Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Narcisssism and sexuality

In Gautier's Mademoiselle de Maupin, we get a frank discussion of his own sexuality from the principal male character, the poet D'Albert. While his sincerity and articulateness in his letters are admirable, the character they defray is appalling.

First, D'Albert is a convinced and over-the-top aesthete, who rejects anything less than beautifuk
C’est un véritable supplice pour moi que de voir de vilaines choses ou de vilaines personnes.

It's a real torture for me to see ugly things or ugly people.
Disappointed with his own lack of great beauty, he revela himself as a narcissist as well:
Bien des fois je me regarde, des heures entières, dans le miroir avec une fixité et une attention inimaginables, pour voir s’il n’est pas survenu quelque amélioration dans ma figure.

Many times I look at myself in the mirror. for hours at a time, with unimaginable steadiness and attnetion. to see whether there has been any improvement in my face.
And his narcissism extends to wishing not to be a handsome man, but a beautiful womanL
Quel dommage que ce soit un homme, ou quel dommage que je ne sois pas une femme !

What a pity that to be a man, or what a pity that I sam not a woman!
In making love to his mistress, he tries in vain to enter her mind and experience her experiences, to meld their sequel experiences together.

Looking around for true beauty, he finds it at its highest in a new arrival, Théodore, a woman disguises as a man:
Le seul défaut qu’il ait, c’est d’être trop beau et d’avoir des traits trop délicats pour un homme."

The only fault he has is that he is too beautiful and has feaures too delicate for a man
He starts to pursue Théodore, portraying himself as of the opposite gender:
Je me suis prostitué, et j’ai fait comme une vierge qui s’en irait dans un mauvais lieu espérant trouver un amant parmi ceux que la débauche y pousse.

I prostituted myself, and have acted like a virgin who goes into a bad place hoping to find a lover among those who are driven their by debauchery.

Finally he finds himself falling deeply in love with what he thinks is a man, as he writes to his friend Silvio:
J’ai découvert l’affreuse vérité… Silvio, j’aime… Oh ! non, je ne pourrai jamais te le dire… j’aime un homme !

I have dissevered the frightening truth … Si;vio, I love … Oh, no, I could never say it … I love a manna

Madempoiselle de Maupin is an amazingly bold, insightful, experimental work in the guise of an epistolary love novel.

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