphesis to subvert the very binary hierarchical iden tities that such significations based on textual difference and deference institute. The signifier heterosex ual is revealed through the process of making legible bodies to be only a product of constantly deferring signifiers of not perverse or not homosexual, just as homose xual is defined as not natural or not heterosexual. Edelman applies the textual elem ents of Derridian diffrance to the visual act of reading sexuality (particularly homosexuality) that has presumably been written on the body, a body-as-text. While the reading of a nd writing upon the
110 body has been used for discriminatory ends, Edelman suggests that homographesis investment in text, visuality and bodies can be turned against the discriminatory forces that initially implemented it, showing how the constant differing and deferring of definitions used to signify a legible sexua lity on the body-as-text breaks down the meanings of both homosexuality and heterose xuality as two hierarchical terms that do not, ultimately, relate to the bodies or desi res they signify, existi ng only in antagonistic and deferential relation to each other. In short, the heterosexual desire to invent a legible form of homosexuality that could be read re veals a creation of nor mal sexuality that is entirely dependent upon difference from and deferring to the things it is not. Sexual acceptability is defined by its naming and textual separation from sexual perversity: not homosexuality, not bestiality, not pedophilia, not transsexuality, not sadomasochism, not incest, not degenerescence, etc. The heterosexual/ homosexual hierarchical bi nary is created by this very arbitrary and relational textual process, and it is th e body-as-text upon wh ich the writing of sexuality is performedbeing able to read gayness from the presence of black leather chaps, an earring on the left earlobe, a lisp, etc. The heterosexual imperative was to separate homosexuality from itself to establish its own naturalness and superiority, using metaphor to equate desire to an essential self-ness of sexuality (which Foucault debunks in The History of Sexuality ) rather than as metonymically related to identity.122 What, then, is the homosexuals relation to the homograph, to diffrance, to a deconstructive homographesis? The homosexual body may be seen as not only that which gayness is written upon by discriminatory heteronormativity, but also, Edelman theorizes, that 122 Foucault 105: Sexuality must not be thought of as a kind of natural given which power tries to hold in check, or as an obscure domain which knowledge tries to uncover. It is the name that can be given to a historical construct
111 which can inscribe gayness on other things : the written-upon becomes the writer, the constructed the constructo r (and thus the deconstruc tor). Edelman encourages homosexual theorists and critics of art and literature to enli st the signifier homosexual subversively by reading and writing homosexuality into and onto presumably nonhomosexual bodies and spaces. David Grevens article Cyborg Maso chism, Homo-Fascism: Re-reading Terminator 2 provides a clear example of purposefully reading homosexuality onto unexpected bodies in heterosexual culture fo r the purpose of disr upting heteronormative naturalness and primacy.123 By reading of the Terminators paternal relationship to a young boy, his half-human hybridity, and his fa scist biker style (reminiscent of gay leather culture) as queer, Greven also reads queerness onto the desires of Hollywood audiences in the Bush-to-Bus h era of American film, explaining how the subconscious creation of and desire to watc h these implied images of queer masculinity marks a crisis in American masculinity, the family unit, and anxieties about fascism both at home (the gay fascist threat) and abroad (Saddam Hussein). Voilawhat was once a popular, heartwarming macho action film for the whole family become s a site teeming with queer labels and anxieties, something the viewer can not un-see after it is pointed out. Greven successfully uses homographesis to disrupt th e heteronormative audiences conceptions of not only the film itself, but of their own sexualities and genders in relation to the film. Indeed, heterosexual bodies and desires are ju st as easy to be read and written upon, even effaced or written over, by homosexual or queer signifiers as homosexual bodies and desires. 123 David Greven, Cyborg Masochism, Homo-Fas cism: Re-reading Terminator 2. Postmodern Culture. Vol. 19, No. 1. Sept 2008. 9 December 2009.
112 I have included a brief description of Grev ens work with Terminator 2 because it provides an excellent example of how a dec onstructive usage of homographesis might be implemented through visual culture, revealing the relation between an art object and its audience, the presumably heteronormativ e masses who assume primacy in popular culture. I believe that visual culture, from film to literature to fine art, is one of the most important ways for homosexual, queer, and feminist theory and practice to manifest itself, as art has way of exis ting simultaneously within its own social and cultural context (as everything does), and also within a complete ly separate context, one of analysis and artistic interpretation that means to alter th e perspectives or educate the viewer to an ideology, be it political, sexua l, intellectual or aestheti c. Certainly the Androgyne functioned within this double context in the fi n-de-sicle, coexisting with anxieties about degenerate homosexuality and the loss of masculine privilege even as it promoted itself as the spiritual and erotic answer to th e Woman problem and the apprehensions of modernity and changing notions of individual subjectivity. But what about the Hermaphrodite? Introduction to the Hermaphrodite as Homographetic Diffrance I believe that the image of the Hermaphr odite, the sexed and perverse opposite of the pre-sexual, transcendent Androgyne, ha s the potential for becoming an artistic and theoretical tool for feminist, gay and lesb ian, and queer artists and authors to figure alternative, non-normative gende r identities and body po litics that attempt to subvert the hierarchical binaries of gender, sex, and sexuality in a way similar to that which Edelman describes as deconstructive homographesis. Wh ile the Androgyne serv es to placate and
113 reinforce the hierarchical binaries of male over female, masculine over feminine, heterosexual (homosocial/patriarchal) ove r homosexual, the Hermaphrodite has historically mocked this figure and undermined the notion of hierarch ical binaries of sex, gender and sexuality, a body which incorporat es male, female, masculine, feminine, heterosexual and homosexual charact eristics into the same form. In Homographesis, Edelman discusses how the homograph a word of the same written form as another word but with di fferent origin and meaning, like bear (the animal) and bear (to carry)is important for understanding the metonymic relation of bodies to sexuality and to each other: Homographs insist upon the multiple histories informing graphic identities, insist upon their implications in various chains of contingent mutations that lead (and lead itself is a homograph) to situations in which the quality of sameness, once subjected to the graphesis that signifies writing as de-scripti on or as designation through differentiation, reveals the possibility of any identity that could be present in itself.124 Edelman believes that the homographtwo word s with the same written form (that are themselves metonymically related to each other through this written sameness!)can through its confusion of sameness and differe nce reveal in the subversive forms of homographesis the fictional status of logi cs foundational gesturethat is, to show how arbitrary the relationship between the written signifier and its signified meaning(s) is, exposing the purely relational and superf icial process of producing textual meaning through diffrance.125 The homograph breaks down text and language as a revelation of truth and causes one to question the assume d natural connection between signifiers and that which they signifyparticularly the desc riptive hierarchies and binaries that are created by textual diffrance. 124 Edelman 13. 125 Edelman 14.
114 If the notion of homosexuality is a homograph, as Edelman claims, which has one same signifier but multiple meanings multiple desires and bodiesthen perhaps the Hermaphrodite is the re verse-homograph: th e heterograph (or better yet, the polygraph!).126 That which has multiple signifiers, multiple texts written upon a single body, all which signify differe nt and often opposing meanings and origins: male/female, masculine/feminine, gay/straight, either/or, both/neither, all conflated under the body Hermaphrodite. Forms which we are used to seeing written separately upon different bodies with clear distinctions between their meanings and origins are suddenly thrown together in a form that defi es the difference between them. This reveals, like the homograph, the arbitrarin ess of the relation between text/ writing/ the signifier and the meanings/origins/ the signified they supposedly represent and constitute in language, society, and reality. Diffrance, as a concept dealing specifically with text (a visual element), can therefore function both as a visual concept and a bodily concept, surfaces upon which one inscribes and reads. Taking Derridas notion of diffrance and Edelmans concepts of a textual body and a deconstructive homographe tic practice to the next logical step, I believe the visual image of the Hermaphroditei n art and in literature (a visual, written form)is itself an embodiment of diffrance Diffrance reveals how the relationships 126 Traditionally, a heterograph is, like the homograph, a form of homonym, and is characterized by having different meanings and different spellings of words with the same pronunciation: for example: two, to, and too. The Hermaphrodites body, too, exhibits many different forms and meanings collapsed into one entity. Although Edelman does not speak about pronuncia tion, nor does Derrida concern himself with oral language, the Hermaphrodite still causes the confusion that the heterograph and the homograph do, in that it involves the collapsing of form and function and a revelation of the arbitraty relationship between language, text, and meaning. Perhaps the polygraphs would be an appropriate term as well: implying multiple written forms, as the Hermaphrodite displays, the polygraph also refers to the machine used to tell if one is lying, by literally reading the body and its physiological responses to questions. As the polygraph reads the body to determine truth from lie, the Hermaphrodite body is read to reveal the constructedness and arbitrariness of language and so-called essential truths.
