Journal Article

‘The Fiend That Smites with a Look‘: the Monstrous/Menstruous Woman and the Danger of the Gaze in Oscar Wilde's <i>Salomé</i>

Helen Tookey

in Literature and Theology

Volume 18, issue 1, pages 23-37
Published in print March 2004 | ISSN: 0269-1205
Published online March 2004 | e-ISSN: 1477-4623 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/litthe/18.1.23
‘The Fiend That Smites with a Look‘: the Monstrous/Menstruous Woman and the Danger of the Gaze in Oscar Wilde's Salomé

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This article examines the figure of Salomé in Wilde’s play as a representation of monstrous and menstruous female sexuality. I trace the figure of Salomé back from the fin-de-siècle obsession with femmes fatales to the biblical and mythic personifications of the ‘dark side’ of feminine sexuality, and argue that the dominant images in Wilde’s play, of blood and the moon, can be connected and understood as images of menstruality: the confrontation between Salomé and Jokanaan is the confrontation of the profane (the sexually desirous, menstrual woman) with the sacred (the holy man set in a realm apart). I then go on to examine the theme of the power and danger of the gaze, again linking this to Salomé’s status as a ‘monstrous’ female; finally, I suggest that we can discover a homoerotic subtext in the (ostensibly heterosexual) confrontation of Salomé and Jokanaan.

Journal Article.  0 words. 

Subjects: Literature ; Religion and Art, Literature, and Music

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