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"Desirable images" :
b sexual mapping in William S. Burroughs's Naked lunch and Samuel R. Delany's Dhalgren
h [electronic resource] /
by Patrick McGowan.
[Tampa, Fla] :
University of South Florida,
Title from PDF of title page.
Document formatted into pages; contains 44 pages.
Thesis (M.A.)--University of South Florida, 2009.
Includes bibliographical references.
Text (Electronic thesis) in PDF format.
ABSTRACT: In "Postmodernism, or, the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism," Fredric Jameson describes the disappearance, within postmodernism, of an objective framework for mapping the social totality. In order to illustrate this concept, Jameson draws upon the ideas of urban planner Kevin Lynch as formulated in his seminal work, The Image of the City. For Lynch, the design of the postwar alienated city results in varying and fragmentary "cognitive maps" used by its inhabitants to negotiate urban space, a problem that can be rectified by "good" urban planning, which aims to create mappable public space through the implementation of external orientation markers. Utilizing this framework, this thesis suggests the existence of an aesthetic countertendency, within postwar literature, to Jameson's vision that is exemplified in William S. Burroughs's Naked Lunch and Samuel R. Delany's Dhalgren.These novels integrally deploy alienated urban environments as settings; however, rather than suggesting structural public spaces as solutions, they offer an alternative, opposite stratagem: the externalization of the intimate onto the public sphere through the integration of pornography. By using the sexual to map character space, they suggest an alternative to Michel Foucault's discursive formulation of sexuality, one that resonates with more recent theoretical work by Leo Bersani and Michael Warner.In order to examine the role of pornography within these works, this thesis integrates Frances Ferguson's account of the pornographic from her study, Pornography, the Theory, which looses pornography from prior "interpretive" models and recasts it as a distinct regime of representation that stresses objectivity and concretization, particularly in relation to the abstract notion of the "social body." While Delany's Dhalgren offers an image- based deployment of the pornographic experience, in which characters' viewing of the pornographic / sexual leads to full cognition and visual perception, Burroughs's Naked Lunch presents a more physical model, wherein subjective sexual experience (particularly in the rendering of the "mosaic orgasm") ultimately affords the subject with panoptic capabilities.
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Advisor: Michael Clune, Ph.D.
t USF Electronic Theses and Dissertations.
Desirable Images: Sexual Mapping in William S. Burroughss Naked Lunch and Samuel R. Delanys Dhalgren by Patrick McGowan A thesis submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts Department of English College of Arts and Sciences University of South Florida Major Professor: Michael Clune, Ph.D. Susan Mooney, Ph.D. Shirley Toland Dix, Ph.D. Date of Approval: April 10, 2009 Keywords: city, frances ferguson, fredric jameson, kevin lynch, pornography, postmodernism, postwar literature, sexualit y, michel foucault, michael warner Copyright 2009 Patrick Mcgowan
Dedication I thank my director, Dr. Michael Clune, and my committee members, Dr. Susan Mooney and Dr. Shirley TolandDix, for their invaluable input on this project.
i Table of Contents Abstract ii Chapter One Introduction 1 Chapter Two Samuel R. Delanys Dhalgren 9 Chapter Three Pornography and the Postwar Novel 17 Chapter Four William S. Burroughss Naked Lunch 28 Chapter Five Conclusion 37 Works Cited 41
ii Desirable Images: Sexual Mapping in William S. Burroughss Naked Lunch and Samuel R. Delanys Dhalgren Patrick McGowan ABSTRACT In Postmodernism, or, the Cultural Logi c of Late Capitalism, Fredric Jameson describes the disappearance, within postmode rnism, of an objective framework for mapping the social totality. In order to illu strate this concept, Jameson draws upon the ideas of urban planner Kevin Lynch as formulated in his seminal work, The Image of the City For Lynch, the design of the postwar al ienated city results in varying and fragmentary cogniti ve maps used by its inhabitants to negotiate urban space, a problem that can be rectified by good urban planni ng, which aims to create mappable public space through the implementation of external orientation markers. Utilizing this framework, this thesis suggest s the existence of an aesth etic countertendency, within postwar literature, to Jamesons vision that is exemplified in William S. Burroughss Naked Lunch and Samuel R. Delanys Dhalgren These novels integrally deploy alienated urban environments as settings; however, rather than suggesting structural public spaces as solutions, they offer an alternative, opposite stratagem: the externalization of the intimate onto the public sphere through the integration of
iii pornography. By using the sexual to map character space, they suggest an alternative to Michel Foucaults discursive formulation of sexuality, one that resonates with more recent theoretical work by Leo Bersani and Mich ael Warner. In order to examine the role of pornography within these works, this thes is integrates Frances Fergusons account of the pornographic from her study, Pornography, the Theory which looses pornography from prior interpretive models and recasts it as a distinct regime of representation that stresses objectivity and concretization, particularly in relation to the abstract notion of the social body. While Delanys Dhalgren offers an imagebased deployment of the pornographic experience, in which characters viewing of the pornographic / sexual leads to full cognition and visual perception, Burroughss Naked Lunch presents a more physical model, wherein subjective sexual expe rience (particularly in the rendering of the mosaic orgasm) ultimately affords the subject with panoptic capabilities.
1 Chapter One Introduction Since its introduction in Postmodernis m, or, the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism, Fredric Jamesons concept of the subjects inability to locate itself in space has long served as a key periodizing featur e of the postmodern cu ltural landscape. He describes the disappearance of an objectiv e framework, within postmodernism, for mapping the social totality, both within su bjective consciousness and in the realm of artistic representation. What has replaced it, he argues, is abstract space, a uniquely postmodern phenomenon, which he defines as: . the power network of socalled multin ational capitalism itself. As individuals, we are in and out of all these overlap ping dimensions all the time, something which makes an older kind of existential positioning of ourselves in Being the human body in the natural landscape, the indi vidual in the older village or organic community, even the citizen in the nati on-state exceedingly problematical. (127) Because this environment of abstract space is so intangible, Jameson describes the primary postmodern challenge as one centered around aesthetics and the impossibilities of representation: . . we know that we are caught within thes e more complex global networks because we palpably suffer the prolongations of corporate space everywhere in our daily lives. Yet we have no way of thi nking about them, of modeling them, however abstractly, in our minds eye (127). Frami ng it as an exemplary attempt at conveying this disjunction on a spatial leve l, Jameson examines the house project of architect Frank
2 Gehry as a means of reconcili ng the space between an abstracted . . superstate and the existential daily life of people in their traditional rooms and tract houses (128). Due to the force and wide applicability of Jamesons vision, a crucial aesthetic countertendency in some works of postwar l iterature has remained largely concealed. This technique can be located in certain lite rary works integrati on of the pornographic, whereby some of porns essential features namely, the objectification and public presentation of the personal / intimate, th e transformation of narrative into detailed, objective action, and the heightened potential for recognition and se lfidentification function to provide the necessary fram ework for perceiving postmodern space.1 In this account, I refer to pornography as both the ways in which pornographic materials and sexuality operate at the characte r plot level, and, more br oadly, the authors structural deployment of pornographic form and the effect it has on characters, objects, and readers. While pornographic imagemaking provides th e most salient manifestation of this technique through its primary emphasis on obj ectification, its dynamics also extend to more conventional representations of sexuality, which produce similar effects. Although evident in several writers wo rk, including that of Kathy Acker and William Gibson, this dynamic is immediat ely apparent in William S. Burroughss Naked Lunch and Samuel R. Delanys Dhalgren two novels that simila rly utilize pornography 1 In his influential essay Forms of Time and of the Chronotope in the Novel, M.M. Bakhtin observes a similar trend, albeit in a different context. Examining spacetime relations throughout the history of the novel, Bakhtin describes the Ancient Greek Romance, which focuses solely on the individual, private person (108), as abstract, not co ncerned with the discrete particulars of time and space. Accordingly, this personal time is characterized as scattered, fra gmented, deprived of essential connections (128). Bakhtin notes an increasing sense of publicness and c oncreteness with the adve nt of the biographical / autobiographical form, and its breakdo wn in the rise of the private rhetor ical form of the familiar letter and the domain of the drawing room (143). Bakhtin ultimately locates the culmination of the public, exterior form in the work of Rabelais, whose exa ggerated and purely physical, anatomical descriptions endow the body and the world with a new meaning and concrete reality, a new materiality (170). Of course, along with eating, drinking, defecating, representations of the sexual are a major component of this concretizing process.
