Leda, abstract

Open Inquiry Archive

Vol. 1, No. 9 (2012)

RECONCEIVING LEDA: VIOLENCE, EROTICISM and the UNCONSCIOUS in H.D. and DALÍ

by Srishti Krishnamoorthy

ABSTRACT

Krishnamoorthy’s paper attempts to read two Modernist redactions of the myth of the rape of Leda as made available in the 1918 poem “Leda” by Hilda Doolittle and the 1961 painting Leda’s Swan by Salvador Dalí. As part of the semantic network, the author also looks at Leda poems by Rilke and D.H. Lawrence, and paintings by Nolan and Lawrence. Her central argument assesses this tradition of Leda representation and isolates sites for critical intervention, in examination of issues of the unconscious, the erotics of sexual violence, and the triptych of power, subjectivity and repression.

The representations by H.D. and Dalí conflate in them the anxieties manufactured by the interaction of textuality and sexuality, saturated with the burden of consciousness that comes with revisionist myth-making. Krishnamoorthy’s project is to read them in terms of both form and content using, primarily, theoretical technology from the Freudian corpus. The author follows Susan Stanford Friedman’s thesis on the return of the repressed in (women’s) writing as the originary point to deconstruct the structures of these pieces and un-censor narratives occluded by the surface, appraising them as part of a ‘text-cluster’ in the historical process of imagining Leda.

The paper looks at the problematisation of the ambiguity of the subject/object relation between Zeus and Leda. A key point of contention is how the figure of the swan is bisexualised, redoubled and recovered as masculine across the texts, and the symptomatic transitions visible in the articulation of Leda. The political concerns of representing rape within the dialectic of sex and violence will be assessed in questions of female sexuality, patriarchal codes of power, and the function of narrativity within a phallocentric order.

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Full text of article available here.

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Text copyright 2012 Srishti Krishnamoorthy

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