Writing, Identity, & Queer Studies

In & Out, Either/Or, and Everything In Between

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Entering New Worlds

“We must dream and enact new and better pleasures, other ways of being in the world, and ultimately new worlds” (Muñoz, 1).

Immersing oneself in the world, an endless activity that a person can spend their entire life experiencing. Immersion and opening the eyes to the endless possibilities of pleasure and enjoyment goes against social expectations, making it queer. People are expected to follow a certain route in life, to end up in a similar position as their parents did, and be content with it. Jose Esteban Muñoz combats this by promoting the “what if’s” of the future. He declares the present as a “prison house” (Muñoz, 1) that restricts human beings from reaching the most euphoric pleasures. We have limited ourselves as human beings to a tight schedule of enjoyment while so much more exists. We oftentimes cage ourselves because we fear society’s judgement, but society cannot stop one from dreaming. Muñoz wants us to imagine our future and fill it with whatever we please, devoid of restrictions. “Some will say that all we have are the pleasures of this moment, but we must never settle for that minimal transport” (Muñoz, 1). The unfortunate truth is that most people do settle for that minimal transport. Thinking of Queerness as a mental key expands the mind, as it unlocks new ways of conceptualizing the world inside and around us. The mind should always be expanding, and queerness seems to make reference to the bridge between levels of consciousness. Questioning reality is a queer exercise of the mind that draws out what we see around us. The world works in very odd ways, and it’s important to wonder if everything is what it seems. Along with questioning our surroundings, we should imagine our futures in any way we’d like. We must dream infinitely, and aspire to transfer our thoughts into reality.

The Power of Connection

Anne Carson’s Autobiography of Red is an inventive piece of literature that displays its creativity in a variety of ways. One instance of such innovation is the fact that the novel can appeal to so many different people. The vast amount of content covered in under 160 pages does an incredible job of connecting to people that have been through all types of experiences. Nearly everybody who reads it will have something to relate to somewhere in the book. One might relate to a larger concept such as queerness or the pain associated with love, but the novel leaves room for those that haven’t been there. Passion and solace through art can be found in Geryon’s love for photography. For myself, art is a form of escaping reality. I was able to further link myself to Geryon through his love for photos because art is so present in my life. Even if one cannot make a life connection to Autobiography of Red, the novel’s poetic style gives deeper meaning to certain concepts, such as childhood trauma. The poetic element leaves Carson free to manipulate the text in any way that she pleases and gives the words life. Onomatopoeia, metaphors, other literary devices, and connections to Greek mythology work to pull readers into certain scenes to give them sense of Geryon’s experiences. Anne Carson gave her novel an inventive pulse that syncs with readers whether they have been in Geryon’s place or not.

The Self Concept

Geryon finds himself questioning his own reality as a direct result of his older brother degrading him. His brother speaks to him as if Geryon is some sort of evil being that deserves punishment. He is beating Geryon down with things that sit in the mind. For instance, while newly sharing a bedroom he tells him, “what smells in here is you, Geryon” (Carson, 51). The ridicule isn’t just brotherly banter, but appears to be a sort of psychological attack. He is leaving young Geryon to ponder his words, and decide what to make of them. In our youth, human beings form their perceptions of the world. The self concept is what we know about ourselves. We start building our self concept through personal beliefs and the reactions of others during social interaction. “He had a respect for facts maybe this was one” (Carson, 51), Geryon is left to believe that his brother’s remark may be truth. In reality, Geryon’s older brother is likely the one that actually smells badly, which is why he is pinning the negative trait onto his sibling. But, his intimidation is not just to make himself feel better, it is to weaken Geryon. After shaming Geryon, he sexually abuses the young boy in the same scene. These types of behaviors are the things that affect people for life. “Self-esteem is the level of positive feeling one has about oneself” (Greenberg, 217), and it remains relatively constant throughout life. Being humiliated and sexually assaulted by someone at a young age, especially by a relative, is bound to affect self esteem in the long run.