3 as a mechanism for perceiving their unm appable urban settings. When examined together, these novels provide an illustration of the varied and flexible cognitive function pornography is called upon to perform in postmodernism. By incorporating this technique, both novels provide an alternative method, previously obscured within postmodern discourse, of approaching postmodern space.2 Because these novels explicitly concern themselves with the problems faced by the subject within the postwar city (extrapola ted in both novels into semifuturistic urban settings), the theories of urban planner Kevin Lynch, as postulated in his groundbreaking work, The Image of the City provide an integral contex t for examining their spatial dynamics. In this work, Lynch offers an account of urban space that neatly illustrates Jamesons theory of the postmodern within a more immediate, concrete domain. For Lynch, the alienated city leaves its inhabitant s with partial mental images of the city 2 Todd A. Comer, in his essay Playing at Birth: Samuel R. Delanys Dhalgren, very briefly frames Delanys novel within Jamesons concept of postm odernism. Because Comers primary concerns are subjectivity and myth, which meet in the question of how the author function oper ates (186) in the novel, he locates the transformation of the abstract in an ex cerpt of the protagonists wr iting, rather than in the novels deployment of sexuality. As one might expect, both works have often been read within a more conventional postmodern context. Sharon Degraw notes Delanys . . extensive utilizati on of poststructural and postmodernist theories and . . his explorations of the fragmented and unstable nature of postmodern subjectivity (118). Robert Elliot Fox posits that Dhalgrens setting serves as . . an Ozymandian realm in which the pride of late capitalist society has been . shaken, if not yet fully humbled (98) and more generally identifies Delany with continental postmodern theory ( Conscientious Sorcerers ). Jeffrey Allen Tucker declares Delany to be quintessentially postmodern and the ideal postmodern intellectual (35). Many critics, such as Robin Lydenberg, interpret Burroughss body of work as anticipating that of the major poststructuralist and postmodern theorists through its challenge to our conventional notions about the status of the author in the text, about the referentiality of language, and about the dualism of Western thought (xi). N. Katherine Hayles frames her observation of disembodiment in Burroughss Naked Lunch as predicting . . Fredric Jamesons claim that an information society is the purest form of capitalism (42) and Burroughss characterization of the word as anticipating the work of Foucault and Derrida (212). Timothy Murphy, however, presents a different view critical of the postmodernization of Burroughss work, particularly in the scholarship of Lydenberg, in his study Wising Up the Marks: The Amodern William Burroughs (27, 73). Murphy approaches Burroughs as an amodern author one who . . accepts the failure of modernist ends . and means . without taking the add itional step of homogenizing all remaining difference and thereby finds an escape route from the linked control systems of capital, subjectivity, and language (2-4). Murphy contra sts postmodernisms negative totalization and modernisms mythic totalization with amodern positive totalization (27, 34).
4 used for mapping and positioning, which genera lly do not conform to the actual design of city space, and, furthermore, vary signifi cantly among individuals who occupy the same space. Lynch draws upon a number of accounts by city dwellers from Boston, Jersey City, and Los Angeles to pres ent common themes, or makesh ift markers of orientation, including paths, edges, d istricts, nodes, and landm arks. The proposed goal of Lynchs study is a practical one to use these elements in future city planning projects in order for urban environments to be more clearly perceived and navigated, essentially rendered legible, so that their parts can be recognized and . organized into a coherent pattern (3); with in such a vivid setting, the sketchy mental maps used by individuals would ideally conform to the ac tual urban landscape, constituting a shared and necessary public image (46). Based on Lynchs findings, this ideal setting would enhance total visibility through open and defined space. Since the publication of Lynch's The Image of the City in 1960, multidisciplinary research, spanning architecture, psychology, a nd geography, has consistently yielded the fundamentally egocentric nature of cognitive mapping. In keeping with Lynchs more generalized conclusion, this theory suggests th at individuals rely primarily on subjective experience in mentally mapping terrain. Psychologists Timothy P. MacNamara and Christine M. Valiquette maintain that . . e gocentric experience is the dominant cue for selecting an intrinsic refere nce system because environments rarely have axes or directions as salient as those by point of view (19). They proceed to question the possibility of creating . . an environment that has an internal structure so salient that it
5 would dominate the usual tendency for intr insic organization to be selected based on egocentric point of view. 3 In Dhalgren and Naked Lunch, the techniques use to a lign the subjective spatial perception of characters with a more objectiv e sense of shared absolute space diverge from those proposed by social science. While the aforementioned re searchers naturally tend to emphasize the importance of creating cl early defined public spaces in order to orient and objectively homogenize the private maps of individuals, the technique at work in Dhalgren and Naked Lunch employs an opposite stratagem: externalizing the intimate, which impresses itself onto a shared p ublic sphere, through the integration of pornography. Although both of the no vels are largely narrated in the third person with the use of free indirect speech to relate the more subjective view of pr imary characters, these interior states become objectified and exte riorized in scenes of intense sexual or pornographic activity, lending a sense of clarity and access to characters sense of subjective space for other characters and readers.4 In his memoir The Motion of Light in Water: Sex and Science Fiction Writing in the East Village Delany explicitly draw s a connection between visibility and sex that further illustrates some of the concepts ela borated here. Describing his experiences in the St. Marks baths, he suggests, I have writ ten of a space at a certain libidinal saturation before. That was not what frightened me. It was rather that the saturation was not only 3 See also Roger Downs and David Stea, Image and Environment (9); Robert Lloyd, Spatial Cognition: Geographic Environments (9-10, 12); Nora S. Newcombe and Julia Sluzenski, Starting Points and Change in Early Spatial Development, Human Spatial Memory ; Romedi Passini, Wayfinding in Architecture (38). 4 As the reader may observe, this tech nique occurs more consistently in Naked Lunch than Dhalgren, partially due to the scope and diversity of Delanys ambitious novel, which captures the heterogeneity of postmodern experience. The intent of this paper, however, is to address this discrete feature as an interesting new deployment of sexuality that resonates with other novels and more recent theoretical work.
6 kinesthetic but visible. You could see what was going on throughout the dorm (292). Delany continues: Whether male, female, working or middle cl ass, the first direct sense of political power comes from the apprehension of massed bodies. That Id felt it and was frightened by it means that others had felt it too. The myth said we, as isolated perverts, were only beings of desire, manifestations of the subject (yes, gone awry, turned from its true object, but fo r all that, even more purely subjective and isolated). But what this experience said was that there was a populationnot of individual homosexuals, some of whom now and then encountered, or that those encounters could be fulfilling and human in their waynot of hundreds, not of thousands, but rather of millions of gay men, and that history had, actively and already, created for us whole galleries of instituti ons, good and bad, to accommodate our sex. Institutions such as subway johns or the trucks, while they accommodated sex, cut it, visibly, up into tiny portions. It was like Eighteen Happenings in Six Parts No one ever got to see its whole. These in stitutions cut it up and made it invisiblecertainly much less visibleto the bo urgeois world that claimed the phenomenon deviant and dangerous. But, by the same t oken, they cut it up and thus made any apprehension of its totality all but im possible to those who pursued it. And any suggestions of that totality, even in such a form as Saturday night at the baths, was frightening to those of us whod had no suggestion of it before. (293) In this passage, Delany provides a minute account of changing notions of queerness and sexuality and the ways in whic h sexual visibility can serve a cognitive purpose within postmodernity. Delanys prio r experience in the dorm bears a close relationship to Jamesons theoretical descrip tion of postmodernism, which is drastically transformed by Delanys encounter with total sexual visibility. What the discussed novels signify, more broadly, is the transformation of sexuality from a modernist to postmodern variant. As Michel Foucault observes, th e modernist form of sexuality can be characterized as a network of nodes, tacitly en twined with socialscientific institutional power: it claimed to ensure the physical vigor and moral cleanliness of the social body . The essential point is that sex was not only a matter of se nsation and pleasure, of law and taboo, but also of truth and fals ehood, that the truth of sex became something
7 fundamental, useful, or dangerous, precious or formidable . . (54, 56). In literary modernism, consequently, sexual representa tion is generally deployed as a variously challenging, experimental, or tr ansgressive device. In keepin g with Foucaults notion of an inner truth, this deployment of sexuali ty often achieves representation through a streamofconsciousness oriented fictio [n] of interiority a nd sexuality (Boone 5). Because of the particular problems with space in postmodernism, however, postwar authors are able to exploit the new cognitiv e function of sexuality in order to produce a necessary concretizing effect. While Jameson ar gues for the impossibility of conceptually modeling postmodern space, Burroughs, Delany, and others have readily appropriated the sexual as a mechanism for mapping such immanent forms of abstraction. The novels emphases on representations of male homosexual sex practices and queerness more generally are also important aspects of this t echnique. Although the concept of cognitive sexual mapping established here applies equally to all manifestations of sexuality and pornography (e.g. heterosexual, bisexual), Leo Bersanis concept of homo-ness offers some compelli ng descriptions of th e egotranscendent, outwardoriented, and intersubjective propertie s of sexual experience th at facilitate some of the concepts operating here. Bersani inscri bes in homo-ness a desire to repeat, to expand, to intensify the same . here indi vidual selves are points along a transversal network of being in which otherness is to lerated as the nonthreatening margin of, or supplement to, a seductive sameness (149-150). Bersani sets traditional, heteronormative sexual privacy and intimacy, which stems from a desire based on lack and difference, in opposition to homoness, which involves rec ognizing oneself in the desired object. This melding of public sexua lity with a recognition between subject and
8 object forms a significant new way of conceiving sexuality that extends to various sexual representations in these novels.