115 between signifier and signified in writte n, visual forms are founded upon a negative, relational system of di fference (from other words/ meani ngs) and deferral (to other words to describe the meaning of another). The Hermaphrodite reveals the same arbitrary relationship between the signifiers of sex, gender and sexuality and their understood meanings as opposite, hierarch ical binaries by showing how when brought together in the same body, the signifying differences be tween these concepts are collapsed and shown to be constructed purely in relation to differencenot between various bodies and their desires, but between the essentia l, metaphorical meanings written upon those bodies and desiresand deferralto descri be male, we can only defer to not female, and to describe masculine we can only defer to strong, macho, stoic, aggressive, etc. But neither of these terms truly describe male or masculine simply because the concepts of male and masculine, feminine and female, etc., are themselves only signifiers, arbitrarily attached to their meaningsand, I think, without meanings at all, except where meanings have been attached to such signifiers for purposes of creating simplified binaries, es tablishing hierarchies, enforcing power structures, and naturalizing certain signifiersmale, masculine, heterosexualas primary. And yet, what man has ever lived up to the various meanings that man has stood for, across cultures, histor ies and individual standards? And furthermore, when has any woman truly lived up to the impossi ble meanings of femininity, or a heterosexual not have had homosexua l desires? The Hermaphrodites most impressive function as a theoretic al and artistic tool is its ability to reveal the way in which these fixed terms are ascribed to unfixedand unfixablemeanings, behaviors, and bodies.
116 Is Biology an Essential Metaphor? Before continuing, it may be necessary to show exactly how I am justified in relating Edelmans work with deconstructive homographesiswhich involves only sexualityto the Hermaphrodite, which challe nges not only the binary hierarchies of gender and sexuality but also of physical sex The accepted definitions of male and female are perhaps the most basic and f undamental truth about our bodies and identities, founding in biological fact. On the most basic level, the male body is characterized by the possession of a penis and the inability to bear children, and a female body is characterized by a lack of penis (note: not the possession of a vagina, as women are defined by this lack!) and the ability to bear and nourish children.127 Obviously there are a number of other biological charact eristics that define female or male in our societychromosomal make-up, hormone distribution, secondary sexual features such as hair growth, breast s, bone structure, musculature. This basic notion (male= penis/not child-bearing and female = no penis/ child-bear ing[rearing]) is typically the simple biological equation by which we are defined medically, legally and sociallyyet is not this just anot her instance of signifi cation through arbitrary diffrance ? Is not the attribution of male and female to a cer tain set of physical characteristicseach 127 These definitions of male and female are for th e most part backed up by the Oxford English Dictionary, which defines male as that which can bege t but not bear children and male as that which can bear children. You may find these definitions in their entirety in the glossary. I have included the male = penis, female =no penis qualification to my own definition because it is follows the colloquial understanding of the sexesa definition which Professor Hassold herself has put forth to me upon reviewing the first draft of this chapterand because this follows the Freudian discussion of human psychological development. Freud describes the stages of male and female sexual development in which the penis is seen as the one sex, the phallus (by both the male child and the female child) and the female body as the lack of sex, in her lack of a penis not in her possession of a vagina or clitoris. Freuds conception of female penis envy from makes this designation perfectly clear, even going so far as to call the clitoris simply an atrophied phallus.
117 attached to a multitude of symbolic and cultural meaningsyet another essential metaphor? Surely defining male by its differe nce from female bodies (not female, cannot bear offspring) and deferral to vari ous supposedly related qualifiers (possesses a penis, can beget offspring) is no t adequate, nor is it universal. Several biologists have, over the past few decades, challenged the biological imperative to defined male and female by such simple, binary terms. Anne FaustoSterling, professor of biology and gender st udies at Brown Univ ersity, has written extensively about intersexuality, has concluded that the amount of differentiation between bodies is so varied that the noti on of having just two sexes is excessively simplified. In her 1993 article The Five Sexe s: Why Male and Female are not Enough, she claims that the frequency of intersexua lity is so highbetween one in fifteen hundred to one in two thousand birthsthat there can be no less than five sexes: male, female, herms (hermaphrodites), merms (male pse udo-hermaphrodites) and ferms (female pseudo-hermaphrodites). While this suggestion is mostly glib, Fausto-Sterling is justified in her search for an expansi on of the simple male-female sexual dichotomy, considering the physical, emotional and mental damage that is inflicted upon bodies that do not live up to this instituted ideal for a normal, healthy male or female body. Indeed, in Sexing the Body: Gender Politics and the Construction of Sexuality (2000), she responds to the shock and controversy incited by her ea rlier article by not only detailing the ways in which intersexed infants, children a nd adults are abused and disenfranchised by medical, legal and social authorities, but also by asserting that even between individual bodies, the level of physical variation is so enormously varied that it is impossible for most people to qualify as the medical ideal for male and female as they supposedly
118 exist. Male and female, as they are very basically defined, are t hus revealed to be simply over-simplifications of an endless spectrum of differing primary and secondary physical traits. This simplification is born out of the need for functi onality, to be sure but as Fausto-Sterling makes perfectly clear, this functionality come s at the cost of the subjugation, disempowerment, and even exclusion of countless bodies from the privileged definition of healthy and standard sex. This includes not only the intersexed (though their plight is often far more severe, faci ng the possibility of genital mutilation, gender dysphoria, and legal and so cial ostracism) but also for endless otherswomen who cannot bear children, im potent men; men with breasts, women without breasts; men with small penises, wo men with large clitorises, and many others. For those who would say that physical sex and subsequent associations for sexual and gendered behavior can be proven by th e natural world of animal reproduction, another biologist has stepped in with an al ternative theory. Stanford professor Joan Roughgardens book Evolutions Rainbow: Diversity, Ge nder, and Sexuality in Nature and People has been highly influential in its chal lenging of certain Darwinian theories of sexual selection, rejecting the not ion that all animal s necessarily follow a distinct set of pre-ordained sex roles. For example, when we turn on a nature program on the Discovery Channel we may be treated to scene in which two male deer lock antlers in a fight over a doe, or in which a male bowerbird attempts to impress a female by collecting an array of blue objects in his nest. While these ex amples certainly exist, says Roughgarden, there are also a large portion of animals who exhi bit unexpected sexual behaviors, including so-called homosexual behavior, multiple gender presentations in one species, multiple sexes in one species, species which can change sex, etc. Ultimately Roughgarden proves
119 in a lengthy survey of various organisms that the Darwinian notion of sexual selection is merely a human projection of values onto animalsthe passive or picky female, the aggressive or impressing male, etc. Both Fausto-Sterling and Roughgarden are important to und erstanding what I mean when I describe the Hermaphrodite of art and literature as a figure which, in combining the binary hierarchies of gender, sexuality, and physical sex, reveals them to be only arbitrarily related to their supposed meanings. In the same way that Darwins theory of sexual difference transfers near ly anthropomorphic meanings onto animal behavior and anatomy, so too does the medical community and society at large transfer meanings onto human behavior and anatomy, assuming that male and female are the sole sexes and further assuming that thes e two sexes have specific meanings and behaviorsmasculinity or femini nity, aggressiveness or passiv ity, etc. In this arbitrary describing of masculinity and femininity to male and female base d solely on an ultrasimplified reduction of biology, Fausto-Sterli ng further shows that not only are overtly non-normal or intersexed bodi es disenfranchised, but so too are the majority of nonideal bodies perhaps even yours and mine, if our bodies stray too far from the accepted healthy standard. The Homographetic Hermaphrodite a nd Visual Diffrance Continued: Language and the Assumed Necessity of Binary Terms The Hermaphrodites subversive potential lies in its ability to reveal the the arbitrary nature of the formation of binary hierarchies of sex, sexuality and gender. It achieves this revelation by combining all these supposedly opposite aspects into a single form, collapsing different signifiers a nd meanings and refusing to allow a viewer
120 to continue defining them through ei ther difference from their opposite or deferral to other meanings they are arbitrarily attached to (i.e. the connec tion between man and masculine). Yet there is still more to say about how and why the Hermaphrodite functions in this subversive and deconstructive manner. In Homographesis, Edelman explains that all sexuality, heteroand homoalike, is based on a misr ecognition of desire as a metaphor for sexuality rather than as metonymic to sexuality. That is, to say that fo r a man to desire another man is homosexualityrather than next to or par t of gay experience (i.e. homoeroticism) is an essentializing metaphor another notion supported by Foucaults History of Sexuality.128 More realistically, Edelman claims, sexua lity and desire are related to each other metonymically two subjects connected in a chain of relations but not equating each other: desire is related to sexuality and visa versa.129 In this case, metaphor is defined as a figure of speech in which a name or descript ive word or phrase is transferred to an object or action different from, but anal ogous to, that to which it is literally applicable.130 In this definition, to say that a ma n who has sex with other men is a 128 Edelman 8: One way of reformulating this discursive shift [Foucaults description of the historical shift from sex-as-act to sexuality-as-self in the seve nteenth to the nineteenth centuries] is to see it as a transformation in the rhetorical or tropological framewo rk through which the concept of sexuality itself is produced: a transformation from a reading of the subjects relation to sexuality as contingent or metonymic to a reading in which sexuality is reinterpreted as essential or me taphoric. For a fuller definition of metaphor (both as a literary term and as Edelman has implemented it), please refer to the glossary. 129 metonymy, n. a. Rhetoric Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd ed. 1989. OED Online 9 December 2009.
