Androgyny in Modern Literature by Tracy Hargreaves

By Tracy Hargreaves

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Leonardo’s imagining of the androgynous/hermaphrodite mother leads Freud to see it enacted in his paintings of Leda, St John the Baptist and Bacchus, his art a projection of an androgynous and repressed psychic disposition. The androgyne is thus an emblem of sublimated phantasy (Pater suggests that Leonardo’s pictorial subjects were ‘a cryptic language for fancies all his own’),57 symptomatic, as Pacteau has argued, of repressed desire. 58 The autobiography’s limited print-run of 1,000 copies was available, by mail order only, to physicians, lawyers, legislators, psychologists and sociologists.

The power relations between Raoule and Jacques are further inverted not only by the roles they choose to adopt (and Rachilde Classical to Medical 37 keeps them explicitly gendered, the passive inert woman, the dominant sadistic male), but also by the fact that she is wealthy and he is not: economics lie at the heart of all sexual relations in this text, and sexuality, idealised by Raittolbe as ‘the union of souls in the union of beings’ (p. 36), transmogrifies into a commodity. ) All relationships – social as well as sexual – seem in danger of corruption when rich merge with poor, masculinity with femininity.

At his/her death, Séraphita’s devoted disciples, Wilfrid and Minna, will preach the doctrines of this spiritual creature to the newly emerging and materialistic culture of the nineteenth century. Séraphita/Séraphitus fleshes out Swedenborg’s philosophies in a narrative that oscillates between his/her supernatural appearances and Pastor Becker’s rendering of Swedenborg’s teaching. The death of Séraphita/Séraphitus, the spiritual, Christ-like figure, suggests that it is the theory (or the faith) that is pervasive and lasting, not the embodiment or personification of the theory, so that the wraithlike Séraphita becomes a figure through which to symbolise and transmit an oscillatory androgyny as ideal.

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