9 Chapter Two Samuel R. Delanys Dhalgren Samuel R. Delanys Dhalgren first published in 1975, pres ents a break with the authors previous output of more conventiona l sciencefiction work. The approximately eighthundred page novel is set in Bellona, a fictional heterotopian ci ty located directly in the middle of the United States, wherein an unarticulated disastrous event has loosed its inhabitants from normative power structur es. Its plot follows the journey of Kid, a schizophrenic and aspiring poet, as he enters Bellona and rises to a leadership position in the Scorpions, an interracial street gang, before attempting to flee the city amidst sweeping fires at the novels conclusion. Cr itics have noted sympathetic resonances between the novels characters and events and the general ethos of the 1960s counterculture, the historical backdrop of the works composition. Structurally, the novel is regarded for its deployment of multiple modes of discourse; while most of the novel is related in third person narrative, it also incorporates selections fr om Kids own writing, while the concluding section entirely purports to be excer pted from Kids journal. Because of the competing and conflicting narratives as well as the novels circular structure (the novels ending sentence seamle ssly elides into its first) many critics, including Delany, have compared it to an optical illusion such as the Necker Cube. According to critic Seth McEvoys estim ation, approximately thirtysix pages of the first edition of Dhalgren feature explicit re presentations of sex (106). Throughout the novel, the main narrative voice periodically lapses into the highly descriptive language
10 suggestive of pornography as characters spontaneously engage in various sex acts, often involving multiple participants. Because of Bellonas atypical setting, sexual activity is at times removed from its normative, private cont exts and resituated in public spaces such as alleys and parks as well as a group comm une operated by the Scorpions. In a moment of reflection, Kid ponders this contextual distinction: After baths . when youre still alone in the john, is the time for all those things you dont want people around for: jerking o ff, picking your nose and eating it, serious nail biting . His thoughts drifted to various places hes indulged such habits not so privately: seated at the fa r end of lunch counter s, standing at public urinals, in comparatively empty subway car s at night, in city parks at dawn. He smiled; he rubbed. (140) Dhalgren s Bellona represents Lynchs account of the alienated city carried to its extreme conclusion. Continually raging fires create a smoky pall that severely limits visibility: The smoke hides th e skys variety, stains consci ousness, covers the holocaust with something safe and insubstantial (75); The smoke was so thick he wondered if the glass were opaque and he only misremembered it as clear- (153). The citys -forever adjustable, therefore unlearnabl e- (383) building structures seem to change form and position, prohibiting even its most experien ced dwellers from accurately mapping their surroundings: You go down new streets, you see houses you never saw before, pass places you didnt know were there. Everything changes. . Sometimes it changes even if you go the same way (318-19). Echoing Lynch, Kid repeatedly offers remarks concerning the landscapes ability to overw helm its inhabitants: Does the Citys topology control us completely? (697); Do you think a city can control the way people live inside it? I mean, just the geography, the way the street s are laid out, the way the buildings are placed? (249-50); You have to put yourself at the mercy of the geography, and hope that downhi lls and uphills, working propitiously with how much
11 you feel like fighting and how much you feel like accepting, manage to get you there (326). In Bellona, the common markers that, a ccording to Lynchs thesis, lend city space its coherence are conspicuously absent or indistinguishable from surrounding space, making it the obverse of the mappable city: T he demarcation between land and street vanished beneath junk (77); Pavingstones were smashed, loose, or upside down in raw earth, so that he was not even certain where th e next street began ( 78); The streets lose edges, the rims of thought flake (156). Within this vastly incoherent urban environment, however, sex is often associated with a sense of clarity and perceptibility. Kids characterization as a schizophrenic poet is also worth mentioning, as schizophrenia has provided the classic mode l of postmodern confusion and modes of being for Jameson and other theorists, includ ing Jean Baudrillard and Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari. Jamesons application of Lacans linguistic concept of schizophrenia- a breakdown in the signifying chain to the r ealm of contemporary culturethat we are similarly unable to unify the past, present, and future of our own biographical lifeclosely mirrors Kids manner of experiencing reality in Dhalgren Throughout the novel, Kid consistently reaches into the stores of his memory, and cannot remember his age or name; his past is generally recollected in fleeting fragmentary images. While such a cognitively disorienting char acterization seems to further disrupt the potential for mapping Bellona, one could also ascribe a positive, productive value to Kids schizophrenia which happens to coincide with his role as a poet. Like the production of art and poetry, which, accordi ng to a certain conception, tran sforms subjective experience into a discrete object, the schizophrenic s ubject often finds it nece ssary to externalize interior experience in an attempt to impose order upon the surrounding environment.
12 While Kid is able to use his notebook as a repository for ordering experience to a certain extent, pornography and sexuality provide a more direct and intersubjective ordering mechanism. When Kid ultimately makes it into the city and enters its social domain, this process of cognitive sexual mapping becomes apparent6. Upon arriving at Bellonas city gates, he meets Tak Loufer, a former industr ial engineer and conde nsed, visible symbol of gay leather culture who serves as the citys informal gatekeeper and who gives Kid his new appellation. After briefly introducing Kid to some of Bellonas inhabitants who congregate in the citys park, Tak leads Kid to his rooftop residence for an expected sexual liaison (later, when Tak suggests Kid rem ove his shirt, the narr ator clearly states that He had known what was coming since hed accepted the invitation in the park ). Though Kid has trouble navigating the urban terrain partially because Only two out of forty-some park lights . were worki ng, he notices that Two pinheads of light pricked the darkness somewhere above [Tak s] sandy upper lip and Taks boot heels tattoo the way. I can envision a dotted line left after him. And someone might pick the night up by its edge, tear it al ong the perforations, crumple it, and toss it away (35-6). Kids observation distinguishes Taks subjec tive movement from the more permanent, material qualities of the landmark. After arriving at his building, Tak tells Kid that The whole city shifts, turns, rearranges itself. All the time. And rearranges us (36). He also notes that the sun occasionally alters its orientation point in Be llona, which presents a further challenge to its inhabitants sense of orientation. Once in side the room, Kid notices three, yardhigh, full color, photographic posters (42), each a sexually suggestive portrait of a man in
13 fetish gear. Kid realizes The bared genita ls were huge. The photographs had been taken from crotch level, too, to make them look ev en larger (43). The conspicuous presence of pornography in this case provides a clear definition of Taks space as a sexual one. While in the course of precoital conversation, Kid wonders: Did Taks voice veer, once more, towa rd that unsettling tone? Only by suggestion, he realized, and realized too: The longer he stayed, the less of that tone he would hear. Whatever request fo r complicity, in whatever labyrinth of despair, it made of the listener, whatever demand for relief from situations which were by definition unrelievable, these requests, these demands could only be made of the very new to such labyrinths, such situations. And time, even as he munched flat bread, was er asing that status. (46) With this comment, Kid draws an integr al connection betwee n the labyrinthine qualities of the unmappable city and interper sonal sexual familiarity and shared intimacy. As Kid becomes more intimate with Tak, the parallel spatial and intersubjective mazes begin to dissipate. At the initiation of the sex act, the narrator mentions that . . things had drifted to this without his really consider ing (48). As with most of Dhalgren s pornographic sequences, this reprieve is accompanied by a marked shift in narrativ e tone from inwardoriented discourse to outward, obj ective description. In his work A Sense of Wonder: Samuel R. Delany, Race, Identity, and Difference Jeffrey Allen Tucker acknowledges the centrality of quintessentially pos tmodern competing narratives in Dhalgren ; newspapers, journal entries, character di alogue, and other media present conflicting accounts of the same events with no clear clai m to truth (68). Howe ver, it appears that the novels recurrent lapses into pornogra phic narration provide a privileged, objective point of view that remains clear and unc ontested. While the surrounding narrative is presented in a suitably hazy, ostensibly third person speech which vaguely echoes Kids