121 homosexual is no less metaphorical in nature than saying you are my sunshine or my heart is broken. Love and sunshine or sa dness and brokenness are, although not literally synonymous, thematically relatable to each ot her in the same way that desire and sexuality are not literally synonymous but none -the-less thematically related. This does not, however, mean that homoerotism is ta ntamount to homosexuality, as homographesis and emphasis on essential self hood have defined desire. The Hermaphrodite takes this idea one step further, beyond just sexuality. By combining a series of supposedly essential elements of selfhood it reveals that these elements are all only metonymically relatedpe nis, male, man, masculine, heterosexual, penetrator if they are even related at all So deeply ingrained are these ideas of essential selfhood, the assumed necessity of binary identities, and the notion that these labeled identities mean something deeply impor tant, that it is difficult to separate these loaded terms from each other as merely metaphors, much less tangentially related and purely constructed. The Hermaphrodites fantastical body may be a stepping stone to overcoming this insistence on essential binary identity and their supported meanings. Two of the hierarchical binaries I mentioned earlier in regards to the Hermaphrodite are the both/neither and either/or dic hotomies. Presumably, an object or person can be/ possess either one characteristic or another, in some instancesas in being either a man or a woman, either straight or gay, either black or white. In other instances, one can be/possess both of two characteristics or neither of them: both black and male and neither black nor male. In any case, the binaries of either/or and both/neither are presumably two mutually exclusive terms by definition: one can be both or neither a set of specific
122 characteristics, but not both and neither these characteristics; and in the case of opposite binary characteristics, one can be either one characteristic or another, but not both These terms are created to describe mutually exclus ive states of being or possession of qualities and characteristics. And yet, the clear-cut binaries of both/neither and either/or are themselves not so distinct as we might thinkafter all, a person of mixed race is both black and white, while simultaneously neither truly black nor white, a state of being which breaks down the assumed either/or status of being either black or white, with no in-between areas. The Hermaphrodite body functions in a similar way, as visual diffrance, in precisely the way it breaks down the binaries between either/or and both/neither. Hermaphrodites, by nature of having both male and female, masculine and feminine, heterosexual and homosexual qualities, disrupt the notion that one must be either male or female, masculine or feminine, heterosexual or homosexual. It does this by achieving the status of being both and neither simultaneously: since these binaries of sex, gender and sexuality are defined by their bina ry status in hierarch ical binary to each other, the very meanings of those terms and identities are negated in the Hermaphrodite body: being both male and female means that the Hermaphrodite can also be neither male nor female, since these terms exist in definitio nal difference to each other. Thus, not only is the Hermaphrodite a disruptive figure because of its deconstructive collapsing of the binaries of sex, gender, and sexuality, but it is also because of its collapsing of the notion of basic binaries altogether Perhaps it could be utilized in reference to Deleuze and Guattaris conceptions of and then and eitheror.oror, turning these supposedly dichotomous and oppositional te rms on their heads in a schizophrenic disjunctiveness to mock the very notion of binary at its core.131 131 Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari. Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia N.Y.: Viking
123 Whereas the either/or claims to mark de cisive choices between immutable terms (the alternative: this or that), the schizophreni c eitheroror refers to the system of possible permutations between differences that always amount to the same as they shift and slide about.132 The Hermaphrodite poses a body in which ther e can be no determinate decision, no final exclamation of Aha! That is what it is (n ot)! Instead it is already multiple things at once, without singular defining form, it is this and thatand thatand that, and insomuch as it is not definable by a single, diffe rentiating signifier, it is also not thisnot thisnot thisor thator thator that. Truly, the Hermaphrodites unnerving pow er lies not only in its connection to fears of oceanic self -loss and non-differentiated desiref or this is primarily a male, heterosexual concern, and the Hermaphrodite holds subversive potential for both men and women, heterosexuals and homosexualsbut also in its possession of multiple, supposedly mutually exclusive binary terms, marked by their difference from one another and fruitlessly defined by their constant defere nce to other signifiers. As I have suggested before, the Hermaphrodite appears with far le ss frequency than the Androgyne in the finde-sicle, but can be compared in its effect s on the artist/viewer to the femme fatale as phallic woman, one of the most popular subjects in fin-de-sicle art and literature. This ambivalence about producing images of the Hermaphrodite, yet the continued production of images that imply or suggest the Hermaphr odite, is a testament to its ability to draw strong emotional effects from the artist a nd his audience. When Beardsley, Swinburne Press, 1977. Desiring-machines are binary machines, obeying a binary law or set of rules governing associations: one machine is always coupled with another. The productive synthesis, the production of production, is inherently connective in nature: and and then(5); Machines attach themselves to the body without organs as so many points of disjunction, between which an entire network of a new synthesis is now woven, marking the surface off into coordinates, like a grid. The eitheroror of the schizophrenic takes over from the and then: no matter what two organs are involved, the way in which they are attached to the body without organs mu st be such that all the disjunctive syntheses between the two amount to the same on the slippery surface. (12) 132 Deleuze and Guattari 12.
124 and Lautramont produced their few, unadulterated portrayals of the true Hermaphrodite, they understood that this fi gure had an unresolvable and decentralizing effect on their audience, though their understand ings of its purpose were quite different from each other and from my own anal ysis. In my opinion, the reason for the Hermaphrodites powerful but uncertain position in the imagination of the artist, and the reason for its strong attractive and repulsive qualities for both artist and viewer (and, I think, both male and female viewers) lies in this ambiguity and breaking down of binaries that the viewer has presumably identified himself by. The viewer exists within the symbolic world of inscri bed identity, belonging to either one sex, gender and sexuality or its opposite, defined as an essential part of ones self hood. Presumably, that sexed/ gendered/ sexual identity is also defined by its difference from its essential binary opposite. Confronting an image of the He rmaphrodite, the viewer is greeted with several familiar qualities, quali ties he or she has inscribe d upon or had inscribed upon him/herself. For the male viewer, he iden tifies with the possession of a penismale and thus (following a metonymic chain of re lation) with the posse ssion of masculinity. Yet, the male viewer also sees in the Herm aphrodite the qualities by which he has defined himself against : breasts, perhaps a vagina, femini nity. Furthermore, because the Hermaphrodite has female sexual characteristi cs/ femininity, the male viewer perceives the possibility for heterosexual desires and acts between himself and its female aspects; but at the same time, because the Hermaphrodite also has male sexual characteristics/ masculinity, the male viewer also perceive s the possibility for homosexual desires and acts between himself and its male aspects. These perceptions are presumably the same, though switched, for the female viewer.
