<i>Othello</i>: Sexual Difference and Internal Deviation

Jonathan Dollimore

in Sexual Dissidence

Published in print August 1991 | ISBN: 9780198112259
Published online October 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780191670732 | DOI:
Othello: Sexual Difference and Internal Deviation

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Othello explores anxious preoccupation with perversity as a disordered and disordering movement. Here ‘extravagant’ condenses deviation, perversion, and vagrancy. In one sense the metaphors of truth, linearity, and deviation point simply to duplicity; but also signified is a wilful disarticulation of traditional relations between authority, service, and identity. Gratiano's description of Brabantio's ‘desperate turn’, with its echoes of the Fall, shows that destructive deviation may characterize even the most stolid of patriarchs. The opposition of woman as passive/active correlates closely with that of women as madonna/whore. This kind of representation of deviant female desire echoes Augustinian privation to repudiate those who invest so heavily in Desdemona's ‘virtuous’ passivity. That she is actually attempting to live out the prescribed subject position for a woman within sexual difference only confirms that because the subordinate is so often the subject of displacement there is never safety in obedience.

Keywords: Othello; deviation; perversion; vagrancy; privation; passivity; sexual difference

Chapter.  7463 words. 

Subjects: Literary Theory and Cultural Studies

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