The Vagina: A Literary and Cultural History
Emma L. E. Rees
Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub
From South Park to Kathy Acker, from Lars Von Trier to Sex and the City, women's sexual organs are demonized. In The Vagina: A Literary and Cultural History, Emma L.E. Rees investigates the evolution of this demonization: she considers how writers, artists and filmmakers contend with the dilemma of he vagina's puzzling 'covert visibility' and how the 'c-word' is an obscenity that both legitimates and perpetuates the fractured identities of women globally.
In our postmodern, porn-obsessed culture, vaginas appear to be everywhere, literally or symbolically but, crucially, they are as silenced as they are objectified. Even common slang terms for the vagina can be seen as an attempt to divert attention away from the reality of women's lived sexual experiences: slang offers a convenient distraction from something taboo. The Vagina: A Literary and Cultural History is an important contribution to the ongoing debate in understanding the feminine identity.
Kid are naturalistic, in Love Scene, the second play in the collection, they are not. In this avant-garde rendering of the Fall, a man and woman are on stage but they say nothing. The only speech is that of the disembodied, rather fractious ‘Voice’, a peevish stage-manager, omniscient auteur-God. Like Blanche Dubois (in A Streetcar Named Desire) in reverse, Voice cries out that ‘I want REALISM, goddamn it!’ and grows increasingly frustrated, blasphemous and sexually crude as the couple circle and
Church’s intransigence on matters of doctrine is the object of Coover’s attack. Because, as the Priest says, ‘Our position is theologically indisputable’, he demands that the Man penetrate the already-six-months-pregnant Woman so as to prove the impossibility or, rather, to secure the avoidance, of a second virgin birth.81 Like the other plays in the volume this is, of course, not naturalistic. The Woman is a silent, non-malevolent presence on the stage, an observer, as the two male characters
hopelessly corporeal body which Acker, in the last stages of the breast cancer which killed her at the age of 50, would come all too vividly to understand. The dominant emotion in the description, then, is not ‘disgust’ at, but fear of, the inexorable deterioration of the ageing body. In 1984, Acker published the 29-page pamphlet Algeria: A Series of Invocations Because Nothing Else Works.185 The first page is black and, prominently positioned in its centre is the single word in white: ‘CUNT’.
Secret of Fascination (Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois University Press, 2003), p. 230. On how the autonomous bodily organ is not subject to ‘an exploitable oral-genital organization’, but, rather, suggests ‘other forms of social organization implied by different subject-structures’, see Timothy S. Murphy, Wising up the Marks: the Amodern William Burroughs (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1997), p. 98. 37Eurydice Kamvyselli, f/32: The Second Coming (London: Virago, 1993). The
choice of two fictions: either the head is a head, but of a baby, or the head is a penis, and being cut off. These arms/thighs [. . . are] invisible yet highly visible’.19 Gentileschi’s representation of the assassination, particularly the 1620 version, is far more bloodthirsty than those of her contemporaries such as Sirani or even Caravaggio: ‘she wished to evoke the spectator’s fear of the homicidal woman’.20 Why, in 1620, did Gentileschi reproduce almost exactly the same picture as her