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By Tracy Hargreaves

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Extra resources for Androgyny in Modern Literature

Sample text

They are beautiful youths of feminine delicacy and with effeminate forms; they do not cast their eyes down, but gaze in mysterious triumph, as if they knew of a great achievement of happiness, about which silence must be kept. The familiar smile of fascination leads one to guess that it is a secret of love. It is possible that in these figures Leonardo has denied the unhappiness of his erotic life and has triumphed over it in his art, by representing the wishes of the boy, infatuated with his mother, as fulfilled in the blissful union of male and female natures.

Antoinette unwittingly echoes Dennis’s impasse (he can’t write music when men like Alan are being sacrificed in the war) when she is unable to articulate what she feels for Hester Cawthorn: ‘Impossible to express and impossible to set free’ (p. 56). For Dennis, this dilemma – the impossibility of expression – becomes a musical and sexual block. Antoinette, on the other hand, finds it 42 Androgyny in Modern Literature thrilling as it necessitates the secret and therefore sublime expression of a sexuality that is socially unacceptable.

Mrs Blackwood claims that she can read her husband and elder son like an open book; but the kind of book Dennis’s ‘type’ might feature in would not be part of her reading matter: those privately printed monographs, essays and medical case histories constituted a secret sub-cultural discourse, invisible to the dominant world at large and available mainly to those with a professional interest, evident from the frontispiece of Lind’s Autobiography of an Androgyne. Even Dennis and Antoinette do not appear to have a basis for understanding ‘what’ they are in the taxonomies of sexual desire.

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