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Transnationalism and Modern Am Furthermore, the novel subtly explores coming out issues between mothers and daughters, a fraught topic that has not been written about frequently, especially during the early twentieth century. This reading of The Cubicle City locates it as foundational to lesbian modernist novels and as an artifact which demonstrates the freedom that transnationality conferred upon Flanner, yet was denied her protagonist.
The story of a promiscuous female protagonist with an ambiguous sexual identity, it has heretofore not been acknowledged as a queer novel, but its characters, especially when paired with comments Flanner made to a journalist later in life, suggest that, Flanner, based upon personal experience, was an early proponent of the modern theory that gender and sexuality are innate, non-binary, and irreversible.
Ironically, in leaving America, a physical and psychological shift, Flanner was enabled to write the novel itself and to explore the future she escaped. From the safety of the left bank, Flanner constructed what amounts to a cautionary tale for others like her as she imagines how social pressures No registration sex in Delia city have caused her to deny attraction to other women and settle for an unhappy marriage. Generally speaking, setting is a crucial determinant of openness about queer subjects in early lesbian modernist novels.
Stuck in early 20 th century America, Delia struggles to navigate the gender and sex inequality inherent in the social mores that dictated how promiscuity was expected of men but ruinous for women, and where queer desires are hidden in public and even denied in private. These novels have occupied scholars and readers in decoding private references which may also be revealing about the equally private thoughts of their authors and the psychological reality behind their queer novels.
Perhaps because it differs in veracity from autobiography, it enabled queer modernist writers to discuss their secret affairs and desires. By incorporating her own biography, she can objectively evaluate her decision to leave home, family, culture, and language to emigrate to Paris.
Flanner plays out the trajectory of the life she abandoned in New York when she fled with Solano. That Delia does not similarly expatriate herself tells us why Flanner made the difficult decisions she did; she did not want to continue living like Delia. Yet her life is often included in lists of early 20 th century American lesbian writers. A definition of lesbian modernism has been long in coming. Benstock gave scholarly attention to the lesbian writings of the French expatriates.
Early theorists of lesbian novels needed to assert lesbian stories were also intended for non-lesbian audiences, that they were not simply entertainments for a coterie audience. Laura Doan established a connection between modernist female writers and the work of their contemporary sexologists. All of these critics were laying the groundwork for the serious, critical examination of texts that had been passed over by history. Work by contemporary scholars such as Deborah Cohler, Jodie Medd, Sashi Nair, and Gay Wachman, have examined the work of modernist lesbian writers and story lines in an attempt to include queerness as one of the many modernism s.
Closeted from her family and legions of New Yorker readers for virtually all of her life, Flanner was nonetheless well-known in lesbian circles in Paris. Thus, to those who knew about her lesbian identification, the book was even more clearly lesbian in its themes.
Gender and sex are notably separated from one another in the exposition of most of her characters: Men are often submissive and inexperienced, and women are frequently lustful, calculating, and even cruel. By substituting one love that dare not speak its name, promiscuity, for homosexuality, Flanner presents the psychological turmoil of coming of age as a queer woman in an ostensibly heterosexual romance story.
The book also overtly explores the options available to socially conscious, upwardly mobile bi-sexuals and lesbians of the time. Outwardly female, but exhibiting a sense of identity usually associated with the masculine, Delia is strengthened rather than stereotyped or rejected because of her unconventional persona.
Flanner neatly separates gender from sex in her descriptions of Delia. Delia liked few women and made no differentiation against any men. Cubical City Her performance of gender creates impediments in her relationships, and she appears gender dissonant to other characters because of her physicality, man-like promiscuity, and sexualized interactions.
Doan demonstrates that upper class lesbians of means, including Bryher, Hall, and Sackville-West, had access to medical, sexological texts that were supposedly available only to physicians Doanbut Flanner had neither the professional connections nor the financial means to access such books herself.
Flanner likely engaged in talk with her lesbian friends about the new science that described but did not discriminate against them. The Oxford English Dictionary documents that androgyny was a medical diagnosis used in the British Medical Journal in Her lack of identification with females is revealing. Delia looks like a woman, but thinks and acts from a position of male authority. She is unabashed when other characters confront her with their perceptions, even when they are intended as criticism.
Nancy, whose thoughts are inflamed by complex jealousies, intends to wound Delia by calling attention to her masculine behavior. Her unconventional identity is essential to the plot of the story and its overtly heterosexual and underlying lesbian themes. Delia, who seems to exempt herself from traditional gender expectations, moves through the world like a privileged, genderless being, further isolating her from those sensibilities she dubs female.
She believes she can encompass the privileges afforded every person until she is forced to decide between androgyny and social acceptance. Paul is exemplary of No registration sex in Delia city gender identity to which Delia is attracted.
At dinner on the eve of his departure for the Philippines, Delia is determined to seduce him. Clinging to Midwestern values of chastity until marriage, Paul tries proposing to Delia before she initiates him sexually, and after she has refused his proposal, Delia is more aroused than before; the narrator reveals that Delia wants to possess Paul sexually without being possessed.
His character appears very briefly in the book, but it demonstrates that masculine and feminine identities are publicly labeled by sex but privately negotiated. Goldstein draws the cigar, traditionally a phallic symbol, from the region of his heart and disrobes it with girlish hands as if it were a flower, another symbol of female genitalia.
