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Writing the behind: Schreber, Genet, Joyce, and the poetics of the penetrated male body

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  • Hq The Family. Marriage. Woman
  • Pn0441 Literary History
  • Literature
  • Logic


This thesis argues that representation is the embodiment of erotic thought. It does this by focusing on literary representations of the penetrated male body and challenging the standard approaches to masculine embodiment as a form of denial or absence: the male body - in its always already penetrated state - as a presence, though one which lurks behind representation. It argues that the (penetrated) male body is often characterised as a taboo the breaching of which is traditionally named 'feminine' or 'psychotic'. The dominant representation of this body links it with a chain of equivalences that binds it to a culturally abjected 'feminine paradigm'. Works by Huysmans, Baudelaire, Wilde, will demonstrate how the limits of the male body are mapped within a boundary that both excludes and necessitates an act of penetratioa But it also demonstrates the ways in which this taboo has been challenged. Schreber, Genet and Joyce play with that boundary, push those limits, suggesting that penetrability becomes a condition of the emergence of modern male subjectivity within the rubric of its own logic. For as much as the penetrated male body is marked by 'femininity' and 'psychosis', it in turn marks a discursive 'blind spot' which the thesis terms the 'behind', in order to highlight its links to the anus - a site of anxiety for masculinity. This articulation of a discursive aporia and corporeal liminality is shown to generate a specifically modern 'poetics'. This poetics will help to re-state a logic of the neither/nor as expressed by Derrida, Deleuze, Foucault and Kristeva, in particular. One major consequence of such conditionality is that thought must be seen as in a very real sense 'embodied', and that this process of embodying thought is predicated upon an eroticism that is subsequently denied. The 'behind' names that denial.

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