Chapter

‘La justice, c’est la femme à barbe!’: the bearded lady, displacement and recuperation in Apollinaire's <i>Les Mamelles de Tirésias</i>

Stephen Thomson

in The Last Taboo

Published by Manchester University Press

Published in print January 2011 | ISBN: 9780719075001
Published online July 2012 | e-ISBN: 9781781702567 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.7228/manchester/9780719075001.003.0005
‘La justice, c’est la femme à barbe!’: the bearded lady, displacement and recuperation in Apollinaire's Les Mamelles de Tirésias

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In Salvador Dali's joking aphorism, the virility of the concept of justice clashes with the grammatical gender of the word, ‘la justice’. Justice persists in the notion of a normal, adjusted, fitting, right division of sexual characters that the bearded lady contravenes. For, although she figures sexual ambiguity, in so doing she also keeps it at arm's length as freakish. This chapter explores the currency of the bearded lady in late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century French literature. In particular, it examines ways in which that currency is caught up in techniques of unexpected juxtaposition and displacement associated with avant-garde movements of the period, in particular Surrealism and Dada. The avant-garde is not entirely uninvolved with ladies with whiskers. The chapter considers the bearded lady, displacement and recuperation in Guillaume Apollinaire's play Les Mamelles de Tirésias (1917). It also comments on the feminine body in Apollinaire's first published book, L'Enchanteur pourrissant (1909), and Tristan Tzara's play Le Coeur à gaz, first shown in 1921.

Keywords: bearded lady; feminine body; justice; Salvador Dali; French literature; displacement; Surrealism; whiskers; recuperation; Mamelles de Tirésias

Chapter.  9373 words. 

Subjects: Literature

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