The rough Goldstein is portrayed in lesbian-like imagery, his masculinity No registration sex in Delia city by his pending confrontation with Delia. When Keith has dressed down Delia for her promiscuity, her response first appears to be stereotypically feminine:. For a moment she had been stunned. Then that commonplace rather masculine instinct in Delia which smiled at funny stories, that recalled them, retold them while she worked with her female face as solemn as a nun telling her be—that risible instinct loosened her mouth, wet her eyes, discovered even her voice and in one of the few times of her life, Delia laughed out loud.
Delia embraces the power of desire. She will not judge herself as being either pure or impure. She does not understand why there should be a sexual double-standard. She is queer, even if only in so far as she will not accept the basic heteronormative contract that prizes female chastity. Furthermore, she does not desire marriage as a conclusion to her independence. Clumsily, perhaps, Flanner is convinced, more than Delia is, that marriage will force her independent female protagonist into gender conformity.
The rebellious Delia will stay in New York and marry a lackluster suitor. Flanner seems to project the life she might have faced had she not fled to Europe.
Not only would she have been pressured to stay in an ill-matched marriage, she would have given up the fight for independence and capitulated to figurative castration herself. To survive, she would have had to let society dictate her gender performance and her sexuality.
The Cubical City demonstrates both conscious and unconscious attractions between women. Flanner leaves no doubt that Delia is romantically, even erotically, attractive to other women when she writes about the relationships between minor female characters. But Delia seems insensible to them. Mercy reveals these transgressive desires for the first time just moments after marrying Keith.
Lesbianism is a discarded choice for Mercy, and she is the only woman in the novel who seriously and consciously weighs her homosexual inclinations. While still in the receiving line, she resolves her confusion with finality. Or very near it. Was she attracted to him as a covert connection to Mercy?
Could Keith have been a socially-acceptable romantic conduit between the two women, just as Paul is between Delia and Nancy?
When Mercy marries Keith, Delia is simultaneously freed from her romantic entanglements with both characters. And Nancy for a moment, clung.
It was as if someone had thrown a stone in it. Then with tightening muscles she moved away and speaking with an effort to Mrs. Poole, made for the door. Paul serves as the locus of desire between Delia and Nancy. He is conveniently out of the picture, incommunicative and remote in the Philippines.
Paul has not chosen to expatriate himself. There is no reason to suspect that his expatriation allows him freedoms that Flanner would enjoy or Delia might desire; his character receives little development in the novel. He is a distant, unknown conduit, a connection between the two women that shields their love from public scrutiny. Through Paul, the two women can safely enact a homosocial pact. Both Delia and Nancy swear their devotion to Paul, and as long as each keeps her vow and he remains absent, their celibacy is a compact enforced by and between the two women.
Fidelity to the absent Paul guarantees that neither woman will cheat on the other; it binds them together in a tense standoff that preserves their hold over one another without the need to acknowledge it. Once Delia has lost Nancy, she needs the comfort of a surrogate breast. In seeking such consolation, Delia expresses a need for a lesbian lover and a nurturing mother—both of which she loses when Nancy leaves her and threatens to reveal her promiscuity to Agatha.
In the final analysis, Flanner describes their partnership in sexual terms. Nancy tells Delia:. You were worth it then. For Delia, the risk of rejection by her mother prevents her from coming out as promiscuous, gender-queer, or lesbian. Delia is a ghosted lesbian. Most of the young women in the book stifle lesbian tendencies and choose husbands.
Marilyn Farwell has rallied against evolving feminist and queer theories which have ignored lesbian voices and narratives. The literary professions have failed scholars who tried to compile a coherent body of lesbian texts and scholarship. Flanner would have been well aware of that, and aiming to write mainstream fiction, she subtly wove her lesbian themes into a novel that requires close reading for its full lesbian portent to emerge.
She strove to become a famous novelist, not a lesbian novelist, yet that does not exempt her work from the canon of lesbian fiction. We can only guess why Flanner did not write a more explicitly lesbian plot. Sedgwick suggests that Cather did not publish a lesbian story because of. Sedgwick Flanner, who left her husband No registration sex in Delia city mother behind when she fled to Europe with Solano, pursued a passionate relationship with a woman, rather than settle for the roles of daughter and wife that American society had imposed upon her.
The chief difference between Flanner and her protagonist is that Flanner expatriated and lived a semi-open life as a lesbian in France for half a century while Delia accepts a much different fate. By writing a novel about a woman who stayed, Flanner is able to role play both outcomes. Through the veil of fiction, Flanner has provided us with a portrait of the psychological turmoil of coming out as a lesbian woman in the s and she shows that leaving America not only freed her to live the life of her choosing, but enabled her to write semi-openly about the choices she made.
Her move to Manhattan accelerates her understanding that sex and gender were more complicated than her Midwestern upbringing had permitted her to understand. These suggest that The Cubical City shows Flanner rationalizing her decision to leave her husband and family. How strange that I was turned in that direction, the way a branch of a young tree is turned and twisted without pressure from anything outside of its own inclination, acting like a rope or chain though none exists,—no constraint, no pressure from any element except the shaping of my erotic emotions within me which were like an emotional nearness, constantly pressing me into the company of No registration sex in Delia city woman who excited and charmed me […].
Letter [17 June]. Although Flanner exercised an option she did not leave open to her fictional character, fleeing to start anew in Paris, such a deus ex machina would not do for the ending of her novel.No registration sex in Delia city
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