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Polymorphous Domesticities

Polymorphous Domesticities: Pets, Bodies, and Desire in Four Modern Writers

Juliana Schiesari
Series: FlashPoints
Copyright Date: 2012
Edition: 1
Pages: 144
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1525/j.ctt1pnzkg
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  • Book Info
    Polymorphous Domesticities
    Book Description:

    Polymorphous Domesticitiesmaps out the play of gender, sexuality, and alternative forms of domesticity in the works of four modern European and American writers-Edith Wharton, Djuna Barnes, Colette, and J. R. Ackerley. What these four writers have in common is a defiance of patriarchal paradigms in their lives as well as in their works. Not only did they live outside the norms of the heterosexual family unit, they also pursued and wrote about alternative lifestyles that prominently involved animals. Through close readings from a feminist perspective, Juliana Schiesari reconfigures the ways in which interspecies relationships inflect domestic spheres, reading the "Other" through the lens of gender, home, and family. As she explores how domestic life is refigured by the presence of animals, Schiesari challenges anthropocentric frames of reference and brings the very definition of "human" into question.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-95231-7
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-15)

    This book continues the exploration I began inBeasts and Beauties: Animals, Gender and Domestication in the Italian Renaissanceconcerning the co-development of two different but related forms of domestication since the Renaissance: the new culture of domesticated animals that issued forth in the modern phenomenon of the “pet,” and the contemporaneous delineation of the home as a uniquely private enclosure, where thepater familiasruled over his own secluded world of domesticated wife, children, servants—and animals.¹ The early modern invention of the pet, I argue, takes place squarely within the simultaneous negotiation of modern family relations that have...

  5. CHAPTER 1 Re-Visions of Diana in Edith Wharton
    (pp. 16-37)

    My reading of Edith Wharton’s poem “Artemis to Actaeon” and her short story “Kerfol” will situate these works in the broader context of what has been called Wharton’s “lurking feminism,” which refigures the myth of Diana as protector of those under her care and punisher of those who would violate her sacred charges.¹ Edith Wharton’s “Artemis to Actaeon” serves as an introduction to the short story “Kerfol,” even though no direct narrative link exists between the two pieces. The poem shows that Wharton knew quite well the myth of Diana and Actaeon, and a more covert inscription of that myth...

  6. CHAPTER 2 Colette at Home
    (pp. 38-75)

    If anyone has succeeded in carrying out, through her writing, the Dianic charge of protecting women and animals, not negatively, by vindicating and affirming a female power to inflict retribution, but positively, by celebrating domestic diversity, it would be Colette, a contemporary of both Wharton and Barnes. In Colette’s case, the affirmation of that domesticity was also the birth of an author who turned the intimate and the quotidian into subject matter worthy of literature. The developing role of the beast in her work charts not only her trajectory as a writer but also her success in marking out a...

  7. CHAPTER 3 Romancing the Beast: J. R. Ackerley’s Dog Days and the Meaning of Sex
    (pp. 76-113)

    “I think love is beautiful and important—anyhow I have found it so in spite of all the pain—and it will sadden me if you fail in this particular way.”¹ So wrote E. M. Forster to his friend the writer and literary editor J. R. Ackerley, upon Ackerley’s apparent turn away from his sexual predilection for young working-class boys and toward a state of total absorption by his dog, Queenie—whom Forster, in an unkind and no doubt somewhat jealous turn of phrase, called “that unnecessary bitch.” Having acquired Queenie from an imprisoned ex-lover—the story is told in...

  8. Afterword
    (pp. 114-116)

    The very notion implied in the concept and practice of polymorphism, as envisioned in this book, is that living creatures cannot be reduced to a single model or body. The model of a polymorphous domesticity evoked here is both dynamic and fluid in structure. In it, a plurality of bodies challenge the anthropocentric tendency to view the human subject as central to itself (even though some of the readings point to a dystopian polymorphous space). Edith Wharton, Djuna Barnes, and Colette, three modern “Dianas,” both revise and embody her myth and thus open up a role for animals to play...

  9. Notes
    (pp. 117-126)
  10. Bibliography
    (pp. 127-132)
  11. Back Matter
    (pp. 133-133)