André’s Masked Pleasures

Tamara Levitz

in Modernist Mysteries: Perséphone

Published in print September 2012 | ISBN: 9780199730162
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199932467 | DOI:
André’s Masked Pleasures

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This chapter examines how Gide revolutionized the expression of male same-sex desire in the writing strategies he developed for the narcissus plucking moment in Perséphone. In his treatise on pédérastie, Corydon, Gide countered the dominant belief of his time that desire was always heterosexual by proposing that male same-sex desire could be directed toward the goal of pleasure rather than reproduction. Gide established his point of view against the unrelenting insults of his contemporaries, however—a framework that determined how he positioned himself as a writer. In Perséphone, he coupled Persephone’s same-sex desire with a simultaneous need to fulfil social obligation, and framed both actions against the exclusionary French sexual politics of his day. Persephone’s attraction to the underworld reflects Gide’s interpretation of Orpheus’s “backward glance,” and his understanding of same-sex desire as taking place within a colonial frame. His bifurcated stance leads to a fragmented writing style or “bricolage” in the narcissus-plucking scene.

Keywords: André Gide; writing strategies; male same-sex desire; history; Pédérastie; homosexuality; pleasure; Bricolage; French sexual politics; gay studies; Corydon; colonialism and homosexuality; Orpheus’s Backward Glance

Chapter.  24673 words. 

Subjects: Musicology and Music History

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