14 confused, subjective thoughts, the sexual mome nt is accompanied by a characteristically pornographic narrative voice that marks an abru pt transition to object ive descriptions of action. In this instance, Kid s attempts to read Tak through his tone of voice, the objects in his room, and, more generally, his inquiries concerning Bellona and its inhabitants, are replaced w ith a clear expression of de sire and lucid, omniscient observation of intertwined bodies: He ground Ta ks nipple in his teeth, chin and nose rubbing in hair. He squeezed Taks testicles a few times, tightening his grip as much as he could; Taks rhythm quickened (50). The clarity of the sexual moment in Taks room is juxtaposed with the smoky gauzes that descend upon the city at Kids exit: The alley was a torrent of grey in which he coul d see no bottom (51). As Kid leaves, he has an extremely difficult time making it back out to the street that leaves him wondering if he should return to Taks shack, presumably to regain the clarity a ssociated with it. After Kid finally makes his way out into the city, the chapter closes and a new one begins with the positioning statement, H ere I am and am no I (55). This cryptic utterance marks a parallel memory in which Ki d, as a child, gets lost in an unknown city. Kids reminiscence begins in a park, where he comes across a group of naked, sexually engaged people. At this part icular moment, wherein Kid is cognizant of hi s surroundings and interacting with these individuals, his f eelings are characterized by contentment: So his sound, begun between song and sigh, ended in laughter; he ran back through the brush, pulling a music from their laughing till his was song again. He cantered down the path (57). As Kid wanders away from the park and into the unfamiliar city, his feelings transform to ones of fear and paranoia, echoing Lynchs characterization of urban spatial
15 disorientation: the st reet was loud with voices and ma chinery, so loud he could hardly catch rhythm for his song . He ran . He cried (58-9). Soon after his memory anecdote, Kid returns to Bellonas park; while there, significantly, In his mind were some dozen visions of the city. He jogged, jaggedly, among them (61). In the park, Kid meets his soonto be girlfriend, Lanya, a young musician who associates with the commune th at resides there. Kids sexual engagements with Lanya, which normally take place in publ ic spaces such as the park, are likewise associated with visual per ceptibility. Immediately before meeting Lanya for the second time, an occasion before the beginning of th eir relationship, Kid describes the problem of mapping in Bellona as he stares off into the smoggy horizon, stating With such disorientation there is no way to measure the angle between such nearly parallel lines of sight, when focusing on something at such di stance (85). After the two attend a party at Taks place, Lanya tells Kid, Youre looking for something. Youve got your eyes all squinched up. You were craning way out and .oh, you cant see anything for the smoke! (97). After, Kid suggests they return to the park with Lanya leading him in a manner similar to Taks guiding. Like his enc ounter with Tak, Kid knows that this was coming, too (104) when Lanya asks him to ta ke off his clothes. Remarking on the newly emergent second moon in Bellona, an unexpected appearance that further reinforces the unmappability of the city, Ki d mentally remarks: New m oons come . and all of heaven changes; still we silently machinate toward the joint of flesh and flesh, while the ground stays still enough to walk, no matter what above it (104). Kids comment situates sex, in the absence of common markers of space, as the only stable and concrete practice in Bellona. The ensuing sex scene is agai n rendered in the blunt language of the
16 pornographic: Then he crawle d up onto her; both her hands, thrust between her thighs, caught his cock; he pushed into her (105). In several subsequent sex scenes between the two characters, the visibilityenhancing result attendant upon the sex act is magnified; while Kid is essentially blinded in the darkness of the park, after engaging in sex There was a grey light after awhile. On his back, he watched leaves appear in it. Suddenly he sat, in one motion, to his knees (169). In another moment, Kid notices The red veil, between him and the darkness, here then there, f[a]ll away (248). As one can see, visibility and perceptibility within Dhalgren are crucially linked to a certain marker: pornography. Dhalgren s engagement with this unique form of sexual representation has gained attention from its critics. Tucker appraises . . Dhalgren s radical valorization of supposed ly abnormal sexual acts and its decentering of a sexual norm (69), while McEvoy briefly discerns Dhalgren s sex scenes as the most extreme manifestation of the novels central preoccupation with freedom and accurately differentiates them fr om the highly stylized sexual encounters that take place in most prope r literature (106). Reading Dhalgren alongside Delanys autobiographical output, John Moore examines the ways in which the novels depictions of sex are modeled on Delanys personal e xperiences, and, like McEvoy, inscribes its sexual representations within a context of fr eedom and a prioritiza tion of bodily pleasure (189-93). While these char acterizations provide de scriptive indicators of Dhalgren s sex scenes, they do not positively acknowledge th e unique cognitive function that they perform.
17 Chapter Three Pornography and the Postwar Novel One of the most recent and relevant de scriptions of pornography is presented by Frances Ferguson in her book Pornography, the Theory In response to the dominant proporn / antiporn framework, Ferguson offers a completely new way of understanding the pornographic by loosing it from thes e existing inter pretive models, 5 and instead examining it as a new regime of representation that shares features with, and a historical relation to, the utilitarianism of Jeremy Bent ham, which attempts to concretize and render 5 For antiporn feminists such as Catharine A. MacKinnon and Andrea Dworkin, pornography codifies the inequality of the sexes by naturalizing images of rape, sexual harassment, and coercion and presenting them as pure, unmediated sex. M acKinnon sees this heirarchizing e ffect of pornography as playing a primary role in normalizing women s oppression in other spheres such as the home, school, and workplace. Both Dworkin and MacKinnon take issue with the current legal definition of obscenity law, which situates obscenity on moral grounds, and attempt to rewrite it in political terms, as they conceive of pornography as a violation of womens fundamental rights. In the past several decades, there have been other significant formal analyses of pornography. In The Other Victorians (1965), Stephen Marcus examines several pornographic novels from the Victorian era, and concludes his study by extrapolating some of porns common formal features into a conceptual ideal that he terms Pornotopia. Marcus s term accentuates the fantasy element in pornograp hy and suggests porns resonance with utopian literature in its bo undless, featureless, freedom (269). Marcus further offers some general descriptions of pornographys qua lities, including its reader orientation, de-emphasis on external time and space, formulaity, phallocentrism, historical contingency, and infantile longing for jouissance. Marcuss final contention is primarily a literary account of pornography, as he situates porn in relation to literature; while porn fulfills Marcuss lite rary requirement of evoking (sexual) feeling, its singular intention and formlessness relegate it to the lower status of advertising and propaganda (278). Berkeley Kaites Pornography and Difference approaches the pornography debate in psychoanalytic deconstructive terms. Rather than viewing pornography as unmediated sex, Kaite engages the pornographic image as a dreamwork, and attempts to extract its a ssumptions about the reader. Her analysis is primarily textual, as she posits a claim that pornography consump tion does not spring from an unmediated sex drive, but rather from a desire for a textual fix, replete with formal codes and expectations. Kaite critiques the gender dichotomy that serves as the basis of M acKinnons argument, instead making claims for the androgynous elements (phallic framing of objects, anal or ientation, etc.) of pornographic representation and the pornographic experience.
