Androgyny in Modern Literature by Tracy Hargreaves

By Tracy Hargreaves

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81 Lind oscillated between different identifications that seem to observe orthodox binary assumptions: scholarly and reserved during the day, he transformed himself into ‘Jennie June’ by night, a metamorphosis that gave him sexual licence. Lind’s narrative is different from other narratives of an imaginary androgyny in so far as he understands the androgyne to have an embodied status and a sexual identity. That the androgyne might be a projection or fantasy, or that it might be paradigmatic of the kinds of transgression permitted by carnival, is evident in one of the most celebrated texts of European decadence, Husymans’ À Rebours (1884; translated into English as Against Nature).

Both the androgyne and the hermaphrodite are, she argues, ‘manifestations of a similar repressed desire’,79 and that desire clearly functions as a peculiarly male fantasy in which the boy child assimilates the body of his mother, narcissistically, to himself. Lind displaces one fantasy of the hermaphrodite as phallic mother and reasserts himself as the reluctant possessor of a male body (he had, he said, undergone partial castration), complete with breasts and ‘female desires’ towards men. In elaborating his own taxonomy, Lind’s autobiography repudiates the pathological representation of the androgyne by evoking classical statuary, a form anterior to sexology’s historically specific interpretive frames.

Raittolbe, the ex-hussar, is the avatar of normative heterosexual masculinity whose function is to realign manliness with masculinity and restore morality. Central to the text, though, is the relationship between the aristocratic Raoule de Vénérande and Jacques Silvert, an effeminate artisan who makes artificial flowers for a living until he meets Raoule. Raoule is instantly captivated by him and establishes him in a new studio. One evening, as Raoule is on her way to a rendezvous with Raittolbe, she is seized with a compulsion to visit Jacques as ‘the body that was no longer hers had felt revulsion’ (p.

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