[ilds] RG Justine 1.1 - bisexuality

Michael Haag michaelhaag at btinternet.com
Mon Apr 9 20:00:40 PDT 2007

Maybe evasion is the name of the game.


On Tuesday, April 10, 2007, at 12:56  am, James Gifford wrote:

> And to think, we’re still only at the epigraphs...
> I was very glad to see Michael’s posting since it strikes a few  
> familiar
> notes and confirms some things I’ve been thinking for a while now.
> I won’t 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
> ‘bisexual,’ ‘lesbian,’ ‘gay,’ or ‘straight’ 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 ‘inversion,’ 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.
> I’ve been puzzled for a while by the combination of bisexuality and
> Durrell’s 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
> transgression.
> Does this perhaps contribute to Durrell’s dislike of duality, as noted  
> by
> Michael?  Stable identities require two poles that can swap places but  
> can’t
> coexists.  Durrell’s 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, ““the 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 judged” (1.1).
> Clearly this desire is an imposition from without, and by chasing it,  
> they
> all fall into Sade’s conundrum.  City love leads only to crime -- the  
> only
> way out is to ‘talk.’
> Cheers,
> James
> 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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>> ***************************************
>> W. L. Godshalk          *
>> Department of English         *
>> University of Cincinnati           Stellar disorder  *
>> Cincinnati OH 45221-0069      *
>> 513-281-5927
>> ***************************************
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> ___________________________
> James Gifford
> Department of English
> University of Victoria
> Victoria, B.C., Canada
> http://web.uvic.ca/~gifford
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