18 perceptible abstract notions of value.6 As Ferguson states, pornogr aphy . . captur[es] the importance of actions that are not always re solvable into statements of belief. . [it] uses comparison and displays relative valu e to create extreme perceptibility. In the process, it sets aside or minimizes the pl ace of individual beliefs and emotions as explanations for what we have done a nd what we will do" (xiv). Fergusons characterization of pornography as the crea tion of extreme perceptibility accurately defines its work in Dhalgren where pornographic representa tion endows characters with the capability of lucid perception. Furthermore, Ferguson contends that pornography makes the social body felt by the individual (15). At the character level, this concept is immediately apparent in Bellonas black communitys manner of pornographic consumption and its ensuing effects. Early in the novel, Kid becomes ac quainted with a white, middleclass family, whose daughter, June, idolizes George Harri son, a local black man who subversively adopts the black rapist mythpersona, and is elevated to nearlydi vine celebrity status by Bellonas gay community for his flagrant se x appeal. In order to obtain a pornographic image of Harrison for June, Kid ventures to the church of Reverend Amy Tayler, an interdenominational preacher who distributes the images. When Kid asks her why do you have stuff like this here? I mean to give away, Tayler replies, The poor people in this cityand in Bellona that pretty well means the black people have never had very 6 For a critique of Fergusons account of pornography, see Loren Gl ass, Redeeming Value: Obscenity and AngloAmerican Modernism, Critical Inquiry 32.2 (2006): 34161. Glass argues that the obscenity trials of the 1960s legitimated the modernist aesthetic and enabled feminist critiques of the maledominated literary avantgarde, and, later, pornography. Glass faults Ferguson for ignoring this context in her work as well as for her apparent failure to make a clear distinction between obscenity and pornography. Ferguson replied with the essay, Why Is This Man so Angry? A Reply to Loren Glass, in which she objects to Glasss dismissal of her account of pornography, presumably because it deviates from Glasss preferred dominant one. Ferguson further defends her use of the term pornography to signify a representational trend beyond ideology which primarily concerns political modernity rather than Glasss preoccupation with literary modernism.
19 much. Now they have even less. She looked at him with an expression he recognized as a request for something he could not even name. We have to give them-she reached forward- something (191). Taylers gift to the black community seems highly unusual within this context, and its implications are worth considering. Ea rlier in the novel, Kid describes Georges image in pornographic detail: The scrotal skin was the color and texture of rotten avocado rind. Between the thighs, a cock, thick and heavy as a flashlight haft, hung dusty, black and wormy with veins (100) In a gesture reflecting broader urban configurations, Bellonas black community, a physically substantial segment of the population, resides in the ghettoized Jackson district and remains invisible throughout the majority of the novel by way of its periphera l representation.7 At one moment, Kid even [finds] himself wondering, granted the ha ndful hed seen, just where all the black people in Bellona were (192). Clearly, the black community in Dhalgren is subject to a certain form of negative invisibility, a feature of th e novel reflected in the criticism. McEvoy presents an autobiographical reading, s uggesting that It is in Dhalgren that we get closest to Delany as a person (116-17). McEvoy contrasts Dhalgren s homosexual characters and themes with the predominately heterosexual character s that have been the focus of his earlier books, and further states that The same a pplies to blacks and th eir separate, usually unseen by whites, culture, a social dynamic that achieves representation in the novel. In 7 Kids own biracial status warrants some mention. As the child of a white father and Native American mother, Kids complexion marks him as racially indeterm inate in the eyes of other characters, who tend to project their racial interpretations onto him; this phenomenon seems to facilitate Kids movement among various groups in Bellona. This characterization is perhaps influenced by Delanys own experiences as a lightskinned African American born and raised in Black Harlem and educated at the largely white Bronx School of Science, as depicted in his autobiographical output.
20 his discussion of the ways in which conven tional power dynamics reassert themselves in the institutionally vacuous Bellona, Jean Mark Gawron maintains that the high percentage of blacks left in Bellona has given them majority rule. Nevertheless, because Bellona does still sit in the real worl d, blacks as a group in Bellona continue to act like blacks, a people severed by history from the lines of power (77). Robert Elliot Fox continues this sociohistorical account, pos iting that Although it may not always strike the reader, a sizeable portion of Bellonas populat ion is black . So it would appear that the fright flight that so dras tically reduced the population of the city was also a white flight of the sort that has turned many of our urban areas into mi nority enclaves (105). Tucker ventures even further in exploring the connections between Dhalgren s black community and actual urban uprisings, stating . . Dhalgren most evidently conjures images of the eras uprisings in urban, pr edominately black, neighborhoods and provides a reading of their relevant social, political, and economic fact ors. . Like those uprisings, Dhalgren demands that attention be paid to a pa rt of America previ ously ignored (79, 82).8 This racial framing, presented in the novel and briefly acknowledged within the existing criticism, clearly resonates with the concept of black invi sibility codified in Ralph Ellisons Invisible Man which has remained the dominant framework for conceiving blackness in postwar literature and society. For Ellisons protagonist, identity 8 Tuckers A Sense of Wonder is by far the most extensive and substantial study of Delanys engagement with race and AfricanAmerican cult ure. Tucker proceeds from dominant critical accounts of Delanys position, which alternatively identify Delany positively as an antirace race man critical of identity politics, or, more negatively, as an African American author whose work is insufficiently racial in context (2). Tucker, however, atte mpts to make a case for the central influence of African American culture on Delanys thinking and writing. According to Tucker, in Dhalgren this influence structurally operates through the use of repetition, return, and improvisation, which resonates with black musical forms such as blues and jazz (62-4).
21 and subjectivity depend upon the social recogni tion of others, who continually fail to acknowledge his person without the shadings of constructe d, imposed notions of black identity; as he states, Responsibility rest s on recognition and rec ognition is a form of agreement (14). In a modernist attempt at conveying this social phenomenon, Ellison allegorically renders his protagonist invisi ble: according to Whitaker, When people of Caucasian ancestry look in his direction, th ey see only his surroundings, themselves, or figments of their imagination (391). In Dhalgren however, the notion of black invisibility is further extrapol ated into starkly physical terms; rather than limiting this invisibility to the social realm, the black co mmunity is rarely actually portrayed, save in past media accounts associated with social uprising. In her essay Ellison, Photography, and the Origins of Invisib ility, Sara Blair argues for a number of ways in which E llisons experience as a photographer and the sociocultural deployment of photography in the early to mid twentieth century informed Ellisons twin concepts of visibility / invisibility, and provided critical motifs for Invisible Man Blair contrasts the influen tial New Deal Farm Security Administrations style of documentary realis m, which, however well intentioned, . . distorted and reified the real ities of black experience in America (57), with Ellisons more ambiguous and experimental use of the documentary photograph and literary photographic motifs to counteract this form of objectification. Writing against dominant critical accounts of the nove l that draw a negative relationship between conspicuous markers of sight and social forms of bli ndness, Blair attests th at . . photography serves Ellison powerfully as a resource for the transformation of lived experience into narrative and of social fact into aesthetic po ssibility. . (59), and figuratively functions
22 in the novel as an instrument of social cri tique (61), and a power ful exercise, at once aesthetic and political, of se lfknowledge (69). This technique is made particularly evident in the pivotal eviction scene, in which the protagon ists encounter with various historical objects an old photogr aph of an elderly black coup le in the process of being evicted, sparks outrage and pr ovides him with his voice. This moment in Dhalgren may constitute such a similar dynamic. Unlike the ethnographic and hierarchal inclinations of the FSA, the photo of Harrison, according to Tayler, . . was done with a backdrop, right down in the church basement . . (190), a folkoriented bastion espousi ng a progressive creed of egalitarianism and racial pride.9 However, because of the pornographic, rath er than documentarian, nature of the photograph, the dynamics involved are marked ly different, and become socially magnified when examined in the context of Fergusons account of pornography. The black communitys utilization of pornography responds to Fergusons characterization of utilitarian social structures, which 9 Like Blairs account of the photograph in Invisible Man Tucker seems to argue along similar lines for the protestoriented, socially conscious qualities of this moment of photographic consumption in Dhalgren. Perhaps because of the scenes ambiguity, however, Tucker appears to confuse two separate and entirely different images, which ultimately leads him to draw a rather different conclusion from the one presented here. When Kid enters the church to ask for the poster, Tayler provides him with six different headshots, to which Kid responds, No . You probably dont have the ones I was looking for, maam (191). Tayler then offers Kid a nude poster of George, asking Is this the one you want? and Kid once again replies, No . . (191). Finally, Tayler states, Then this must be the one (191). As Kid glances at the poster, Tayler notes, Weve given out lots of the first one you saw. That one, she pointed to the one he held, isnt in quite as much demand (191). Believing Tayler to be referring to the headshots, Tucker concludes that It could be that Bellonas black community demonstrates its own critical awareness of myths of black sexua lity by preferring the head shots of George to the crotch shots, pi ctures that represent his identity and subjectivity instead of his mere sexuality (74). However, it seems clear to me that Taylers use of the singular referent that one, instead of a more appropriate collective refere nt, refers not to the various headshots, but rather to the first poster offered, which is still pornographic (Naked and halferect, one hand cupping his testicles), but the accompanying imagery of which is co mparatively more tame and idyllic (Harrison leaned against some thick tree. Behind him, a black dog . sat in the dead leaves, lolling an outoffocus tongue. Sunset flung bronze, down through the browns and greens ) than Kids preferred leatheroriented one, which might account for its popularity.
