Père-version and Im-mèresion: Idealized Corruption in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man and The Picture of Dorian Gray

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This essay outlines two complementary models of corrupt desire, which it labels “père-version” and “im-mère-sion” after the father and the mother, respectively. The perversion legislated by the father is characterized by detachment and is expressed through homophobia and misogyny, whereas immersion signifies a corruption initiated by the “purity” of an engulfing mother; because the object of desire is hidden (or immersed), such desire is associated with the closet. If the desire taught by the father is a formula for “non-relation” because the emotional bonding with men must be non-sexual and the connection with (commodified and idealized) women is only sexual, the idealized desire associated with the mother is one characterized by mutual unconscious dependence, a toxic cocktail of worship and shame. Finally, the essay demonstrates how perversion ages a child, in contrast with immersion’s infantilizing of the child, and how perversion is associated with waste and immersion with food. In both models, the desiring subject demands a fetish, but perversion fetishizes the woman and immersion the child. Desire for a fetish facilitates an avoidance of the complexities of changing (and mortal) flesh.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)245-261
Number of pages17
JournalJames Joyce Quarterly
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - Sep 1 2012
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Literature and Literary Theory

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