Friday, March 21, 2014

Susan Stanford Friedman

staring at the mirror she saw herself, saw herself, yes, she was somehow dehumanized. . . . Who was Mrs. Darrington? Mrs. Darrington was a trench, wide and deep and someone else had stepped out and was out and wasn’t Mrs. Darrington.” But instead of identifying with her image in the Lacanian sense, Hermione recognizes “Mrs. Darrington” as the false imago, as the socially constructed self out of which the woman who will be the mother steps. Tasting wine signals this woman’s abandonment of the alienating imago and initiates the procreative discourse that prefigures her coming pregnancy:

You tasted grape and grape and gold grape (can you imagine it?) and gold on gold and gold filled your palate, pushed against your mouth, pushed down your throat, filled you with some divine web, a spider, gold web and you wove with it, wove with it, wove with the web inside you, wove outward images and saw yourself opposite smiling with eyes uptilted, smiling at something that had crept out of Mrs. Darrington, small, not very good, looking at you in a glass, tall, very tall, not very good, divine like a great lily. Someone, something was looking at something and someone, something was smiling at someone. Wine went to your brain and you knew there was no division now and there was someone, one left, just one left like yourself who was dead and not dead who was alone and not alone.

The absence of division between self and other, the presence of an indeterminate “you” and split subject, the “something that had crept out of Mrs. Darrington, small,” and the one “like yourself who was dead and not dead” foreshadow pregnancy to come. The spider, web, weaving, gold, and lily reappear interwoven with gulls, swallows, bees, frogs, butterflies, and rings to signify a pregnancy that can only be indirectly imaged, not directly articulated. The repetitive, hypnotic weave of words initiates the discourse of pregnancy that punctuates the nine months of gestation. Near term, Hermione moves to a “little hut,” itself a womb:

Weave, that is your metier, Morgan le Fay, weave subtly, weave grape-green by grape-silver and let your voice weave songs, songs in the little hut that gets so blithely cold, cold with such clarity that you are like a flower of green-grape flowering in a crystal globe, in an ice globe for the air that you breathe into your lungs makes you too part of the crystal, you are part of the air, part of the crystal. . . .

Weaving both song and baby out of her own body, Hermione is a “spider” who is container and contained. Confined by the pregnancy, she is also the cocoon that births a butterfly: “Hermione was a cocoon, a blur of gold and gilt, a gauze net that had trapped a butterfly, that had trapped a thing that would soon be a butterfly. . . . Herself had woven herself an aura, a net, a soft and luminous cocoon.” Boundaries and distinctions of the Symbolic order vanish in the fluid oscillations of pregnancy:

There is God in one and God out of one and now that God is in me. I feel no difference between in and out. Something had happened to me, whatever the oracle may say, I know already something has happened to me. But I’ll ask it, for inside and outside are the same, God in and out, all gold, gorse, pollen-dust, gold and gold of rayed light slanting across the low spikes of white orchid and fragrance in and out. . . .

The symptoms of pregnancy not only disorient, but also induce a discourse without Symbolic signification. Words as sound, sight, color, rhythm, and smell flood the words as signifiers of meaning. The play on “in and out,” “inside and outside,” is a startling anticipation of and variation on Derrida’s concept of “hymenal” discourse, the inscription of a simultaneous enfolding and enfolded, inside and outside that deconstructs the difference upon which phallogocentrism depends. The uterus in H. D.’s text displaces the hymen in Derrida’s text as a literal and figurative site of deconstructive power. The woman as speaking mother, not the woman as silent virgin, disrupts the binary system of patriarchy. Pregnancy makes Hermione both mother and babe, inside and outside:

The symptoms made her realize that she was not so neatly a painted box, a neat coffin for its keeping. She was being disorganized as the parchment-like plain substance of the germ that holds the butterfly becomes fluid, inchoate, as the very tight bond of her germination became inchoate, frog-shaped small greedy domineering monster. The thing within her made her one with frogs, with eels. She was animal, reptile. . . . eel-Hermione . . . alligator-Hermione . . . sea-gull Hermione . . . She wanted what an animal wants, what an eel wants, what even a bird must have.

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