23 bypass questions of what there actually is and how fully individuals need to be believed and acknowledged by others. Inst ead, utilitarianism, by emphasizing the importance of evaluating actions in rela tion to others, makes the perception of value more significant than the percep tion of essences and identities. (2) With this new deployment of the pornographic, the dominant concept of social visibility, which requires the recognition of an other, is re placed with a more immediate process which enables the subject to position itself more objectively. In keeping with Fergusons claims, pornography here functions in an effort to render the black community visible. On the surface, this presentation of Harrison, which emphasizes his physicality and sexuality, effectually exploit[ing] the very mythos of black male potency (Gawron 105), seems entirely problematic, given the pe rvasive and destructiv e characterization of the black male body within white supremacist discourse. Harrisons image appears to accommodate racist notions that associate Blacks with an or ganic hypersexuality (Staples 25), and thereby further give defin ition to whiteness as a transcendental norm. As many scholars have noted, such racial scripting emerge d within the time of slavery and gained precedence during Reconstruction, wh erein the myth of the black rapist entered the white imagination in order to justify the practi ces of lynching and emasculation in a presumed attempt to protect white womanhood (Jackson 79). Such scripts live on, of course, through more contemporary media representations. Through his image, Harrison appears to c ounter the invisibility of the black community with a black hypervis ibility that is ge nerally viewed as an opposite, but just as problematic, form of object ification. As most critics no te, however, Harrison exploits the gap between this selfconscious form of imagemaking and his actual subjectivity. While he is construed by many whites in Bellona as a hypersexed black male, Harrison
24 does not conform to this stereotype (Tucker 73). In reference to th e subplot involving the relationship between June and George, Mary Kay Bray observes that Delany reverses character stereotypes . in the black manwhite woman rape plot, in which George is the knowledgeable and sensitive individual and J une is driven by her lusts, perhaps even to murdering her brother (qtd. in Tucker 73). The sexual consummation of George and Junes relationship, which occurs in an alley during the riots prior to Kids arrival in Bellona, is captured in a photograph and subsequently published in the Bellona Times Because of its racialsexual dynamics, this im age of consensual sex is construed as one of rape by some in Bellonas white community, including Times reporter Joaquin Faust, who claims, Rape is the nasty word they di dnt use in the paper, but rape is what it was (71). In an early statement uttered in accord ance with his selfconscious, ambiguous imagemaking, George admits that he enjoys rape (i.e. consensual rape fantasy) while expressing genuine sympathy toward Lanyas story of a friend who was the victim of actual rape, two entirely differe nt acts that fall under the sa me signifier, as George notes. A similar dynamic allows Harrisons image to be celebrated by the black community while eliciting a racist reaction from so me members of Bellonas white population, including Tak, who states, That ape likes to get his picture taken more than just about anything, you know? . Aint he beautiful? Stro ng as a couple of horse s, too (100). One could easily draw a parallel between Fergusons account of pornography, which can potentially rank viewers according to response, and the images function as an indicator of racial assumptions, as obs ervers seem to impose a ce rtain script upon Georges body.
25 In the last section of Dhalgren, The Anathemata: a plague journal, which is presented as a transcript of Kids recovered notebook, Kid records an encounter with Nightmare, another member of the Scorpions in which Nightmare demonstrates the potency of the sexual map as a means of orientation. As they wander through the city, Nightmare recounts his sexual activities w ith another gang member, Dragon Lady, that have been externalized onto city space. Nightmare tells Kid: Man, we used to do some freaky things, al l the time, any time, anywhere, right in the middle of the fuckin street, man, I swear. We ambled; he pointed out doorways, alleys, a pickup truck parked on its axles Once with her sitting in the cab and me standing on the fuckin sidewa lk, a hand on either side of the door, and my head just in there, eatin out a ll that black pussyBaby and Adam running around someplace across the streetthen I fu cked her in the back there, on the burlap. Oh, shit! and where, by the pa rk, she had pushed him up against the wall and blown him; where she used to make him walk down the center of the street with his genitals loose from his fly, with her sitting on the curb and doing things with her mouth, man before I even got there, so I had a hardon out to here!On the marble steps of the Second City Bank building (he tells me) he made her take off all her clothes- J ust like Baby, man. I mean people can go around in the street stark na ked here, and it dont mean nothing and urinate, while he stood behind her, one arm over her shoulder, catching her water in his palm. And once she made me lie on my back, you know, in the center of the pavement the incident illustrated with much gesturing and headshaking as we search his memories out of the dry mi st-naked, man, and she just walked around and around me, a big woman! . made me eat her out for half an hour, I swear, right he looks around, surprised here man. Right here! It was just getting light and you couldnt ha rdly see her (751-52) Nightmares characterization of Dragon La dy, which is explicitly racialized and sexualized, is again problematic as it draws upon historically situated racist notions that position the black woman as sexua lly exploitable (Spillers 85).10 Nightmares own characterization in the novel as a white expimp further solidifies the racialsexual 10 For a strong account of representations of black wo men in pornography, see Patricia Hill Collinss The Sexual Politics of Black Womanhood. Collins presents the argument that contemporary pornographys representational framework draws upon male conceptions of the female body rooted in the slave trade. She further differentiates between the objectified white pornographic body and the bestial black pornographic body.
26 dynamics operating here. In another capacit y, however, this inst ance resonates with Fergusons statement that pornography mak[es] . actions look as though they could plausibly be described in terms of their perc eptibility and value in public (xv). Crucially, for Nightmare, the tangibility of sexual expe rience seems to precede any type of physical marker. Additionally, Kids mediation of Nightmares account and their cooperative searching suggests that Night mares individual map has been transformed into one that is external and sharable. In the course of Nightmares description, Kid notes that, He talks about these celebrations as though they are religious rituals recently banned. Forty minutes of this, before it hit me how lonely no t only Nightmare is, but all of us here are: Who can I discuss the mech anics of Lanya and Denny w ith? I dont even have the consolation of public disappr oval (752). Kids remark implies the commonality and permissibility of sexual activity amongst the inhabitants of Bellona ; though it connotes a sense of depression and longing, it also pr ovides significant insight into the newly deployed role of sex, which has been transformed from its traditionally private and hidden domain, and rendered objectively public. Nightmares comment about the role of nakedness in Bellona recalls a scene that immediately precedes his attempt at ma pping. Kid and his lovers, Denny and Lanya, climb onto the roof of the nest, the commune which the Scorpions inhabit. Once there, they find Fireball, another member of the Scorpions, standing buck naked except his optic girdle (728). Denny tightly echoes Night mares statement, . . explain[ing] (unnecessarily) that you could go around in th e street stark naked if you wanted in Bellona and it wouldnt bother nobody (728). In this scene, collective intimacy and urban visibility are directly linked, as Ki d recollects that We all walked around and
27 stared out at the edges of what we could see or each other when each other wasnt staring back; leaned on the roof rim; sat on the ma nsard things along the side. A long time (72829).