125 In the same way that Greven uses a ho mographetic reading of visual culture to disrupt the perceptions of an audi ence and its relation to the film Terminator 2 so do I believe that the Hermaphrodite, as form of visual expression by queer, gay/lesbian and feminist artists and authors, could be used, following Beardsley and Swinburne, to disrupt the perceptions of the audience about their own relationshi p to sex, gender and sexuality, to each other, to hierarchy, and to the entire system of language, representation and identity. By being both and neither, the figure of the Hermaphrodite causes a simultaneous identification by the (male or female, masculine or feminine, heterosexual or homosexual) viewer with the qualities he /she identifies him/herself with, and a recognition of the presence of the qu alities he/she identifies himself in opposition to This collapsing of supposedly opposite identities in to one body that one both identifies with and against causes the viewer to begin to question his own relation to the Hermaphrodite body, to question the meaning of these binari es and his/her placemen t within them. The distinctions between binary and hierarchical identities begins to break down, and the arbitrariness of these signifiers, writ ten upon our bodies as supposedly readable designations of essential se lfhood, in relation to the s upposed meaning of these identities, becomes apparent. The Hermaphrodite performs visual diffrance, unwriting its own meanings and identities as well as those of the viewer. Foucault, Hermaphrodites and Intersex: Against Idealism
126 As exhilarating as this theoretical breakthrough might be, the issue of whether or not the literary and artistic treatment of th e Hermaphroditewith a capital H, denoting its fictive statuscan be compared with the tr eatment of real-life intersexed people has remained problematic throughout this study, as I explored in the previous chapter. It is dangerous to assume that real intersexed people exist beyond ge nder, as dually-sexed (both) and/or not-sexed (neither) like th e theoretical Hermaphrodite, because this ignores the systems of identification us ed by society and by individual people of ambiguous physical sex in order to survive. This thought process al so encourages the identification of intersexed people with both monstrosity (the Hermaphrodite of the finde-sicle, or Beardsleys grotesque Herm aphrodite) and with theoretical idealism (Swinburnes and Lautramonts romantic Hermaphrodites, or a vision of the Hermaphrodite as visual diffra nce as a monumental go-to sy mbol of radical queerness), two equally unrealistic and potentially dest ructive ideas. This is why Beardsleys, Swinburnes and Lautramonts applications of the Hermaphrodite, as radical and aheadof-their-time as they may be, require updati ng and an emphasis on realism and sensitivity towards the dilemmas of intersexed people. To illustrate my point, let us return to Foucaults commentary on Herculine Barbin: Being the Recently Discovered Memoirs of a Nineteenth-Century Hermaphrodite, which I discussed at length in the pr evious chapter. While I agree with Foucault that the increased power of ninete enth century medicine and psychoanalysis brought an onslaught of discrimination and hyper-regulation to the lives of intersexed people, in this meeting of poststructuralist theory and the real-life memoirs of an intersexed person I find that Foucaults imag ining of Barbins life before discovery of
127 her hermaphrodism as a sexless paradise of nonidentity as problematic. In his loyalty to post-structuralism, Foucault is surprisingly ignorant to the impo rtance of individual identity politics and of the pr esence of systems of power a nd sexuality which he himself insists are inescapable. As I have explained, in his first volume of The History of Sexuality Foucault asserts that sexuality is not tr anshistorical and essential to ones selfhood but is instead only a social and historical product of the past few centuries. According to Foucault, normative sexuality (heterosexuality) is defined only in reference to other, nonnormative or perverse sexualities (homosexua lity, etc), a notion which Edelman uses to his advantage in his study of homographesis. Foucault describes the birth of sexuality as a deployment by institutional authorities the Christian pastoral, medicine and psychiatry, and civil lawto encourage intraand extra-regulation of individuals desires through the incitement to discourse, wherei n through a complex system of confession, extraction and the desires that underlie th em, sexual desire is transformed into discourse.133 In the form of public discourse, the po licing of sex is made easier and also presented as a necessity, for the good of society.134 Critiquing the ways in which sexuality operates through individuals in an interconnecting network of powerin which all individuals part icipate in the regulation of others and their own sexual ities, and institutions play onl y a supporting role in the will 133 Foucault 22. 134 Foucault 25. Foucault aligns the deployment of sexuality-as-identity and the incitement to discourse about sex with the birth of capitalism in the West; the public policing of sex makes sex an economic and political imperative concerning the efficiency and popul ation of the work force in what kinds of sex are allowed, disallowed, or encouraged. Foucault calls this control of populations through the subjugation of bodies bio-power. (140)
128 of collective individual powerFou caults outlook is rather bleak.135 He explains that resistance is itself necessary to the existen ce of power, but that we are always already inside these power structures. The irony of this deployment of sexuality is in having us believe that our liberation is in the balance, writes Foucault cynically as the last line to this first volume.136 Even the act of sex itself is subordinate to and defined by sexuality, and our desire for it is informed by the power structures inherent to sexuality: By creating the imaginary element that is sex the deployment of sexuality established one of its most essential internal operating principles: the desire for sexthe desire to have it, to have access to it, to discover it, to liberate it, to articulate it in discourse, to formulate it in truthIt is this desirability th at makes us think we are affirming the rights of our sex against all power, when in fact we are fasted to the deployment of sexuality that has lifted up from deep within us a sort of mirage in which we think we see ourselves reflectedthe dark shimmer of sex.137 Foucaults only glimmer of hope for a ut opic break from the regulating power of sexuality seems to occur in his suggestion that people must break away from the agency of sex. Foucault says we must counter the grips of power with the claims of bodies, pleasures, and knowledges, in their multiplici ty and their possibili ties of resistance.138 That is to say, we must do away with the desire for sex as it is constituted by sexualityas a sort of mirror through which we define our core identitiesand instead focus only on the manifold possibilities for the body and its sensations, free from the specters of sexual nominalism and essentializing selfhood. In light of these enlightening but pessimistic takes on sexuality and its formation in Western society, it seems especially auspicious that Foucault would find a means to extrapolate upon this small glimmer of hope for counter ing biopower and regulatory 135 Foucault 92: It seems to me that power must be understoodas the multiplicity of force relations immanent in the sphere in which they operate and which constitute their own organization. Power is everywhere, not because it embraces everything, but because it comes from everywhere. (93) 136 Foucault 159. 137 Foucault 156-7. 138 Foucault 157.
129 sexuality. Foucaults brief introduction to He rcline Barbins memoirs attempts to show how Barbins life provides a living example to the theories of power and regulatory sexuality expounded in A History of Sexuality published two years before the memoirs. Foucault envisions Barbins life before discovery as a potential example of the hinted utopic world from A History of Sexuality the break away from the agency of sex that subordinates desire to sexuality. Foucault s ees an escape from the discursive realm of true sex and the forces that control sexuality in Alexina Barbins memoirs and her description of her life befo re the discovery of he r pseudo-hermaphrodism: One has the impression, at least if one gives credence to Alexinas st ory, that everything took place in a world of feelingsenthusi asm, pleasure, sorrow, warmth, sweetness, bitternesswhere the identity of the partners and above all the enigmatic character around whom everything centered, had no importance. It was a world in which grins hung about without the cat .139 Foucault conjures the image of the Cheshire Cat to compare Alexinas world before discovery to a sexless, ambiguous Wonderland in which Barbin, like Alice, could exist in a blissful state of non-id entity, unrelatable to the world around her. The phrase a world in which grins hung about without the ca t implies that Barbin was able to have strong sexual desires and to participate in fulfilling sexual and romantic relationships while identifying as both legally female and also not-quite femalea sexual body without a true sex. Foucault al so remarks that after her di scovery and the legal change of her sex to male, Barbin wa s still without a definite sex, but she was deprived of the delights she experienced in not having one, or in not entirely having the same sex as the girls among whom she lived and whom she loved.140 According to Foucault, Barbins life in all-female communities allowed her to live happily in both sameness and difference until religious, medical and legal au thorities removed her not only from this 139 Barbin xiii. (emphasis mine) 140 Barbin xiii.
