Writing, Identity, & Queer Studies

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

Author: prunella

A Contradictory Revelation

“The reason Miss Ramchandin paid me no attention was that, to her mind, the outfit was not something to either congratulate or scorn – it simply was.”

Tyler is weary from the lack of response from Miss Ramchandin after his cautious reveal of his wearing the dress that Miss Ramchandin stole for him. After momentary shame and regret, Tyler experiences a revelation as seen in the quote above. Tyler is finally dressing the way he wishes too and feels like himself in his truest form, and Miss Ramchandin recognizes this.

The act of Tyler putting on the dress to reveal to Miss Ramchandin is an act of confession because he is seeking her validation. As we have read in Foucault’s The History of Sexuality, “…one does not confess without the presence (or virtual presence) of a partner who is not simply the interlocutor but the authority who requires the confession, prescribes and appreciates it, and intervenes in order to judge, punish, forgive, console and reconcile…” in other words, one confesses to either be praised or punished by a figure of authority. This is contradictory in Tyler’s case because Miss Ramchandin is not the figure of authority, he is. Yet he is still seeking her validation. Tyler then goes onto say that “she was not one to manacle nature, and I sensed that she was permitting mine its freedom.” This statement is contradicting Tyler’s revelation because he has just realized that no confession was needed for him to be granted his freedom and be accepted as who he feels he is, but he is still taking note of what Miss Ramchandin may feel about him.

Foucault also states, “the sexual act- and how it was done; but of reconstructing, in and around the act, the thoughts that recapitulated it, the obsessions that accompanied it, the images, desires, modulations, and quality of the pleasure that animated it. For the first time no doubt, a society has taken upon itself to solicit and hear the imparting of individual pleasures. Here Foucault is saying that people have begun to insert themselves into other people’s sexual lives wanting to know everything about what they do for the purpose of critique. To contradict this idea is Miss Ramchandins lack of response to Tyler wearing the dress. Miss Ramchandin, already a woman of few words, does not critique or pass judgment. She has the ability to see Tyler as he truly is, not what he wants to be, which is what others may see. There is no praise or punishment in this confession, it just is.

Mythology and Modernity

Anne Carsons Autobiography of Red is particularly fascinating because it blends myth with modernity. Carson uses a lost poem, “The Tales of Geryon” from the Greek poet Stesichorus, and expands upon the myth of the little red monster Geryon with her own flare. In Stesichorus’ version, Hercules, (or Herakles, in Carons version) kills Geryon. Whereas in Carson’s version, the tale of Geryon is almost a coming of age story of someone who feels that he does not belong in the society around him, and the killing of Geryon is actually the breaking of Geryon’s heart. It is in this way that Carson manages to modernize a monster, personifying something that would otherwise not feel what we feel.

Geryon grows up shy and finds solace in photography. He has complicated relationships with his family, enduring abuse from his elder brother and existing in a tense space with his mother. These characteristics have themes of normalcy and act as a distraction from the fact that Geryon is indeed a monster. Geryon’s constant soliloquies about his redness and his wings relating to his feelings about feeling outcast draw parallels to what most teens experience through adolescence, that perhaps their physicality isn’t enough to fit into society.

The modernity of the world around Geryon baffles me when reflecting on the fact he is a red monster with wings. They live in a society with a modern education system,  telephones, modern transportation, and modern media. The fact that no one mentions Geryon’s redness and that there are others with wings, (Ancash), perfectly blends this myth with modernity. In that way, Carson’s work is very much inventive.

Sixth Grade (21)

In the poem, ‘Sixth Grade’ Lisa Dordal transports us to a warm June afternoon in which she is ‘married’ to a boy named Bruce under the watchful eye of her classmates. Dordal takes note that this event transpired in the “race-sore” seventies of southside Chicago. This stands out because their difference in skin tones is not the problem, it is their queerness that is not tolerated. I found this particularly interesting because it’s interesting to compare the 70’s in this particular instance, to today’s society. Today race and queerness are still touchy subjects individually, but now even more so if they are combined in the way they are in this sixth-grade marriage, (i.e. interracial same-sex marriage).

Secondly, Dordal’s attention to detail in the clothes that they both wore during the ceremony caught my eye when I later realized Bruce is also gay. Specifically, the color pink of Bruce’s oxford button-down, which from my own sixth-grade experience, recall cis-males stereotyping as being a gay color that straight males just can’t be seen in. This spurred my questions of whether or not their classmates knew that they were, in fact, marrying off two gay people. Did they make assumptions based off of visual cues such as this one? Or did they simply do it out of boredom?

Finally, what I found most striking was the remark that the officiant Peter, had said to Lisa. “…There were two types of women: that I was the kind men married, not the kind men used for practicing (what they never wanted to perfect).” I interpreted this as Peter telling her that he, and perhaps other boys liked her but did not find her sexually appealing enough to “use for practicing.”

Relating this to the rest of the collections of poem in Mosaic of the Dark, I wonder how Lisa Dordal had interpreted this remark herself. Clearly it made an impact on her because it made it into one of her poems. Yet I still find myself wondering if that remark was an insinuation that her classmates had their suspicions about her sexuality or if that boy in particular just didn’t find her attractive. Most notably, I wonder why this is the sort of thing that these sixth graders are concerning themselves with. I think that this serves to the point in time that this took place, where sexuality was slowly becoming more enthralled in conversations, and perhaps this was something that these kids were hearing from their parents. Which wouldn’t surprise me considering Lisa’s own mother was lesbian and that was a topic of conversation between her and her father.

my love for you makes any other life a lie.

“I’ve hidden those words in the lining of my coat. I take them out like a jewel thief when no-one’s watching. They haven’t faded. Nothing about you has faded. You are still the colour of my blood. You are my blood. When I look in the mirror it’s not my own face I see. Your body is twice. Once you once me.” (99)

The repetition of the word you in this passage gives insight to the mind of the narrator and how it revolves around this woman. Even when the author is talking about themself, they are incorporating Louise as a part of themself, (i.e. you are my blood). Here the narrator is saying that they are in essence, her, and she is them. That she is a hidden jewel so precious and protected that she is apart of them, and that specifically her love alone fuels the narrator to feel this.

This passage reflects on the question of why the measure of love is lost. I believe that at this particular moment the narrator would argue against that notion, as their soliloquy shows just how deep and intense the feeling of reciprocated love is. The narrator struggles to determine whether love is as confusing and unattainable as it has been most of their life, or if it is this  bright and shiny thing, the stuff of fairy tales. Although they have finally achieved reciprocal love, it has been at the expense of others happiness.  I think that is important to note because the narrator is blindsighted and living in their own world that only contains Louise. It is almost as though they lost touch of reality. Sometimes it seems that love borderlines infatuation.




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