28 Chapter Four William S. Burroughss Naked Lunch Though presented in a different manner, William S. Burroughss Naked Lunch also provides a contestato ry account of the sexual a nd pornographic that clearly transforms hidden, private sexual action into a public, external experi ence that achieves the utilitarian ideal of mutual social visibi lity (13). At the time of its publication in 1959, William S. Burroughss Naked Lunch was faced with censorship due to its legal designation as an obscene work. While the novel was met with some critical praise, many traditional humanist detracto rs critiqued its experiment al style, which was often deemed lacking in literary accomplishm ent. Though popularly considered a novel, Naked Lunch consists of a more experimental collage like array of fragmentary sequences loosely linked by the intermittent presence of the narratorprotagonist and agent, William Lee, Burroughss presumed literary persona. The novels events occur in various fictional locations representative of extreme form s of social organi zation, including the bureaucratictotalitarian Freeland Republic, and the more thematically central Interzone, a denationalized, deinstitutiona lized space of radical freedom in which the structures of control ingrained within individuals reassert themselves through various acts of violence and sadism. Burroughss thematic emphasis on freedom and control is infused with the imagery of the addict and dealer, a symbiotic relationship that depends on ones desire for control and anothers desire to be controlled. As per Bu rroughss stated intents, many critics have approached the work as a criti que of systems of hier archy; since Burroughs
29 considers language to be the fundamental form of control and compares its irreducible unit, the word, to a virus, Naked Lunchs fragmentary and dir ect style is generally considered an experimental assault on the perceived latent contro l that asserts itself through forms of narrative and traditi onal literary devices such as metaphor. Like Bellona, the central urban locations of Naked Lunch pose difficulties for accurate cognitive mapping. The market in the central area of Interzone, one of the novels primary settings and an extrapol ated vision of Burroughs environment in Tangier, is described in terms that suggest a lack of planning: All houses in the city are joined. Houses of sodhigh mountain moguls blink in smoky doorwayshouses of bamboo and teak, houses of adobe, stone and red brick, South Pacific and Maori houses, hous es in trees and riverboats, wood houses one hundred feet long sheltering entire tribes, houses of boxes and corrugated iron where old men sit in rott en rags cooking down canned heat, great rusty iron racks rising two hundred feet in the air from swamps and rubbish with perilous partitions built on multi-levele d platforms, and hammocks swinging over the void. (90) Similarly, Interzones Plaza is related in langua ge that evokes the very antithesis of good urban planning, the maze or labyrinth, the desi gn of which is intended to disorient the individual, although here it emerge s more spontaneously as a re sult of lack of planning: All streets of the City slope down between deepening canyons to a vast, kidneyshaped plaza full of darkness. Walls of street and plaza are perforated by dwelling cubicles and cafes, some a few feet d eep, others extending out of sight in a network of rooms and corridors. At all levels crisscross of bridge s, cat walks, and cable cars. . a maze of kitchens, restaurants, cubicles, perilous iron balconies and basements opening into the underground baths. (45-46) For the most part, however, these cities are conveyed to the reader through descriptions of the sexual activities that occur within their confines. In this sense, the sexual appears to precede the physical envir onment as a more accurate indication of spatial orientation. Within Inte rzone, a single, vast building:
30 The rooms are made of a plastic cement that bulges to accommodate people, but when too many crowd into one room there is a soft plop and someone squeezes through the wall right into the next housethe next bed that is, since the rooms are mostly bed where the business of the Z one is transacted. A hum of sex and commerce shakes the Zone like a vast hive. (149) Though Interzones landscape is presented as completely indistinct and unmarked, the concentration and public presentation of the intimate seems to result in new perceptible social and spatial configurations akin to Fergusons characterization of artificial utilitarian social structures. The uses of sexuality in Naked Lunch demonstrates Burroughss use of the body in a positive, constructive manner. In the extant criticism on Burroughs by both his detractors and champions, however, sex is de scribed in overwhelmingly negative terms, a characterization which is perhaps a product of Burroughss popularly perceived dismal vision. In Naked Lunch, these comments largely respond to the notorious Blue Movie scene, a section of the novel which involves depictions of violent sex and hangings. Speaking in traditional moral terms, John Tyte ll states that there can be no justifying explanations of the significance of the Blue Movie sequence, but only an appreciation of its ecstatically kinetic . depiction of violence only the speed of flashing sensation (qtd. in Lydenberg 9), while David Lodge broadly objects to the novels violence, squalor, and perversion (76). Burroughss more enthusiastic critic s, by contrast, uphold this negative motivation, although framing it in more analytical, descriptive terms. Lydenberg states that the Blue Movie Scene tries to take the thrill out of sexual violence (12). Reading Naked Lunch alongside the writings of the Frankfurt School, Murphy contends that Burroughs brings co pulation out into the open and reveals it as a control process (91). Ih ab Hassan proposes that in Naked Lunch sex is usually
31 violation (55), and an expression of the ex tinction of life (56), while Hayles similarly observes a great deal of pervasive sexual nausea (21). Burroughs encapsulates the more positive function of sexuality in Naked Lunch most palpably with the sentence, Signal flar es of orgasm burst over the world (174). Amidst the disorienting spaces presented in th e novel, the orgasm is associated with clarity and generally affords the subject a fa rreaching, panoptic view shared with sexual partners and observers. In scenes of sexua l activity, the narrative transitions from Burroughss characteristically hallucinatory and fragmented style to the unmistakably concrete description of the pornographic, and finally resolves in the moment of orgasm, which is rendered as a disconnected imagistic mosaic, an attempt to convey a glimpse of absolute space, which Lydenberg alternat ively refers to as moments of intense clarity and direct na ked seeing (15). In Hassans Rumpus Room, a sequence focusing on an orgiastic party in Interzone and deemed somewhat reduc tively by Murphy as a parody of the commodification of homosexuality (76), su rreal sexdeath rituals presented in pornographic detail lead to such panoptic experiences, as the narrative moves from the immediate and limited surroundings of the room Gilt and red plush. Rococo bar backed by pink shell Windowless cubicle with blue walls. Dirty pink curtain cover the door (63, 65) to vast expansive space congruent with the advent of sexual activity- A vast still harbor of iridescen t water. Deserted gas well flar es on the horizon. Stink of oil and sewage. Sick sharks swim through the black water, belch sulfur from rotting livers, ignore a bloody, broken Icarus (64). As the scene progresse s and Hassan increases the
32 level of sexual activity with the cr y, Freedom Hall here, folks! . Let it be! And no holes barred!!! (66), the mapping function of sex becomes more concrete: Two boys jacking off under railroad bri dge. The train shakes through their bodies, ejaculates them, fades with distant whistle . Train compartment: two sick young junki es on their way to Lexington tear their pants down in convulsions of lust. One of them soaps his cock and works it up the others ass with a corkscrew motion . Both ejaculate at once standing up. . The train tears on through the smoky, ne onlighted June night Pictures of men and women, boys and girls, animals, fis h, birds, the copulating rhythm of the universe flows through the room, a gr eat blue tide of life. (68-699) The interconnectedness of various orgasms here implies a gras pable, intentional coherence and contrasts with th e fragmented style that characterizes the majority of the novel. As Ferguson states in her discussion of utilitarian social groups, from which she contends pornography derives its means and mo tives, one key feature is the promulgation of visible order, here seen in the intri cate relationship among va rious individuals (15). Additionally, in discussing the work of de Sade, Ferguson ma kes the claim that even persons who may not know one another may become linked by action, [which] may be seen in terms of law and consequences . even personal ties may cease to be compelling (6). Burroughss actionoriented depiction of the sexual in Naked Lunch further corresponds to Fergusons claims con cerning utilitarian soci al structures, which mak[e] persons visible to one another . for the purpose of the social structures, they were dissolved into actions (4). This orgasm function in Naked Lunch clearly contrasts with the imageoriented pornographic experience in Dhalgren In Dhalgren specifically in the poignant example of the black community, the pr esentation of an image endow s characters with physical and social visibility, in a way very much like Fergusons account of pornography. Burroughss presentation of the orgasm, however, is a much more physical and
33 immediate process of cognition, in which se xual experience leads to vivid perception rendered in the language of the pornographic. Several critics responding to Naked Lunch and Burroughss body of work more generally have insightfully investigated Burroughss criti que of Western hierarchy and binarism, particularly the prevalent concept of mind body dualism. In doing so, however, they have taken the a dditional step of somewhat contradictorily interpreting the aforementioned moments as suggesting disembodiment, wherein consciousness physically leaves the body and the strictures of a subjective framework. In one example, Lydenberg first faults psychoanalytic critic Serg e Grunberg for his reluctance to imagine, or to recognize as anything but failure and selfdelusion, the possibility of life without a body or without a unified subject (22), and subsequently contends that Naked Lunch contains . concrete embodiments of every possible imbalance and abuse within this dual system: from paralyzed bodies numbed by the abstractions of religion and romance, to paralyzed minds imprisoned by the bodys physical cravings the tyranny of the body turns the life energy of sex and sensory experience into the mindless mechanical responses of pure need . the sex addict is alienated from his own body, his own desire. (28) N. Katherine Hayles similarly observes, throug h the lens of informatics, the concept of disembodiment at work, as she states, The junkies body is a harbinger of the postmodern mutant, for it demonstrates how pr esence yields to assembly and disassembly patterns created by the flow of junk as info rmation through points of amplification and resistance (42-3). Beyond the obvious di fficulties of modeling such a phenomenon,