130 safe, closed and intimate womens space but also from her identities as both same femaleand different. In short, Foucault sees Barbins life before discovery as a site of resisting the agency of sex as he describes in The History of Sexuality The rallying point for the counterattack against the deploym ent of sexuality ought not to be sex-desire, but bodies and pleasure, writes Foucault in a brief moment of optimism for a potential break away from systems of power and regulation. Herein lies the problem with Foucaults envisioning of Barbins situation, and the larger problem of how the Hermaphrodite may correctly and non-discriminatorily be envisioned as a theoretical tool. While the process of Barbins discovery and forceful redefinition by religious, medical and legal authorities does in deed exhibit the sinister elements of the deployment of sexuality as described in The History of Sexuality to assert that Barbins world before discovery was a sexless utopia of non-identity that can be read as a site of resistance of regulatory sexuality is problematic for several reasons. Foucaults figuring of Barbins life before discovery as sexless or a world of nonidentity ignores the fact th at there is no evidence to suggest that Barbin was not clearly female-identified, even lesbian-identified (for lack of a more historically accurate term) before the discovery of her intersexuality. Foucault reveals his own desires for a utopic site of resistance by reading se xlessness and non-identity onto Ba rbins life, a gesture that seems deeply nave and ignorant to Foucaults own assertions from The History of Sexuality namely, that power is everywhere and that sexuality was, by the nineteenth century, an unavoidable part of self-identification for all in dividuals, at the core of a persons essential self. By claiming Barbins life before discovery as an example of a space where bodies and pleasures are free fr om sexuality and sex-desire, Foucault
131 willfully ignores that Barbin, living in all-female communities for the majority of her female life, could hardly be considered free from the systems of sex regulation and institutional power structures for how could her previous identification as female be separated from the institutions that created th at very social and legal identity? How could her initial identification as female be read as outside of the law, as Foucault implies, when the very notion of identifying as femal e is to identify as a true sex designated by medical, legal and social forces? Moreover, Barbins memoirs are written from the perspective of knowing: she has been aware of her intersexed status and has been living as a legal male for several years as she writes this memoir. I believe Foucaults understanding of Barbins life before discovery is tainted by the perspective from which the memoir is written, that is, looking back upon the state of not-knowing as carefree and paradisiacal in comparison to the confusion, humiliation and pain Barbin suffered in her highly publicized outing as a hermaphrodite, her forced removal from the female identity she had clearly felt comfortable with, and the ensuing confusion that must have wreaked upon her understanding of her own sexual attraction to women. We cannot confuse a suffering individuals nostalgia for a simpler time with a reading of her female-identified life as a utopic resistance of power and sexuality, nor as a situati on in which Barbin did not, indeed, have a strong, sexed identity inform ed by the structures of power Foucault describes in The History of Sexuality Foucault attempts to place Barbin outs ide the laws of power and regulation by stating that her body, which does not conform to the regulatory schema of the laws dimorphic sexes, can be seen as a site of sexless non-identity before her inauguration into
132 the discourses of sex and sexuality through legal and medical authorities. True, his utopian possibility of a world in which bodies and their pleasures are free to exist without sex-desire and regulatory sexua lity is perhaps best eviden ced by the freedom to choose ones own sex and genderthe very motive of todays intersex activ ists who strive to keep medical authorities from invading the bodi es of infants with ambiguous genitalia in an effort to return them to their natural state. But to insist that Barbin (or any intersexed person) lies outside the law that creates sexual identities and informs modern bodies of their essential qualitie s and relation to society is not only willfully ignorant of Foucaults own assertions that power and sexuality are omnipresent and universally identifying in Western society, but also exhi bits the same essentializing thinking that encourages radical thoughts and action that disenfranchise intersex ed people and other sexual minoritiesto insist their sex is outsi de the law is to exclude them from the everyday politics of sex, identity, and the body. This insistence combined with an ignorance of intersex realities, I believe, lies at the heart of B eardsley, Swinburne and Lautramonts misuse of the Hermaphrodite in their own subversive works. For Foucault, however, the result of this thinking is a cl ear idealizing of intersexed bodies that are both and neither and thus free from regulatory power. This is an unfair and dangerous way of thinking that further disenfranchises intersexed people by assuming that in being born with physically male and female sexual traits, they are always both and neither male and female, only relatable to the original sexes through absence or duality. For the purposes of literary and artistic an alysis, asserting that the Hermaphrodite represents both and neither male and female/ masculine and feminine/ heterosexual
133 and homosexual is helpful in that it reveal s the processes of language and hierarchical binarism inherent to modern understandings of sex and gender which present themselves tellingly in art and literatur e. Similarly, it is helpful to note how the treatment of intersexed people by society and its institutions relates to themes of repression and power, and even to how these elements of power over sexual minorities is shown in art and literature of the period. The Hermaphrodite of the fin-de-sicle is regarded with the same intrigue and revulsion by artistic circles as Barbin and other intersexed persons were regarded with by the medical community, as I have illustrated with examples of Nadars medical photographs. However, to see a real intersexed pers on in these terms of both and neither is to ignore th e fact that most intersexed people do identify as either male or femalewhether by choice or through medical and legal interventionand strongly hold on to these identities at the ri sk of becoming a liminal and disenfranchised in-between social figure, punished both by th e publicizing and sensationalizing of their non-normativity while made simultaneously invisible by society. Poststructuralism and identity politics have always clashed when activism and real-world situations come to light. One aspect of art and literature has been, historically, to create a context in which societies can view themselves. Images of the fictive Hermaphrodite are therefore a telling sign of so cial and historical pe rspectives on sex and gender by (and of) the social majority and also of non-normative groups, including intersexed people.
134 New Possibilities for Radical Empl oyment in Queer Visual Culture: Goals and Guidelines In this chapter I have attempted to e xplain how the Hermaphrodite as visual diffrance might be implemented by artists a nd authors in visual culture as a deconstructive and challenging appropriation of older, less conscious models. I have expanded upon and analyzed this unusual fi gure in the hopes that the deconstructive Hermaphrodite in art and literature might provide a stepping stone for revealing the arbitrary nature of binary and hierarchal la nguage and its relation to essential identity as it is tied to the dichotomies of ma le/female, man/woman, masculine/feminine, homosexual/heterosexual. Because of its de constructive and revealing effects of the viewers participation in language, identity and desire, the Hermaphrodite could potentially offer a space for playing with possibilities for new, alternative and nonnormative identities based in uncooperative and non-tradit ional bodies, desires and sensations, retreating from the metaphorical essentialism which we have written upon our bodies, behaviors and desires.141 The Hermaphrodite-as-visualdiffrance is, as I have defined it, a deconstructive theoretical tool an appropriation and reworking of a preexisting figure which, through revision and analysis of its effects on both artist and 141 Despite some resistance to the idea, I maintain th at biological sex and physical bodies are just as metaphorically and essentially inscribed as sexuality and gender, which I argued earlier in this chapter. To recapitulate: biologists such as Anne Fausto-Sterlin g and Joan Roughgarden have completed studies and written extensively on the non-dual nature of sex and sexual behavior in both humans and animals, putting emphasis on the fact that there exist far too many examples of physical variation (between primary and secondary sexual characteristics) and behavioral variation (in males and females of various species) to be able to justify the idea that there are just two sexes, or that these sexes are in any way attributable to a single mode of sexual and social behavior. In short, the dual sexes and their assumed characteristics are merely a simplification of a far greater possibility for variation, inscribed both by medicine (in the authoritative definition of normal or healthy male/female sex) and by society at large. Though I recognize that these simplifications are primarily useful for making social roles and interactions easier and less confusing, I think I have also made clear that this is often an over-simplification that disenfranchises a large number of people with non-normal bodies, including not just intersexed individuals but also men and women who do not meet the medical standard for what constitutes normal or healthy male/ female physical (or behavioral )characteristics.
135 audience, may be effectively used to subve rt an audiences concepts of identity, sexuality, biology and their meanings.142 Yet as with all theoretical tools, the Hermaphrodite in visual culture must be utilized in a hi ghly conscientious and thoughtful manner to avoid the problems of idealization and disenfranchisement we encounter in the work of Beardsley, Swinburne, Lautremont a nd even Foucault, particularly due to the theoretical Hermaphrodites historically de rogatory and ignorant associations with intersexed people. In order to ensure that the Herma phrodite-as-visual-diffrance does not disenfranchise real inte rsexed peopleor any person of any sex, gender, and sexualityI believe it is important to produce the Hermaphrodite as an always non-ideal figure. The Hermaphrodite must not romantically enact the tragedies of Lautramont or Swinburne, nor can it be raised up as a monume ntal symbol of radical queerness. Should these paths be followed, the Hermaphrodite will once again be nothing more than an exploitation of an unrealistic image of intersex uality, outside of identity politics. To avoid idealism, the Hermaphrodite must never conform to any one, singular form specificially, the typical male with breas ts/woman with penis modelbut must, like Deleuze and Guattaris schizophrenic body, exis t in visual nomadicism and multiplicity, resisting fixedness and monumentalism in order to defy ideal ism and the association of Hermaphrodite with a specific minority group (i.e. queer, intersex). For example, I believe that Beardsleys many gender-bendi ng monstrosities managed, despite their problematic nature, to access the subversive aspect of the Hermaphrodite without always 142 It occurs to me that since I have set about appropriating and redeeming the Hermaphrodite of the fin-de-sicle for radical and subversive means by contemporary artists, why should one not be able to also appropriate and redeem the Androgyne as well? This is a project that I unfortunately cannot fit into this thesis, but which I plan to work on both academically and visually alongside my continuing works concerning the Hermaphrodite in visual culture and academia.
