I have just read Francois Mauriac’s “Therese Desqueyroux”. I am writing this in an experimental, freeform style to highlight my feelings of anger and dismay and hope for a better future .
Your author… Thanks to Jean-Luc Barre(2010), rehabilitated with all the moral angst and roleplaying of his time(in text and life), as a bisexual or gay male writer(that doesnt mean he JUST writes about homosexual interest themes, I have to say, as usual; how tedious that is, in itself, to have to say that every time, else I get labelled as a “one issue” critic/person).. an angst he internalized, again tediously admixtured with religiously inspired guilt at his homosexuality(yes, the letters are there for you to read, recently unearthed in Barre’s biography, sadly not yet translated into English, if you require proof). This is NOT an attack on my friends and co-students who “get ” it : that gay people DON’T want to take over the world; they just want an end to (re)marginalization by the heteronormativizing appropriation of texts which include gay elements or written by gay, lesbian or biexual authors. …
I was talking to my(lesbian) friend: we could not think of ONE novel written by a non gay male which was sympathetic or presented, in a balanced, representative fashion, wellrounded(ie good, bad or indifferent) gay male or lesbian characters; I have a feeling Irvine Welsh is an exception. I should be interested to hear of such authors; it is very healing, and builds bridges.There are Sebald’s many homosexual and bisexual characters, of course, and the often ambiguous sexual orientaton of his narrators; but Sebald himself described his works as “prose fiction”, not as novels. Novels or not, though, his writing stands out, almost alone, in this respect
On course after course I attend, about half of the authors(DOCUMENTEDLY, via letters/diaries, which have at last beeen published) were/are gay , lesbian, bisexual; but I have to argue, with occasional support, for the congruent gay/bi/lesbian voice, be it Proust, Forster, Mauriac or, more complicatedly, Melville, certainly when it is covert because of OBVIOUS reasons of censorship and self-internalised homophobic censorship(I have made these points in earlier posts); but even sometimes when it is overt. I have to dress up my voicings of these often lost and marginalised same-sex affect voices in the “context” of deconstructing the text; breakdown between sign, signifier and signified, so as to avoid being labelled again, though there is obvious truth in these larger theoretical contexts, as they provide the catalyst for feminist and postcolonial studies , for example.
Of course Mauriac is particuarly complex:
A repressed gay or bisexual man
Riven with guilt, regarding this, because of his Catholic beliefs and /or upbringing
Living in a time when homosexuality was, in France, if not illegal(it may have been) frowned upon, at least
A writer of deep psychological ambiguity anyway: for example, Therese is a murderess but we feel sympathy for her, stuck in a loveless marriage, surrrounded by the seemingly unassailable bastions of hegemonic familial life
His texts are re-written; “Therese Desqueyroux” to excise (some) of the strong intimitations of repressed lesbian love in Therese; so we have an ADDED layer of textual ambiguity.
Commonsense says, like in regard to Proust, all these mirror images and the need for psycholgical doubleness, which wrenches the personality apart into chasms of disassociation, “depersonalization”, alienation, differance, are themselves mirrored in the text where the “inversion”(pun intended) is set out through the text where people are not what they seem, they spy(In Proust-whose labarynthine and sometimes tortuous sentence construction mirrors back his tortuous SOCIALLY constructed need to express himself in paradox and covert meanings- and Mauriac) on each other; they are trapped in social, familial roles; their psychological core identity is transmuted in life, and thereby reflected in the riven text, into ennui, lassitude and fragmentation of the self; they become-Therese is a good example of this-living carapaces. We are back to Sebald.
So, I am very very tired of this DOUBLE/SECONDARY marginalisation of gay and bisexual characters
Wise up critics and readers(EXCLUDING my understanding friends, colleagues and the FEW gay-aware critics)and realize/remember that
Many many of the world’s greatest writers were gay or bisexual
That said, we have not yet and will not EVER take over the (literary or political) world; we just want equality
What are you afraid of?(eg in your marginalisation of same-sex affect texts and subtexts)?
Why is heterosexuality so insecure?
These are matters of EQUALITY/ANTI-DISCRMINATION; not of a gay “agenda”,a “homosexualising”of the world or literary texts or any artistic medium(never mind of politics/ the world)
Of course ANY dominant, politically, ideologically, religiously-often all three together-will resist what it sees as challenges/threats to its continuance of dominance, albeit often subconsciously.
But lets just be equal and validate each other’s subjectivity:gay readings, where appropriate(textual or subtextual,viz censored therefore coded); AND opposite sex reading, where we are dealing with matters of the heart; it can be BOTH; there is no reversed attempt at a political or literary takeover. Then we have a level playing field; and literary ananysis and criticism can be
Lesbian and gay
It opens up a PLETHORA of variegated hues of readings of texts; surely that is an ADVANTAGE.
Anyway, point made; and yes, Therese IS a repressed lesbian; as an adolescent,(and later), though unreciprocated, she LOVED Anne Trave, not necessarily sexually, but romantically like an adolescent boy would love an adolescent girl; just the same.Get it?AND, its in the text
Finally, I repeat this is NOT an attack on my gay-supportive friends and tutors and colleagues as students; so please do not take offence; it is directed at the heteronormativizing establishment, especially in regard to most schools of literary criticism and at people who have entrenched beliefs and deny other people’s subjectivity, which doesnt happen to CONFORM to theirs….