Sedgwick hasn’t met Mina and Lucy

In her introduction to Between Men, Eve Sedwick draws upon queer theory to explore the continuum of male homosocial desire in literature. Sedgwick argues that there is a difference in our society between “the relatively continuous relation of female homosocial and homosexual bonds” and “the radically discontinuous relation of male homosocial and homosexual bonds” (5). Essentially, she argues that for women, homosocial and homosexual bonds don’t fall on the opposite end of the spectrum from each other, but that homosocial bonds can describe the whole continuum; however, she argues that for men, homosocial bonds are markedly different from homosexual bonds. Furthermore, Sedgwick suggests that the reason that we can’t say that male homosocial and homosexual bonds are on the same continuum is because homophobia is necessary to maintain a heterosexual marital institution. Therefore, men work hard to ensure that their homosocial relationships aren’t erotic. When looking at Dracula through the lens of Sedgwick’s argument, we talked in class about the distinct moments where Stoker’s male characters seem to be encroaching on a homosexual relationship. However, Sedgwick’s argument fails to account for the moments we discussed where Mina and Lucy also exhibit homosexual behaviors, not just a homosocial bond, and how the book works to maintain heterosexuality.

To follow Sedgwick’s argument would entail us to view Mina’s obsession with Lucy and her appearance as simply being part of homosocial bonds. However, our class discussions have called out the times where their relationship crosses into more erotic territory. When Mina and Lucy visit the graveyard, Mina recounts how they sat together, saying “it was all so beautiful before us that we took hands as we sat” (Stoker, 76). One could argue that the two women holding hands is erotic because it is a display of desire. Sedgwick might counter that to say that Mina and Lucy holding hands still exhibits a homosocial bond because homosocial bonds in women can include eroticism, but male homosocial bonds can’t include eroticism because “homophobia is a necessary consequence of such patriarchal institutions as heterosexual marriage” (Sedgwick, 3). However, immediately after Mina’s description of them holding hands, she says, “and she told me all over again about Arthur and their coming marriage” (Stoker, 76). For this reminder of heterosexuality to so closely accompany a display of physical affection between women suggests a need to counter any assumptions of homosexuality between Mina and Lucy, like what Sedgwick suggests men have to do.

We talked in class about Mina’s obsession with Lucy; how she looks, where she sleeps. At one point, Mina describes Lucy as having “more colour in her cheeks than usual, and looks, oh, so sweet” (Stoker, 99). Her attentiveness to Lucy’s appearance and well-being appears to be more than the behavior of two friends. At another point, when Lucy is getting up in the night and getting dressed, Mina describes how she “managed to undress [Lucy] without waking her, and got her back to bed” (Stoker, 96). Reading through the lens of Sedgwick, these actions still fall under the umbrella of homosocial bonds for women; however, the fact that both Mina and Lucy are in romantic relationships with other men lends itself to there being an “‘obligatory heterosexuality’” that “is built into” both “male-dominated kindship systems” as well as female relationships (Sedgwick, 3).

One thought on “Sedgwick hasn’t met Mina and Lucy”

  1. You said that when Lucy immediately brings up her marriage after holding hands with Mina, it de-eroticizes what is going on between Lucy and Mina, but I somewhat disagree. I think that female homoeroticism is more acceptable because it is erasable. Yes their relationship is erotic. Yes it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t affect the validity of the heterosexual relationships because of the phalli-centric paradigm. If no penis is involved, it’s a lot harder for men (the ones in power) to suspect that they’re having sex and for their relationship to be threatening to the patriarchy.

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