136 utilizing a single, blatantly hermaphroditic form. With this in mind, it is reasonable to assume that the Hermaphrodite might take any form, including those tangentially associated with issues of sex and gendert his might include hybrid, cyborg, multi-racial, fat, disabled, or otherwis e queered bodies. Indeed, th e term Hermaphrodite itself seems at times too monumental and too limiti ng, considering the immensity of challenges it provides a viewer concerning some of the co re aspects of ones id entity. Yet I have chosen to appropriate this word both functionally and activ ely. On the one hand, I have chosen this word because it describes an (art ) historical figure with a long history of aesthetic and social implementation. On the other hand, I have chosen it in order to reclaim the word in a way that might cat ch peoples attention while simultaneously challenging their perception of the word Herma phrodite in relation to the issues of sex, sexuality, gender, desire, language, and identity that I have described. The Hermaphrodite must also strive to break away from essentializing identification, since it is the misrecognition of desire as a metaphor for sexuality that allows for the creation of binary identities of sex, sexuality and gender. The Hermaphrodite should instead focus on relating desire, the body, and identity metonymically, either refusing to apply or ironically applying (in the appropriate contexts) traditional metaphors involving se x, sexuality, and gender identity to a Hermaphrodite body.143 And furthermore, the notion of metonymic relatability of sex, 143 I make the distinction of refusing to apply or ironically applying (in the appropriate context) these traditional metaphorsincluding the very idealism and monstrosities that I have shunned in this project in reference to Judith Butlers Gender Trouble, in which she asserts that dr ag, in its revealing of the performing nature of all genders, could potentially be taken into the streets and implemented ironically to challenge peoples opinions about the essential quality of their gender roles and identities. Like others, I remain suspicious of the potential for this tactic to actually workit seems to me that both drag and irony require a very specific context in order to speak to its audience. If one is ironically wearing an antiObama shirt at a Republican gathering, the irony w ill undoubtedly be lost on everybody but the wearer. Similarly, if one decides to walk around in drag, the irony will undoubtedly be lost on passersby
137 sexuality, gender, desire and ot her traits of normative identi ty must also be subverted through the refusal of traditional connections between male/masculine or female/feminine or effeminate/homosexual, etcvisual depictions of sex, sexuality, gender and desire in the Hermaphrodite mu st resist and deliberately confuse these associations, instead creating non-traditional relations such as male/effeminate/ heterosexual, female/female/homosexual, intersex/queer/heterosexual, etc. Finally, the fate of the Hermaphrodite rest s in the understanding of the artist, the theorist, and the viewer that just as inters exed people are subject to the systems of identification and power structures inhere nt to the reinforcem ent of legible and hierarchical binaries of se x, gender and sexuality, so too all bodiesmale, female, transgender, intersexed, ho mosexual, heterosexualare in capable of living up to the unrealistic and discriminatory exp ectations of heteronormative (and nonheteronormative) identifications.144 The Hermaphrodite, who in its fusion and confusion of forms and terms which are supposedly define d in difference from and deferral to each other, does not only challenge the viewers bi nary-oriented and hierarchalized identity, but also provides a body which symbolizesw hile still necessarily remaining an antimonumentall inadequate bodies, even thos e who are not physically intersexed. The Hermaphrodite challenges accepted forms of esse ntializing identity in outright defiance assuming one passes in drag; the alternative (not passing) would probably involve a level of danger to ones person that, in my opinion, isnt necessarily wort h the ironic self-awareness, especially since one is hardly changing minds if he is being physically assaulted for dressing in drag. In the context of the Hermaphrodite in visual culture, however, I believe that the employment of irony might actually work, since a context is already provided: the context of the art gallery, the museum, the artists statement. To ensure that these ironic usages arent misunderstood I maintain that it is important to avoid depicting the same image repeatedly, lest it become a monumental, singular form to which either persistent idealism or monstrosity is assigned. 144 The expectations of heteronormativity are, of course, generative of parallel expectations of nonheteronormativity, the inscription of legible homosexual anatomy (often appropriated by homosexuals themselves), as Lee Edelman described in Homographesis.
138 to conform to any form of hierarchical and binary iden tification held by a society informed by diffrance and self-assuring graphetic acts. Above all else, the Hermaphrodite must be the subject of cons tant interrogation, challenge, alteration and revision, if it is ever to be an honest, non-di scriminatory, and self-a ware theoretical tool in queer pop culture. Concluding Remarks In conclusion to this study, I can onl y hope that the hist orical, visual and theoretical information provided here might educate and inspire gay and lesbian, queer, and feminist artists, writers and participants in visual culture to attempt to subversively implement the Hermaphrodite in their own artis tic vision, as I have at tempted to do in my own art. This study is only the beginning of what I perceive to be a vast and fruitful creative and activist outlet, wherein my ow n understandings of the Hermaphrodite as both a theoretical tool and a complex social and historical figure in art and literature might expand and morph, constantly demanding re-evaluation of its relation to queer theory, identity and intersex realities, and in doing so, constantly demanding me to reevaluate myself in relation to everything.
139 GLOSSARY OF TERMS Androgyne As it is defined in this project, the Androgyne of Neoclassical and fin-desicle art is characterized by its contemporariesnotably Josephine Pladanas a young, feminized male figure who represents spiritual transcendence due to its nondesiring, presexual nature. In this project I have further defined the Androgyne as a deeply misogynistic tool implemented by male artists to escape from changing social normsparticularly the rise of feminismby withdrawing from reality and creating a new feminine erotic object which, by nature of its maleness, does not carry the threat of sexual difference. The role of the Androgyne in the fin-de-sicle is essentially reassuring and promises male superiority over women, ev en at the potential risk of becoming an explicitly homoerotic figure. Hermaphrodite : Traditionally speaking, the Hermaphr odite of art and literature is a figure which possesses both male and female sexual traitsspecifically, a penis and breasts (a vagina is rarely visible). Whereas the Androgyne in the nineteenth century fulfills a reassuring role for the male artist in his attempts to escape from sexual difference and changing gender relations, the Hermaphrodite is utilized by certain antisocial artists to challenge their viewers conceptions of normal sex, sexuality and gender. As I have defined it in this project, the Hermaphrodite (with a capital H) is distinct from a hermaphrodite (with a lower-ca se h) in that it refers to figures with hermaphroditic features in art and literature, whereas hermaphrodite refers to intersexed people in a derogatory and ignor ant manner. The Hermaphrodite of art and literature is, visually, only loosely conceptually relate d to hermaphrodites (i.e. intersexed people) because it does not refl ect the reality of intersexed bodies or experiences. However, since the Hermaphrodite of art and literature is nominally related to the derogatory terms historically used to label intersexed people in medicine and society, it is important to understand that th e Hermaphrodite is related to the modern social treatment of intersexuality. In this proj ect, I have attempted to appropriate the term Hermaphrodite for radical and transgressive en ds, using the discomfort the word and its image evokes to emphasize the arbitrary form ation of meanings of heteronormative sex, sexuality, gender and desire. hermaphrodite : With a lower-case H, this word wa s used to describe people born with characteristics of both sexes. I have conde mned the use of this word to describe intersexed people since it assumes that one is fully both male and female (a psysiological impossibility) and because the word is considered offensive by intersexuals. Intersex The condition of having char acteristics of both sexes; al so intersexuality or an intersexed person. The politica lly correct term for herma phrodite, having numerous
140 biological forms and resulting in a multitude of varying gender id entities and sexual traits. Ephebe In anciet Greece, a young citizen from eighteen to twenty. Also refers to any young man, particularly effeminate or pubescent (i.e. ephebic) youths as portrayed in Greco-Roman art. Transgender The experience of a gender identity that does not normatively correlate with their biological sex. This umbrella term is used to describe many different forms of transgressive gender expression, including transsexuality, alte rnative gender presentation, cross-gendered identity, neutered gender id entity, and even the alternative gender experience of intersexed persons. Decadence In M.H. Abrams A Glossary of Literary Terms, he defines Decadence as an approach to culture and art which focus on social decay. Believi ng society to be in a state of decay, having already reached its zenith, the Decadentsparticularly prevalent in Franceset about trying to viol ate anything perceived as nat ural to human experience. This involved drug abuse, sexual experimentatio n, social deviance, and, in the words of Arthur Rimbaud, the systematic derangement of all the senses. Decadence was most prevalent during the finde-sicle, and the artists and aut hors of this movement attempted to express the ennui and derangement they experienced in their own lives. While normally associated with French art and literat ure, England also has a history of Decadent art and literature. Symbolism The Symbolist aesthetic is quite di fferent from Decadent notions of decay and derangement of the senses, focusing mo re on the mystical experience of art-making as the creation of a personal symbolic re alm. Like Decadence, Symbolism is not necessarily definable by a common artistic style, but by an overall approach to art and life. The movement is based in French lit erature and art, but like Decadence, was practiced by artists not only in England but also countries such as Germany and America. M.H. Abrams further clarifies Symbolism by e xplaining that while artists such as Munch or Klimt are not defined as nominally Symbolist artists, they are well-known for their incorporations of symb olist imagery and motifs throughout their careers. Diffrance Derridas conception of diffrance refers to the inability of words to describe the things they symbolize except thr ough difference from other objects (or signifiers/words) and through deferring to other descriptive words. The word diffrance is a play on the French words diffrer which means both to di ffer and to defer. Femme fatale The femme fatale refers to a type of woman in art and literature who irresistibly seduces men to their ultimate de mise, and potentially to her own detriment as well. Controlled by lust, the femme fatale appears in multiple forms, including various Biblical and mythical forms such as Salo me and the Sphinx. This sexually aware woman represents death and the loss of subjectivity in art and lite rature, as sexual union with a woman symbolizes a loss of self in the potential for non-differ entiated fusion and a regression to the oceanic feeling associated with the Mother.
