[ilds] Durrell's misogyny

Allyson allysonk at mweb.co.za
Mon Nov 23 02:54:17 PST 2015

I explored an aspect of this in my recent PhD thesis which I think has 
now come out of its embargo period and is available on the University of 
Amsterdam's e-thesis database. I specifically explored Durrell's 
representation of his female characters in The Quartet from a feminist 
theoretical perspective employing a Gothic lens.

Very few feminist approaches have been offered with regards to Durrell's 
work and where they were offered in the early 1990s, they always seemed 
to back peddle at the close of their argument.

Best regards,

Allyson Kreuiter

On 2015-11-22 11:05 PM, Bruce Redwine wrote:
> Richard Pine’s comments on misogyny may be well-known among some in 
> the ILDS, possibly “old hat,” but I have not seen them expressed 
> before, certainly not on this forum, where the topic seems to be 
> taboo.  From my perspective, however, I find them revolutionary.  They 
> open up a whole new way to study Lawrence Durrell, man and writer, 
> that is, a way to probe his hidden motives (conscious or not) for 
> composition and characterization.  I find this important and exciting. 
>  Others may not, of course.
> Right off the bat (the baseball idiom connotes violence), I have to 
> say I have not considered the women in the /Quartet/ as Pine describes 
> below.  But his view makes sense in terms of the /Quartet/ and the 
> other works.  What has always struck me instead is Durrell’s 
> persistent use of violence and suicide (or self-extinction) throughout 
> his oeuvre.  Misogyny and violence are clearly connected, as MacNiven 
> and Chamberlin indicate in their biographical material.  I recall that 
> in one interview he was asked about the prevalence of violence in his 
> work and that he avoided answering the question.  Durrell’s fluency 
> and eloquence were something of a defense mechanism.  I would add that 
> Durrell seems to indulge in a lot of self-loathing.  I would expect 
> that all these elements are in some way connected in his personality. 
>  As Pine has previously suggested, happiness eluded Durrell; as 
> Durrell himself suggested in the /Paris Review,/ he found it hard to 
> be a “happy man.”
> Bruce
>> On Nov 22, 2015, at 3:35 AM, Bruce Redwine 
>> <bredwine1968 at earthlink.net <mailto:bredwine1968 at earthlink.net>> wrote:
>> Richard,
>> Excellent comments, bold and sweeping.  They will take a while to 
>> digest.  You intimate a new way to understand the author and his 
>> works.  Thanks.
>> Bruce
>>> On Nov 21, 2015, at 4:04 PM, mail at durrelllibrarycorfu.org 
>>> <mailto:mail at durrelllibrarycorfu.org> wrote:
>>> Durrell as a misogynist:
>>> I believe that misogyny - which we normally understand as "dislking" 
>>> or even "maltreating" women comes from fear. Men who fear women 
>>> become misogynists in that they conduct a love-hate realtionship 
>>> both with the gender as a whole and with specific women, starting 
>>> with the mother. If (to be very cautious) we acknowledge that most 
>>> (and I mean most) men are, indeed, fearful of woman as "the Other", 
>>> and if we go even further and accept that love and fear are 
>>> co-habitants of the marriage bed, we cannot paint any particular 
>>> man, or writer-man, in dishonourable colours SIMPLY on account of 
>>> their behaviour in or out of bed, the kitchen, or the novel.
>>> It's a hugely complex question in LD - partly because of the way he 
>>> wrote about women, but also due to the facts and imagined facts of 
>>> his life: Start with the birth scene in Pied Pipers, and D's own 
>>> assertion that he remembered the moment of his birth (highly 
>>> unlikely but there have been instances of others which have been 
>>> well documented). Move on to the characterisations of women in Dark 
>>> Labyrinth. Then the HUGE issue of what JUSTINE means as a person - a 
>>> sin-cushion? a sexual turnstile? and the general description of 
>>> Alexandria as a city where women cry out to be abused; MELISSA as a 
>>> whore-with-a-heart-of-gold, and her statement (twice, in variants) 
>>> "I no longer defend myself". CLEA as hetero- and homo-sexual. LIVIA 
>>> ditto. The character of BENEDICTA, seen from Felix's perspective. 
>>> The complexity of women in the QUINTET - where they amy or may not 
>>> be part of one another (as many of the men certainly are). The 
>>> central icon of CONSTANCE, whom I believe to have been D's 
>>> idealisation of CLAUDE.
>>> When I gave  a copy of JUDITH to a non-D-reader, her immediate 
>>> reaction was "I enjoyed the storyline, especially the tension over 
>>> the Jewish-Arab conflict, but D treated women very badly, didn't 
>>> he?" (a common complaint by women about D's writing generally about 
>>> women, and maybe one reason why there are far fewer women critics of 
>>> D than there are men).
>>> Some of the poems celebrate female beauty, especially in the 
>>> abstract, but there are instances when he addressed poems to 
>>> specific women that are, at the least, ambivalent.
>>> And the plays... And the unpublished novel Placebo, and the 
>>> unfinished novel version of Sappho, and the "Magnetic island",,,, 
>>> And "Chantal de Legumes"...
>>> The women in D's life: stories (some corroborated, others not) of 
>>> his treatment of, and attitude towards 1) Nancy (e.g. his disregard 
>>> for her as an artist, his neglect of her on their long visit to 
>>> Paris), 2) Eve, with whose psychiatric problems he was unable to (or 
>>> refused to) cope 3 ) Claude (especially the occasions, witnessed, 
>>> when he physically attacked her) but who, if anyone, captured his 
>>> admiration AS A WRITER and whom I think he genuinely mourned, 4) his 
>>> ambivalence about Ghislaine, 5) his love of (and dependence on) 
>>> Francoise, but whom (to my certain knowledge becaue I was there) he 
>>> could be painfully offensive, 6) Margaret McCall (again, I was 
>>> witness to his disdain for her except in professional terms).
>>> One woman who was his lover said to me "He was a very big part of my 
>>> life, but I was only a very small part of his, and I can accept 
>>> that" - maybe she got off lightly!
>>> Is that enough to be going on with?
>>> I would very much like to see a balanced, bisexual discussion - 
>>> maybe a conference, however much I dislike and distrust such events, 
>>> to explore these issues. Yes, there have been notable attempts to 
>>> address them: Jim Nichols' "The Stronger Sex" is a valuable 
>>> contribution to the topic - his exegesis of the poem "nemea" is very 
>>> important. And, as I said in that review, the essay on "harems" and 
>>> the unpublished "Gynococracy" are important, even if they are unknown.
>>> RP
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