34 these critics overlook the cogniti ve function achieved here through the subjects contact with the physical. In opposition to such a form of binarism and the traditional structures of metaphor that the critics attack, Burroughs presents the sexual pornographic moment as a fully integrated mind -body experience, in which the physical is used as a means to mental cognition. In stark opposition to the freedom and permissibility of Interzone, where sex functions as a tenuous mechanism for spatial or ientation, is the tota litarianbureaucratic Freeland Republic, where the efficient, sadist ic Dr. Benway, . . a manipulator and coordinator of symbol systems, an expert on all phases of interroga tion, brainwashing and control (19), has implemented a plan intended to spatially disorient the citys inhabitants in an effort to control them. Broadly, Benway poses a challenge to individual and group cognition through the institution of an arbitr ary and intricate bureaucracy. Consistent with Lynchs theory of mapping, Dr. Benway has ordered the oblit eration of common markers of spatial orientation: All benches were removed from the city, all fountains turned off, all flowers and trees destroyed (20). Noting the potential for sexual activity as a method of orientation, however, Benway also analogously institutes a ban on sexual solicitation: No one ever looked at anyone else because of the strict law against importuning, with or without verbal appr oach, anyone for any purpose, sexual or otherwise (20). With these parallel ac tions, Burroughs draws a distinct functional equivalent between physical locationing depe ndent upon external objects, and a sexual mapping that relies on the external perceptibility of the sex act. As Ferguson posits, Pornography [is] the interest in the wa ys in which peoples bodies come to be increasingly tracked in relation to other bodi es (Why Is This Man So Angry? 368). By
35 suppressing the possibility of creating social and visual perceptibility through sexual action, Benway reduces the level of rele vant intersubjecti ve knowledge among the citizens of Freeland. Benway further solidifies the connection between abstract fo rms of control and physical unnavigability when he returns to th e labyrinth trope, stating that . . the possibilities are endless like meandering path s in a great big beau tiful garden (25). Benways ultimate goal of abolishing recogni tion and sexual community is realized in one of the novels closing sequences in which Carl Peterson, a homosexual patient, walks out of sexual correction treatment: A homosexual tourist looked at him and raised a knowing eyebrow. Returning his glance, Carl sees something ignoble and hideous reflected back in the queens spayedanim al brown eyes (161). Benways treatment effectively reduces the way in which Freelan ds inhabitants can pe rceive any notion of the social totality through the sexual. In contrast to the brut al separation of public and private zones within the Freeland Republic, Burroughs demonstrates the radical effects of th eir melding through the pranks of the roguish agent A.J, whom Murphy accurately characte rizes as a critical subversive of instrumental reas on (86). A.J.s tentative identi fication as a member of the Factualist party connotatively implies a desi re for objectivity and places him as one opposed to systems of control through obfuscatio n, such as Benways plan to institute an arbitrary and intricate bureaucracy so that the subject cannot cont act his enemy direct (19). In one prank, A.J. releas es the Xiucutl, an aphrodisi ac bug, on the opening night of the metropolitan. The ensuing scene is rend ered in metonymic, visible, sensory oriented detail:
36 Screams, breaking glass, ripping cloth. A rising crescendo of grunts and squeals and moans and whimpers and gasps . Reek of semen and cunts and sweat and the musty odor of penetrated rectums . Diamond and fur pieces, evening dresses, orchids, suits and underwear litter the floor c overed by a writing, frenzied, heaving mass of naked bodies. (124) A similar occurrence takes place at the opening of the Escuela Amigo, a delinquent school for boys, in which A. J. presents a sexual ly suggestive statue (128). Here, A.J.s imposition of sexual pe rceptibility upon formerly obscure, largely bourgeois social domains provides an alternat ive means of order, which effectively captures the role of pornogr aphy within these novels.
37 Chapter Five Conclusion As demonstrated in this discussion, por nography in these novels functions as a mechanism for ordering space and experience, a topic that has warranted a great deal of discussion in modern and postmodern discourse In his highly anta gonistic treatment of Burroughss narrative innovations, David Lodge situates the random elements of Burroughss work and that of other postmode rn artists in relati on to his preferred modernist aesthetic, which relies on a concentrat ed form of order. Lodge states, . in the experience of successful liter ature, we feel compelled to credit all of its excitement and interest . to the creative mind behind it . neomodernism, apart from its merely humorous intents and purposes, is involve d in a logical contradiction, for when it succeeds it does so by creating an order of the type it seems to deny (81, 82). As demonstrated, however, the transformation of space within postmodernism and its effect on the individual disenable such a transcendent al modernist reference point for ordering a tide of chaos. More perceptibly than others George Edgar Slusser observes this unique cognitive phenomenon operating within Dhalgren : The hero of Dhalgren projects chaos; as artist, however, he cannot order it Kids notebook (whi ch may not even be his) is no more than the mirror of moral fragmentation [he] is neither hero nor artist; he is unable to act or create the landscape he wanders through is made of the scattered and shifting fragments of one life (61, 62). Within this new environment, as we have seen, the cognitive aspects of sexuality function as an ordering and clarifying mechanism,
38 which ultimately proves more amenab le to the spontaneous dynamics of postmodernism. As Gawron maintains, In Dhalgren . the emblems of disorder are made the instruments of order (64), an obs ervation which is clearly reflected in this analysis, and in Fergusons claim that utili tarian representations such as pornography, must promulgate order, but, more, visible order (15). Regarding Burroughss work, Lydenberg similarly notes, in Burroughs mythology, evil applie s to anything which represses spontaneity (6). Moving beyond the realm of the literary, cr itics have recognized the potentially liberating effects of this new function of sexuality within a wider cultural context. Writing against a certain pol itics of privatization, Michael Warner observes the devastating effects, on gay cu ltural visibility, of zoning laws intended to curb the expansion of sexoriented business and the normally accompanying culture of publicly visible sexuality. In referen ce to pornography, Warner writes that it . jeopardize [s] the amnesia between sex and public culture . [it is] a media of acknowledgment . and one of the things porn objectifies is acknowledgment (103). Ultimately, what Warner argues for is an alternative means of creating order via the sexual, as he claims that such a conspicuous disp lay of sexuality perpetuates visible order and creates a clearlydefined space informing queer identity : the availability of explicit sexual materials, theaters, and clubs . is how we have learned to find each other, to construct a sense of a shared world, to carve out sp aces of our own in a homophobic world (90). Writing with Lauren Berlant along similar lines, the authors describe the implications of this form of externalization: After a certain point, a quantitative change is a qualitative change. A critical mass develops. The street b ecomes queer. It develops a dense, publicly
39 accessible sexual culture. . No group is more dependent on this kind of pattern in urban space than queers (562-63). Much has been written about the abstr acted, unifying efforts of modern architecture and planning effo rts; here, we are seeing a resurgence of a similar form of planning, though one that is less aestheticallymotivated and of a more marketoriented, political nature. As with the postm odern concepts of order within Naked Lunch and Dhalgren, Warner and Berlants ideal space of public queerness is set in opposition to concentrated planning efforts, which, in the cr itics urbanspatial context, demonstrate a desire to make sex less noticeable in th e course of everyda y urban life (83). Delany also acknowledges the ordering potential of this newly de ployed sexuality, as he describes his experiences at the Christopher St Docks, stating, the actuality of such a situation, with thirtyfive, fifty, a hundred al lbut strangers, is highly ordered, highly social, and grounded in a certain care, if not community (226). Evidently, Delanys and Burroughss new framing of sexuality departs from a traditional concept offered by Foucaults discursive formulation. However, before moving too quickly to embrace this new use of sexuality as a utopian gesture, perhaps we should return again to the orig inal historian of sexuality. Beyond his particularly relevant critique of the repressive hypothesis, whic h warns against a false association of open sexual expression and a critique of dominant institutions, Foucault firmly acknowledges the unique susceptibility of sexuality for undergoing a process of transformation from unstructured desire to a deep association w ith structures of power and value by way of discourse: Sexuality must not be thought of as a ki nd of natural given which power tries to hold in check, or as an obscure domain which knowledge tries gradually to
40 uncover. It is the name that can be given to a historical c onstruct: not a furtive reality that is difficult to grasp, but a great surface network in which the stimulation of bodies, the inte nsification of pleasures, th e incitement to discourse, the formation of special knowledges, the strengthening of controls, are linked to one another, in accordance with a few ma jor strategies of knowledge and power. (105-6) As if anticipating Foucault, Kid, in an oftcited notebook passage, writes I think sometimes, the difference is that th ey are sure that any social structures that arise grow out of patte rns innate to The Sex Actwhatever that is; while we have seen, again and again, that the psychology, structures, and accoutrements that define any sex act are always internalized fr om social structures that already exist, that have been created, that can be changed. (720) Certainly, these texts indicate such a movement toward change. However, while the transformation of sexuality exemplified in Dhalgren and Naked Lunch and reflected in emergent critical discourse suggests a br eak with Foucaults accoun t of privatized and controloriented forms of se xuality, it similarly burdens sexu ality with such an extrasensory function entangled with notions of value.
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