141 Phallic woman The phallic woman, unlike the femme fatale, does not only desire men and attempt to seduce them, but is aggressive and will openly assert herself. The term refers to the psychoanalytic description of a childs fantasy of the mothers possession of a phallus as well as the female fantasy to reta in the phallus within her after coitus. While femme fatales and phallic women are not the same figure, some popular women in the history of art are boththe most obvious example is the Sphinx. Oceanic feeling A Freudian term referring to the f eeling of non-differentiation and nonindividuationspecifically, non-differentia tion from the motherexperienced by the infant. Theoretically, the reas on that sexual intercourse w ith women causes anxiety in men is because sexual union risks a return to a state of non-individuation, a loss of self, of male subjectivity and privilege in a fusion with the woman, whose body is representative of maternal origins. I have described the oceanic feeling as being inherently associated with images of the Hermaphrodite, whose body is literally a visual fusion of male and female bodies. Sexuality In the first volume of Michel Foucaults The History of Sexuality he challenges the idea that sexuality is not a transhistorical esse ntial selfhood, but rather it is a non-natural production of complex sy stems of power, knowledge and discourse: Sexuality must not be thought of as a kind of natural given which power tries to hold in check, or as an obscure domain which knowledge tries gradually to uncover. It is the name that can be given to a historical construct: not a furtive reality that is difficult to grasp, but a great surface networ k in which the stimulation of bodies, the intensification of pleasures, the incitement to discourse, the formation of special knowledges, the strengthening of controls and resistances, are linked to one another, in accordance with a few major strategies of knowledge and power. (Foucault 105-6) Homographesis Lee Edelman describes homographesis as inscribing gayness upon a body with the express purpose of being able to read gayness as a legible, anatomical code. (Edelman 5) He disti nguishes between two different types of homographesis: the first type is discriminatory, used by hete ronormative discourse to make homosexuality visible and readable, only to force it into liminality and invisibility by threatening to read acts by any person, gay or straight as homosexual. The second type of homographesis which Edelman posits is, however deconstructive. It entails the deliberate reading of homosexuality into bodies and situations that would not otherwise be considered gay. Edelman believes this act of deconstructive homographesis has the possibility to be especially transgressive when used by gay and lesbian literary critics to read non-homosexual characters, events and literature as homosexual, thus forcing heteronormative readers to confront the e ssentially arbitrary nature of homosexual inscriptions, as well as the ar bitrariness of his or her own heterosexual insc riptions as not-homosexual. Metaphor According to the Oxford English Di ctionary, a metaphor is a figure of speech in which a name or descriptive word or phrase is transferred to an object or action different from, but analogous to, that to which it is literally applicab le. This explanation of metaphor is helpful in unders tanding the relationship of la nguage to bodily inscription
142 and Foucaults challenge of sexuality as an essential metaphor of selfhood as described by Lee Edelman in his essay Homographesis. Metonym The Oxford English Dictionary defi nes metonym as a figure of speech characterized by the action of substituting for a word or phrase denoting an object, action, institution, etc; a word or phrase denoting a property or something associated with it. A metonym might also be described as differi ng from the concept of metaphor because, instead of substituting or representing an obj ect or concept directly, it instead creates a chain of associations between related words, an association of contiguity rather than similarity or representation. This definition of metonymy is helpful in understanding Lee Edelmans use of the word in his essay Homographesis and how it may be understood when applied to processes of bodily inscription. Male The Oxford English Dictionary desc ribes male as designating the sex or (formerly) kind which can beget, but not bear, offspring. I have incl uded this official definition as proof of the esse ntially oversimplified designation of two sexes to the vastly varying bodies and behaviors of human be ings. Clearly there are men who are not capable of begetting offspring; moreover, there are many male-ide ntified persons with female bodies who are capable of bearing offspring. Female The Oxford English Dictionary descri bes female as belonging to the sex which bears offspring. As with the definiti on for male, I have included this traditional definition because it illustrates the oversi mplified way science and society designates male and femaleclearly there are females who are not capable of bearing offspring, and in the event of transgender pregnancy, there are female-identified persons who can beget children.
143 APPENDIX A Hermaphroditus by Algernon Charles Swinburne Poems and Ballads 1897 I. Lift up thy lips, turn round, look back for love, Blind love that comes by ni ght and casts out rest; Of all things tired thy lips look weariest, Save the long smile that they are wearied of. Ah sweet, albeit no l ove be sweet enough, Choose of two loves and cleave unto the best; Two loves at either bl ossom of thy breast Strive until one be under and one above. Their breath is fire upon the amorous air, Fire in thine eyes and where thy lips suspire: And whosoever hath seen thee, being so fair, Two things turn all his life and blood to fire; A strong desire begot on great despair, A great despair cast out by strong desire. II. Where between sleep and life some brief space is, With love like gold bou nd round about the head, Sex to sweet sex with lips and limbs is wed, Turning the fruitful feud of hers and his To the waste wedlock of a sterile kiss; Yet from them something like as fire is shed That shall not be assuag ed till death be dead, Though neither life nor sleep can find out this. Love made himself of flesh that perisheth A pleasure-house for all the loves his kin; But on the one side sat a man like death, And on the other a woman sat like sin. So with veiled eyes and sobs between his breath Love turned himself a nd would not enter in. III. Love, is it love or slee p or shadow or light That lies between thine eyelids and thine eyes? Like a flower laid upon a flower it lies,
144 Or like the night's dew laid upon the night. Love stands upon thy left hand and thy right, Yet by no sunset and by no moonrise Shall make thee man and ease a woman's sighs, Or make thee woman for a man's delight. To what strange end hath some strange god made fair The double blossom of two fruitless flowers? Hid love in all the folds of all thy hair, Fed thee on summers, watered thee with showers, Given all the gold that all the seasons wear To thee that art a th ing of barren hours? IV. Yea, love, I see; it is not love but fear. Nay, sweet, it is not fear but love, I know; Or wherefore should thy body's blossom blow So sweetly, or thine ey elids leave so clear Thy gracious eyes that never made a tear-Though for their love our t ears like blood should flow, Though love and life and death should come and go, So dreadful, so desirable, so dear? Yea, sweet, I know; I saw in what swift wise Beneath the woman's and the water's kiss Thy moist limbs melted into Salmacis, And the large light turned tender in thine eyes, And all thy boy's breath softened into sighs; But Love being blind, how should he know of this? Au Muse du Louvre, Mars 1863.
