The Textuality and Riddle of The Screen in Gender Identity
The novel, The Girl With The Golden Eyes by Balzac, turns out to uncover the unconscious narcissistic fantasy of homosexuality and gender identity issues. In Shoshana Felman’s analysis the “act of reading femininity” and reading the silence of what is being explicitly screened out when a subject is speaking, and expressing their gender identity, turns out to be a crucial skill in communication and also in psychoanalysis. Of course, I am referring to skills of listening to silence pregnant with communication. I asked the question, “What is being screened out when a man dresses as a woman?” Consider the following excerpt from “What Does A Woman Want?” by Shoshana Felman:
“The return of the lost name of the father in the denouement therefore strips Henri of his (adoptive) proper name, de Marsay, leaving him, indeed, with no name that he can claim to be his own, that he can claim to be his proper name. The cultural procedure of name giving as insuring representative authority is no longer valid in the story: the (male) authority of name givers, customarily father and husband, is here disrupted: the father is no longer truly and legitimately represented by the son, in much the same way as the masculine is no longer truly and legitimately represented by the feminine. The NAME OF THE FATHER, which traditionally is supposed to symbolize and to guarantee both propriety (proper name) and property (gold), here turns out to symbolize both impropriety, loss of proper name, and dispossession, loss of gold [and, as we know, represents as a stand-in for the phallus] : it emerges in the very place of the symbolic loss of the golden eyes.
As I have stated in a previous post, Paquita’s golden eyes become reflective of Henri’s phallus. Henri’s phallus being symbolic to his father who turns out to be Lord Dudley. As a purloined package, Paquita becomes the screen woman to Henri’s unconscious narcissistic fantasy for his own phallus. (You really need to read her book!) Her, as an object that is used to screen out the true incestuous (unconscious) narcissistic fantasy. The golden eyes were thus the screen and the screen has been a mirror, blinding in it’s refractions, dazzling in it’s brilliance and it’s play on its ray of light reflections and deflections. Under the right conditions, can deal a lethal blow to someone’s ego in it’s unveiling.
The story is a novel involving a Menaechmi (men-a-heck-mus). It becomes a play about two twins and mistaken identity. We could certainly say this about lesbian love. This becomes apparent when Henri discovers the Marquise is his sister. This recognition scene in which Henri and his sister are re-united, answers the question, “Who is the secret enemy? What is the identity of the rival, of the third term in the triangular drama of desire?” The answer: himself. Since Henri beholds in his enemy the exact reflections of his own desire and of his own murderous jealousy.
In a separate side note, it is the hypothesis that all girls born bisexual because the first erotic experience with the world is the mother. In lesbian love, is it an unconscious narcissistic wish (a fantasy) for the return to this close intimacy with “mother?”
In analyzing this story, it only becomes apparent after the “eraser of the screen”, that is, after Paquita’s murder, the revelation scene which continues as the Marquise is Henri’s sister and the reason why Paquita loved him is because she saw that same familiar look in his face.
In Balzac’s story, Paquita is murdered with a dagger to the chest. In Felman’s analysis, the chest can also point to a sign of difference, and that difference as a signifier of femininity [submissiveness]. In this sense, the text could here be answering, that the girl with the golden eyes has died because she is a woman; she was sacrificed, repressed, because she incarnated feminity as otherness, as real sexual difference.
Through the erasure of the screen woman, Paquita, femininity becomes a euphemism, at once for its sexuality, for its difference and repression AND for its blindness to itself. A euphemism for the sexuality of speaking bodies and their delusions and their dreams, determined by a signifier fraught with their castration AND their death. Thus, the death of Paquita in the novel’s denouement becomes the symbolic of “a figure of silencing, of the very silencing of a woman, of the repression of the very functioning of repression. The text, nonetheless, through its very silencing of death by language, opens up an ironic space that articulates the force of the question of femininity as the substitution between blind language and insightful, pregnant silence — between a language threatened and traversed by silence, and the silence out of which language speaks.