[ilds] RG Justine 1.1 - sex and gender

James Gifford odos.fanourios at gmail.com
Mon Apr 9 16:56:08 PDT 2007

Hello all,

The flip side of this discussion of this discussion of bisexuality in the
epigraphs (is it fair to say it's sous rature?) is gender, which is also
potentially confusing.  For instance, Michael notes the gendered traits of
the characters in another email, with Nessim's femininity and Justine's
masculinity -- such traits have less to do with sexuality than with gender.
I'm not sure whether that reflects a confusion in Durrell, eliding two
related but distinct things, or if he was trying to 'flavour' the text by
discussing different things that unfortunately involve the same language.
Balthazar, for instance, is not effeminate, yet Scobie has overt
gender-bending in drag.  Nonetheless, do we really have a strong overlap
between Scobie's dolly varden and his sexuality?

But this gets even more confusing.  Bill makes a fascinating series of
assumptions when he asks:

> But if we take the bisexual route, is Clea's love for Darley
> really a displacement of her love for Justine? When Darley
> goes to bed with Justine, does he really desire Nessim?
> Does Nessim sleep with Melissa because he really wants to
> bugger Darley? And so on. How bisexual are the characters
> of Justine?

I think this places us back very firmly in the problem posed by those two
contrasting epigraphs.  This is a question that Sade would disallow --
there's only crime or the noose.  If Darley's love for Justine is a
sublimated lust for Nessim (etc...), there is only crime to render him
happy.  That is, he can have sex with one or both of them, but he can¹t ask
about the process or what he¹s really after.  If, however, we accept the
Freudian proposition, his love for Justine should lead to 'talk' rather than
'crime.'  That talk will likely lead him directly to the problem of Justine
as a token of homosocial exchange between men, a commodity through which
they trade their desires.

Is it any great surprise, then, to find Darley and Nessim swapping partners,
to open with Darley raising Nessim's daughter, or to find Darley
corresponding with a woman he assumes is one of Justine¹s conquests?  I¹m
skipping ahead in the Quartet to say this, but how does Amaril's love for
Semira, the woman with no nose, figure when we realize the new nose he makes
for her is drawn by his former lover (Clea) based on a Theban soldier in a
fresco, AND that Durrell lifted the whole problem from Groddeck's The
Unknown Self, in which the nose is explicitly sexualized as a displacement
of the genitals?  The aimless wanderings of desire from object to object now
seems to be systemic in the novel series, and yet clearly prefigured in
those epigraphs.

Michael argued last summer that Durrell hadn't clearly planned a Quartet or
a series when he wrote Justine, so we can regard those formal elements as
supplementary additions after Justine; however, do we not have a map for the
books as a whole and their concerns based on Freud and Sade, mirrored in the
creative translation of Cavafy, which collectively bracket the novel?  This
is not to say Durrell had planned the series, but I think the underlying
problems are already there before I we start reading the narrative itself.

My only question (though I'd love to see someone point out the flaws in my
thinking here) is why we don't have Groddeck?  His influence on the creation
of Justine would seem to be stronger than Freud or Sade, yet he's remarkably
absent from the whole series.  Only later in the Quintet does he start to
make overt appearances.


On 4/8/07 6:15 PM, "Bruce Redwine" <bredwine1968 at earthlink.net> wrote:

> Michael Haag says Durrell originally wanted "Justine" to be "an investigation
> of bisexual love."  I accept that.  But I would like to know why.  Not the why
> of an intellectual exercise or an exercise in literary analysis.  (Michael
> doesn't think LD was "consistent" in exploring the idea.)  Rather, what led
> Durrell to choose that subject in the first place?  Was he trying to come to
> terms with something in his own nature?  Or did he think that he'd hit upon
> something fundamental in human nature?  Also, Durrell's rejection of the
> "falseness of either/or," as Michael says, would seem to be another way to
> stress bisexuality.
> Bruce
> -----Original Message-----
>> From: Michael Haag <michaelhaag at btinternet.com>
>> Sent: Apr 8, 2007 2:09 PM
>> To: ilds at lists.uvic.ca
>> Subject: Re: [ilds] RG Justine 1.1
>> Bill asks: How bisexual are the characters of Justine?
>> One answer is found in Justine 1.16 where Nessim is 'slender and with a
>> deep waist like a woman, and long arched beautiful hands'; and Justine
>> sits with 'her legs crossed in a mannish attitude, puffing a cigarette'.
>> In Justine 1.2 there is 'something subtly androgynous, inverted upon
>> itself'.
>> Certainly here and there Durrell does make a point of describing the
>> maleness of the female and the femaleness of the male.
>> Sometimes this seems to suggest wholeness or harmony, sometimes
>> sterility.  I am not sure that Durrell is consistent or that he
>> explores the idea very seriously.
>> :Michael
>> On Sunday, April 8, 2007, at 08:16  pm, william godshalk wrote:
>>> "I do not in the least underestimate bisexuality. . . I expect it to
>>> provide all further enlightenment." Letter from Sigmund Freud to
>>> Wilhelm Fliess (25 March 1898)
>>> "And now, the main thing! As far as I can see, my next work will be
>>> called "Human Bisexuality." It will go to the root of the problem and
>>> say the last word it may be granted to say--the last and the most
>>> profound." Letter from Sigmund Freud to Wilhelm Fliess (7 August 1901)
>>> I quote these sentences from Wikiquote. Obviously they support
>>> Michael's reading. But I have heard Freud's "four persons" expounded
>>> as (1) the female lover, (2) her father, (3) the male lover, (4) his
>>> mother. I suppose we could call this Oedipal projection in which the
>>> male lover projects his desire for this mother unto the female lover,
>>> the female lover her desire for her father onto her male lover. I see
>>> that this could get pretty complicated. But if we take the bisexual
>>> route, is Clea's love for Darley really a displacement of her love for
>>> Justine? When Darley goes to bed with Justine, does he really desire
>>> Nessim? Does Nessim sleep with Melissa because he really wants to
>>> bugger Darley? And so on. How bisexual are the characters of Justine?
>>> Bill
>>> At 09:59 AM 4/8/2007, you wrote:
>>> All:
>>> To overlap with and extend what has been said about the epigraphs to
>>> Justine:
>>> Durrell wrote about 'the four of us' who come together in the act of
>>> love.  These are Darley, Melissa, Justine and Nessim.  But also Durrell
>>> read the edited correspondence from Freud to his colleague Wilhelm
>>> Fliess (first published in English translation in 1954).  'Now for
>>> bisexuality!', Freud wrote to Fliess on 1 August 1899 -- and Durrell
>>> would quote what followed as an epigraph to Justine: 'I am accustoming
>>> myself to the idea of regarding every sexual act as a process in which
>>> four persons are involved. We shall have a lot to discuss about that'.
>>> The four persons are the female and male aspects of the man and the
>>> male and female aspects of the woman, for Freud insisted on 'an
>>> original bisexuality in every individual' and saw the repression of one
>>> side of one's sexuality in favour of the other as a cause of neurosis.
>>> I am not sure that Durrell can be said to have repressed the
>>> bisexuality part; he originally wanted Justine to be described as 'an
>>> investigation of bisexual love', but Faber objected and so it became
>>> the anodyne and meaningless 'investigation of modern love'.
>>> Against this sexual illustration of the theme of harmony and unity
>>> Durrell opposed duality, which he regarded as false and unhealthy, and
>>> which he likewise illustrated with a prefatory quote to Justine, this
>>> time from the Marquis de Sade who showed how the logic of rationalism
>>> led to an insane choice of either/or: 'There are two positions
>>> available to us -- either crime which renders us happy, or the noose,
>>> which prevents us from being unhappy. I ask whether there can be any
>>> hesitation, lovely Therese, and where will your little mind find an
>>> argument able to combat that one?'
>>> Durrell mentions the falseness of either/or in for example Prospero's
>>> Cell (p108: 'Was he happy or unhappy, moral or amoral?  He was outside
>>> the trap of the opposites').  The object is to realise that the choice
>>> is a false one.
>>> Going back to Freud's letter to Fliess, that was one of his last before
>>> the relationship foundered.  The letters show Freud formulating the
>>> basic elements of psychonanalysis in his theories of dream
>>> interpretation, infantile sexuality, bisexuality and psychoanalytic
>>> method which found developed expression in The Interpretation of Dreams
>>> (1900).  This was a break with Fliess who had developed and continued
>>> to be convinced of various physiological explanations for hysteria,
>>> etc, of a pretty crackpot kind -- ideas which Durrell himself pursued
>>> and gave expression to throughout the Alexandria Quartet.  Freud may
>>> have been an improvement on Sade in Durrell's mind, but he remained
>>> unhappy with any one system of thought, indeed with any system at all.
>>> :Michael
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James Gifford
Department of English
University of Victoria
Victoria, B.C., Canada

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