“Driving through Georgia, we lie like Abraham” (Dordal, 50).

Here, in her The Lies that Save Us, Lisa Dordal brings us on a trip alongside her partner and herself. My speculation is that these two simple lines, more so the second, hold deep-rooted meaning to Dordal. Her Lutheran upbringing is reflected in her writing on a number of occasions, but this instance specifically relates her to a religious figure. Abraham, a biblical patriarch, is known for his white lie, or lie of protection. A lie similar to Lisa’s, a lie of caution, and for the sake of his wife. Abraham feared that his wife would be killed if the knowledge of their marriage became known to the wrong people, so he claimed to be her brother. Lisa, just like Abraham, is well aware of the evil intentions that are far too common amongst humanity. The unfortunate truth to society is that some people think they have a right to interfere with the lives of other people. There is no way of knowing what someone is thinking in their head, which is why it is better to be safe than sorry. As sad as it is, unjustified acts of violence happen to people regularly. Lisa speaks on such senseless violence in Amanat, another poem from the same collection. A terrible attack on an innocent woman in New Delhi, India that is just one of many instances of human horror. As a member of the lesbian community in an unknown place, Dordal knows that she is at risk of having a halfwit do something to her and her wife because of how she identifies. The Lies that Save Us speaks on the sadly necessary precautions that must sometimes be taken.

The Real Apple of Eve

“A long way round was a bright red flame. I knew it wasn’t Louise but I couldn’t take my eyes off the colour. It soothed me the way any bear will soothe a child not at home. It wasn’t mine but it was like mine. If I made my eyes into narrow slits the red took up the whole room. The dome was lit with red. I felt like a seed in a pomegranate. Some say that the pomegranate was the real apple of Eve, fruit of the womb, I would eat my way into perdition to taste you. ‘I love her what can I do?’” (91)

Just one day into the agreed upon three day intermission between Louise and the narrator causes a potent experience for our storyteller. The narrator’s passionate love for Louise is blended with the fear of her uncertain return. This combination intensifies the obsession that he/she has for her.

The “bright red flame” (91) that captures their attention could be any number of things. Whatever it is does not matter, but the color mirrors Louise’s hair. Even though it clearly isn’t Louise, the color is all it takes to pull the narrator into a blissful trance. The sight of this redness deeply comforts them. They compare this feeling of relaxation to the adoption and care of a lost child by wild animals. What sounds like a beautiful thing is actually quite the opposite. This rare phenomenon produces feral children that act in a manner that most would recognize as petrifying. Although, if one looks past the normal behaviors of modern society, and the disturbing thought of a wild child growling on all fours, then the idea of a human becoming one with nature surely is a soothing thing.

When the narrator claims that the flame “wasn’t mine but it was like mine” (91), they’re indicating Louise as part of them. They have absorbed Louise to the point where the color red electrifies their senses. To enhance the high, the narrator partially closes their eyes to fully absorb the view. By squinting the eyes, or making them into “narrow slits” (91), vision is given an arclike effect similar to a dome. This dome shaped viewing hole is enveloped in red. The sight is so captivating that it causes the narrator to feel as though he/she is a seed inside of a pomegranate. The redness of pomegranate seeds is both intense and alluring. Being one of some 600 seeds in a pomegranate would engulf the viewer in a deep sea of this rich red. A step is then taken away from the euphoria. As the narrator points out, it is not fully clear what fruit Adam and Eve bit into when they committed their ultimate sin, and it is true that “some say that the pomegranate was the real apple of Eve” (91). Their love runs so deep for Louise that they would willingly accept infinite damnation for a taste of her.

The quote at the end of the passage shows the narrator recognizing his/her obsession. He/she knows that his/her brain is blinded by love. Love has no boundaries, not even boundaries created by god. Real, unconditional love has the power to consume an individual, and the narrator knows that! What else can they do but let Louise swallow them whole?



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