Writing, Identity, & Queer Studies

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

Tag: emotions

Language (or Distance)

The verse novel “Autobiography of Red” by Anne Carson I was especially struck by the way in which she uses different languages or rather how she lets Geryon use and understand different languages. There are interferences of German, Quechua, and Spanish during the time of Geryon’s travels.

As Geryon travels to Argentina and later to Peru it makes sense for the people around him to speak Spanish, as it is their native language. Ancash and his mother often use it to communicate with each other and Herakles also uses Spanish sporadically, often disrupting a previous conversation.

Quechua is only referred to once and Geryon inquires the meaning of Ancash’s name, which we never get to know. Spoiler alert: it means “blue” and thus introduces another color, but that is a whole other conversation.

The third language is German, which Geryon refers to when writing postcards back home. It is a language that is far away from the Spanish language and he feels alienated and insecure while using it, wondering if it was illegal to write in German and not Spanish. He mentions that he studied German philosophy in college which explains the highly stylized and old wording of the German sentences but it doesn’t explain why it feels so wrong to him to use it. I believe that he uses the language to express himself to people that mean a lot to him (his mother and professor) and that it makes him feel vulnerable, which is why he doesn’t want it to be discovered. When people use a language that you don’t understand it distances you and makes you a stranger to the conversation. I think the novel is very inventive in using different languages to portray (emotional) distance.

Gender Trouble Butterfly

Within Gender Trouble, written by Judith Butler, Newton gives a powerful message:

At its most complex, [drag] is a double inversion that says, “appearance is an illusion.” Drag says [Newtons curious personification] “my ‘outside’ appearance is feminine, but my essence ‘inside’ [the body] is masculine.” At the same time it symbolizes the opposite inversion; “my appearance ‘outside’ [my body, my gender] is masculine but my essence ‘inside’ [myself] is feminine” (Butler, 137).

From this, a very troubling and complex statement arises from the works of David Henry Wang in his play M. Butterfly, with Song stating that:

Like, I think the reason we fight wars is because we wear clothes (Wang, 55).

The “double inversion” proposed in Butler’s work stings true to the heart when Song gives the ultimate reason for gender/identity mayhem. Newton, through Butler, introduces the idea and separation between appearance and feeling along the lines of respective gender femininity and/or masculinity. The relation between Song’s position in M. Butterfly and the words of Newton within Butler’s work is that Song ‘plays’ the gender role of female, while standing as a biological male. In this situation, Newton would classify her as the first portion of his writing: “[her] ‘outside’ appearance is feminine, but [her] essence ‘inside’ [the body] is masculine.” Song believes that it is this binary between sex and gender that she encompasses as a whole, that creates issues in the world. It is this mere contradiction of appearance and biology that allow for disagreement, argument and ultimately disapproval of ‘differences.’

The very evident similarities between these two works and the gender binaries that exist and are explained within the words of the text suggest important, relevant as well as controversial binaries such as femininity versus masculinity, sex versus gender, male versus female and appearance versus feelings/emotions (‘inside’ versus ‘outside’). These binaries exposed in Gender Trouble allow one to clearly identify the important aspects of sexuality as well as gender identity within M. Butterfly and ultimately relate them to real world issues as a whole.

The suggestive material stating, “appearance is an illusion” in M. Butterfly needs the unambiguous explanation given in Gender TroubleGender Trouble is ultimately used as a lens to better understand the allusions, suggestions and binaries within M. Butterfly. These two texts are linked and intertwined ever so perfectly through meaning, connotation and annotation that they need one to understand the other. Allusion and illusion need definition to make things clear, yet definition needs allusion and illusion to make things interesting.

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