145 BIBLIOGRAPHY Barbin, Herculine and Michel Foucault. Herculine Barbin Being the Recently Discovered Memoirs of a Nineteenth-C entury French Hermaphrodite New York: Pantheon Books, 1980 Beauvoir, Simone de. The Second Sex Transl. H. M. Parshley. Paw Prints, 2008. Blackless, Melanie, Anthony Charuvastra, Am anda Derryck, Anne Fausto-Sterling, Karl Lauzanne and Ellen Bee. How Sexu ally Dimorphic Are We? Review and Synthesis. American Journal of Human Biology 12 (2000). Boxer, M. First Wave Feminism In 19th Century France: Class, Family and Religion. Womens Studies International Forum. 5.6 (1982). Christian, John. Symbolists and Decade nts. London: Thames and Hudson, 1977. Davisson, Sven. The Plastic Ideal: The A ndrogyne in fin de sicle Occulture. Ash Journal 4 (2005). DeKoven, Marianne. Rich and Strange: Gender, History, Modernism Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1991 Deleuze, Gilles and Felix Guattari. Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia N.Y.: Viking Press, 1977. Doniger, Wendy. Women, Androgynes, and Other Mythical Beasts. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1980. Dreger, Alice. Hermaphrodites and the Medical Invention of Sex. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press, 1998. Edelman, Lee. Homographesis in Homographesis: Essays in Gay Literary and Cultural Theory. Edited by Edelman, Lee, 1994. Facos, Michelle. Symbolist Art in Context Berkeley: University of California Press, 2009 Fausto-Sterling, Anne. Sexing the Body: Gender Polit ics and the Construction of Sexuality New York, NY: Basic Books, 2000.
146 -------. The Five Sexes: Why Male and Female are Not Enough. The Sciences (1993): 20-24. Foucault, Michel. The History of Sexuality: an Introduction Translated by Robert Hurley. London: Penguin Books, 1981 Freud, Sigmund. Civilization and its Discontents Translated by Jame s Strachey. London: Hogarth Press, 1973. Gallop, Jane. The Daughters Seduction: Feminism and Psychoanalysis Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1982. Gelburd, Gail. Androgyny in Art. New York: Hofstra University, 1982 Gibson, Michael. The Symbolists. New York: Abrams, 1988. Goldberg, Ellen. The Lord Who Is Half Woman: Ardhan r vara in Indian and Feminist Perspective Albany: State University of New York Press, 2002. Greven, David. Cyborg Masochism, Homo -Fascism: Re-reading Terminator 2. Postmodern Culture 19.1 (2008). 9 December 2009.
147 Mathews, Patricia. Passionate Discontent: Creativity, Gender, and French Symbolist Art. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1999. Maxwell, Catherine. The Female Sublime from Milton to Swinburne: Bearing Blindness. Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press, 2001. Murat, Laure. The Invention of the Neuter. Diogenes 208 (2005): 61-72. Olander, W.R., Fernand Khnopff's Art or The Caresses. Arts Magazine (1977). Ortner, Sherry. Is Female to Male as Nature is to Culture? Feminist Studies. 1.2 (1972). Plato. Symposium. Vol. 9, in Plato in Twelve Volumes translated by Harold Fowler. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1925. Roughgarden, Joan. Evolution's Rainbow: Diversity, Ge nder, and Sexuality in Nature and People. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2004. Schultheiss, Dirk; Herrmann, Thomas R. W., and Jones, Udo. Early Photo-Illustration of a Hermaphrodite by the French Phot ographer and Artist Nadar in 1860. Journal of Sexual Medicine 3.2 (2006). Smith-Rosenberg, Caroll. The New Woman as Androgyne: Social Disorder and Gender Crisis 1870-1936. Disorderly Conduct: Visions of Gender in Victorian America New York: Aldred A. Knopf, 1985. Snodgrass, Chris. Aubrey Beardsley, Dandy of the Grotesque. New York: Oxford University Press, 1995. Solomon-Godeau, Abigail. Male Trouble: A Crisis in Representation New York: Thames and Hudson, 1997. Stimpson, Catharine R. The Androgyne and the Homosexual. Womens Studies 2 (1974): 237-246. Vicinus, Martha. The Adolescent Boy: Femme Fatale of the Fin-de-Sicle? Journal of Sexuality 5.1 (1994). Weber, Eugen. France, Fin De Sicle Cambridge: Belknap Press, 1986. Weil, Kari. Androgyny and the Denial of Difference. Charlottesville: Virginia University Press, 1992.
148 ILLUSTRATIONS Fig. 1 Gustave Moreau, Saint Sebastian and the Angel c. 1878. Pencil, charcoal and sanguine on pa per. Muse Gustave Moreau, Paris.
149 Fig. 2. Franz von Stuck, Innocentia 1889. Oil on canvas. Private collection.
150 Fig. 3 Fernand Khnopff, White Mask 1907. Wax on paper. Museum of Modern Art, Venice.
151 Fig. 4 Alexandre Seon, frontispiece for LAndrogyne by Josephine Peladan, published 1890.
152 Fig. 5. Hercules Farnese 3rd century CE Roman copy of 4th c. BCE Greek original. Marble statue. Museo Archeo logical Nazionale, Naples.
153 Fig. 6. Apollo Belvedere c. 130-140 CE Roman copy of c. 330 BCE Greek original. Marble s tatue, Museo Pio-Clementino, Vatican City.
154 Fig. 7 Jacques-Louis David, Death of Joseph Bara 1794. Oil on canvas. Musee Calbet, Avignon. Fig. 8 Anne-Louis Girodet de Roussy-Trioson, The Sleep of Endymion 1793. Louvre Museum, Paris.
155 Fig. 9 Jacques-Louis David, Oath of the Horatii 1784. Oil on canvas. Musee du Louvre, Paris. Fig. 10. Pierre Puvis de Chavannes, Hope 1871. Oil on canvas. Musee dOrsay, Paris.
156 Fig. 11. John William Waterhouse, Lady of Shalott 1888. Oil on canvas. Tate Gallery, London.
157 Fig. 12. Felicien Rops, Temptation of Saint Anthony 1878. Watercolor.
158 Fig. 13. Felicien Rops, The Sacrifice 1883. Patrick Derom Gallery, Brussels.
159 Fig. 14. Gustave Moreau, Oedipus and the Sphinx 1864. Oil on canvas. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City.
160 Fig. 15. Fernand Khnopff, LArt/Des Caresses 1896. Oil on canvas. Muses Royaux des Beaux-Arts, Brussels. Fig. 16. Fernand Khnopff, LArt/Des Caresses (detail).
161 Fig. 17. Gustave Moreau, Jason and Medea 1865. Oil on canvas. Musee dOrsay, Paris.
162 Fig. 18. Sleeping Hermaphrodite (front view) Marble sculpture. Musee du Louvre, Paris. Fig. 19. Sleeping Hermaphrodite Hellenistic Roman copy of 2nd century BCE Greek original. Marble sculpture. Musee du Louvre, Paris.
163 Fig. 20. Aubrey Beardsley, The Toilette of Salome from Salome 1894. Ink on paper.
164 Fig. 21, Aubrey Beardsley, Abbe from Under the Hill 1895. Ink on paper.
165 Fig. 22. Aubrey Beardsley, design for frontispiece for Oscar Wildes Salome 1894. Ink on paper.
166 Figure 23 Nicolas Poussin, Bacchanalia 1631-33. Oil on canvas. National Gallery, London. Fig. 24. Aubrey Beardlsey, Heading for chapter 26, book 9 (page 226) in Le Morte Darthur c. 1983. Ink on paper.
167 Fig. 25. Franz von Stuck, Sensuality 1891. Oil on canvas. Abraham Somer Collection, Los Angeles
168 Fig. 26. Nadar, Hermaphrodite in examination position c. 1860. Photograph. Muse dOrsay, Paris.
169 Fig. 27. Nadar, Hermaphrodite lying on his side c. 1860. Photograph. Muse dOrsay, Paris