Fin in a Waste of Waters

"These moments of escape are not to be despised. They come too seldom....Leaning over this parapet I see far out a waste of water. A fin turns....I note under 'F.,' therefore, 'Fin in a waste of waters.' I, who am perpetually making notes in the margin of my mind for some final statement, make this mark, waiting for some winter's evening." (from Woolf's THE WAVES)

08 August 2006

Androgynous artistry

So after a brief hiatus, I am back at work on the Joyce paper - queer desire vs. homophobia; masculine sexual passivity; finally resulting in androgynous artistic (pro)creation in Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. The idea of androgynous art is something that v.much preoccupied all of my modernist literary lights, not only Joyce, but Woolf of course in Room, and Jung and Freud (durr), etc. This is something that I thought has only come to occupy my mind very recently, but now, looking back through my writing, I think the impetus towards an androgynous artistry has always existed in me, and it is only now that I've become conscious of it, and only through my studies of these authors.

Right now, I'm reading an essay, "A Womb of His Own: Joyce's Sexual Aesthetics" (har har - womb/room...or HEY [!!] "oomb, allwombing tomb," the poem Stephen works on in the Proteus episode of Ulysses - womb - tomb - room - just like Stephen connects creation, death, and the poet in Portrait - "reproduction is the beginning of death," says Temple, "touch[ing] Stephen timidly at the elbow," and then asking "do you feel how profound that is because you are a poet?" - and then Cranly "points his long forefinger" - finger my ASS!! If that's not phallic I don't know what is...and while Joyce I think makes fun of Temple the connection is there, but anyway, about the essay) by David Weir, and this guy gets into androgynous art in the Shakespeare Theory in the Scylla and Charybdis ep of Ulysses (damn!! somebody always gets there first!! I thought I was original for making that deduction in Portrait, and then I come across it in this essay! But Weir doesn't think that there IS androgynous creation in Portrait, whereas I think there is evidence of it, so my argument will be rather a response to his work, and so still my own), going into Jung's theory of anima/animus (female fertilization of the male imagination and DAMMIT!! I've just started applying it to Breakfast at Tiffany's which you know is the ONLY book I only read for fun anymore again and again and again without analysing it but DAMMIT!! Holly and "Fred"!! Fred the writer! Holly fertilizing his imagination! I'm ruining myself!! My only "fun" book! No more of this now...), and of the male cultural appropriation of the female ability to reproduce (going all the way back to Genesis, with the creation of Eve out of Adam's body, and in literature, esp. in Paradise Lost as it retells Genesis), and thus of artistry as similar to female conception, gestation, birth.

But this guy Weir claims that while this theory is clear in Ulysses - not only in S & CH, but in Nausicaa, with Bloom & Gerty on the beach, and the "tumescent/detumescent" style, their male and female voices blending to argue for an androgynous art - "the means whereby Stephen arrives at this state of artistic androgyny is something of a mystery [in Portrait]." BUT. I think that there IS a clear moment of androgynous creation in Portrait, and it results from Stephen's own encounter with his own "beach girl," so thus the scenes are parallel and so reinforce each other, rather than the one retroactively explicating the earlier...though perhaps the earlier predicts the later. OOH! AND! Weir's brief summary of 19th century sexology may explain the "wild"-ness (with the allusion to the flamboyantly gay, fellow Irish author Wilde) of the beach scene in Portrait: that "the 'androgynous' homosexual was also more likely than almost any other type of person to be artistic." Weir spends only a paragraph on it, but he drops the names of a few books that will put me on the right track. But. Tell me this isn't sexual. Stephen sees the girl on the beach, and then pledges to "recreate life out of life!" and then (not unforcefully) quite rhythmically strides, pushing forward, "on and on and on and on!" down the beach, finally stopping only to fall into some sort of post-orgasmic "languor of sleep," when he dreams of a new world like "an opening flower...breaking in full crimson and unfolding and fading to palest rose...every flush deeper than the other": it's as if he's now incorporated, by his dream, this vaginal new world (the "new terminology" he demands in order to describe his art, the only thing missing from the philosophy he borrows from Aquinas?) into his psyche. This language is then completely repeated in the "rose-like glow" that washes over Stephen when he writes the villanelle - writes it "in the virgin womb of the imagination [where] the word was made flesh"!!!

And, quickly, back to the theory of Shakespeare and androgynous art in Ulysses. Woolf was working on A Room of One's Own in the few years after Hogarth Press published Ulysses, and she, too, comes back to the theory of the androgynous mind (though she cites Coleridge as her source). But she, too, uses the language of procreation: she says only when we have this fusion is the mind entirely "fertilised." So, too, does she use the example of Shakespeare, or rather, she invents the life of Shakespeare's sister, to examine the situation of the male/female artist. Quick detour, as promised.

As I'm reading this, though, I've just now (literally, the thought struck me and I sat down to write about it - it was a flash!) related these ideas to my own (of course inferior) writing. In my writing, I usually write from the perspective of a man, particularly in the last few years - it's somehow just become more comfortable for me. And before this, by the time I had started college, whenever I deviated and wrote from a woman's perspective, it was always with a strong undercurrent of same sex desire, partly between characters within the story, and partly between myself and the character. And this is a phenomenon just of my writing. In reality, I identify certainly as a woman; and though I've of course had desires for a few women (including H.K. of the "infamous characters" whom my imagination took over), and have acted on a few of them in my wilder years (mostly pre-surgery; but all pre-Rasheed), I've never been in a serious relationship with a woman, and so identify as mostly straight. So this is not a personal thing; this is a writing thing. However: the relationships I have with these "personas" I latch onto in my imagination and begin to mould into my own "characters" begin to feel quasi-sexual; I have no sexual desire for the person herself or himself, in some cases being actually quite averse to the possibility, but I strangely begin to desire the character I've created. This desire, then, draws me closer to my character, fuels my further conception, and thus my further creation of that character in a near-Oedipal (though from the parental side) birth of walking, talking fictional persons. And I look at the Staging Memory project, and I see that I've written that relationship with character there. Eilert has himself created the image of Hedda he thinks he desires, and the more he imposes on her, the more he wants to come near to her. It is only when she completely undermines his idea of her that he may withdraw, so to speak. So he, too, is an artist - and I had underestimated him...I thought only Hedda was the artist because she was the actress.

But back to Weir's essay. I mean just me. Reading. Bonus points to anyone who made it all the way through this entry, because it was completely me just flexing the muscles before I start the scholarly writing - my apologies.


At 10:33 PM, Anonymous Holly said...

I read every word and admit to be exhausted by the effort of trying to keep up. :-) Never speak negatively of your own writing. Write it, believe it, own it.

Oh, and just so you know, Holly did NOT go lightly. (har har) Everyone thinks people named Holly are flightly little light weights. SO not true.

At 3:49 AM, Blogger Tessa said...

Holly - Oh, I know. I read that book pathologically: whenever anything bad happens to me, I read it and find solace in Miss Golightly. Last time I read it was when Rasheed moved to London, and it's for sure coming with me to Brighton in case I need it. :) [And EVERY Holly I've known...okay, so there are only two of you...has been amazing!]


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