[ilds] RG Justine 1.1 - bisexuality

James Gifford odos.fanourios at gmail.com
Mon Apr 9 16:56:12 PDT 2007

And to think, we¹re still only at the epigraphs...

I was very glad to see Michael¹s posting since it strikes a few familiar
notes and confirms some things I¹ve been thinking for a while now.

I won¹t say too much lest someone here is a reader, but a a paper I wrote a
few years ago on Durrell & sexuality (that several here have seen) is now
making the rounds (again...).  In a nutshell, I think the clear labels of
Œbisexual,¹ Œlesbian,¹ Œgay,¹ or Œstraight¹ have less to do with the issue
for Durrell than the general notion of identity itself -- the actual
specific instance or act can stand in for a positive multiplicity or a
self-destructive Œinversion,¹ depending on the scene and what he needs in
the narrative.  As a trope, however, I think it has a great deal to do with
the observations of (and textual experimentations with) identity and
selfhood in general.

I¹ve been puzzled for a while by the combination of bisexuality and
Durrell¹s rejection of the stable ego, or rather, how the titles or names of
various sexualities get bandied about (perhaps not as explicitly as in the
Quintet though) yet increasingly fail to describe anything meaningful about
the characters.  My hunch is that it has less to do with the actual sex in
Justine than it does with the ego and desire.  Rather than bisexuality per
se, their whole identity is subject to revision and development over time.
Pinning down identity and fixing it in place would seem to be the major

Does this perhaps contribute to Durrell¹s dislike of duality, as noted by
Michael?  Stable identities require two poles that can swap places but can¹t
coexists.  Durrell¹s game would seem to be challenging the binary itself, as
if to say the division is a false imposition.  The fact of desire is clear,
but to create a binary or duality that defines identity based on the object
of that desire does little to clarify from whence that desire arrives.  And
it does not seem to derive from the Self‹as we are told, ³³the city... used
us as its flora‹precipitated in us conflicts which were hers and which we
mistook for our own.... It is the city which should be judged² (1.1).
Clearly this desire is an imposition from without, and by chasing it, they
all fall into Sade¹s conundrum.  City love leads only to crime -- the only
way out is to Œtalk.¹


On 4/8/07 12:16 PM, "william godshalk" <godshawl at email.uc.edu> wrote:

> "I do not in the least underestimate bisexuality. . . I expect it to provide
> all further enlightenment." Letter from Sigmund Freud
> <http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Sigmund_Freud>  to Wilhelm Fliess
> <http://en.wikiquote.org/w/index.php?title=Wilhelm_Fliess&amp;action=edit>
> (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 <http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Sigmund_Freud>  to Wilhelm Fliess
> <http://en.wikiquote.org/w/index.php?title=Wilhelm_Fliess&amp;action=edit>  (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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