vendredi 1 juin 2012

Article: “Male Beauty in the Eye of the Beholder? Guys, Guises and Disguise in Patrick White’s The Twyborn Affair”


Male Beauty in the Eye of the Beholder? Guys, Guises and Disguise in Patrick White’s The Twyborn Affair”. Transnational Literature 4: 2, Adelaide, mai 2012, 1-11. 

By Jean-François Vernay.

‘Beauty is in the eye of the beholder’, which first appeared in the third century BC in Greek, quickly gained proverbial currency in the English language thanks to its wisdom. Admittedly, whenever beauty has been acknowledged, one should take it primarily as a comment on the beholder rather than on the model. In heterosexual relationships, male beauty would thus be informative of the female gaze and conception of aesthetics. But what of homosexual relationships? Logically, male beauty would inform as much on the aesthetics of the beholder as on the canons of male beauty through the representation of the perfect man. Now what if the male model appeals to both male and female beholders? Can gay men and straight women share the same aesthetics of the male body? Do they seek and value the same things in a partner? And then what if the male model switches to female beauty all the while sustaining an unflinching power of seduction? Would that prove that beauty is genderless or would that mean that desirability is unrelated to beauty? On a creative level, when White depicts an ambiguous protean protagonist, beauty essentially relies on his characterization skills. But is male beauty objectively inherent to the model or is it solely to be found in the novelist’s subjective representation of his central character?


The Twyborn Affair (1979) critically confronts the politics of sex while revealing the author’s private inner world. Patrick White’s last novel but one adumbrates the representation of traditionally invisible alternative models of sexuality in literature which, according to Robert Dessaix, have been given topicality in the 1980s and 1990s due to a loosening of sexual repression. The themes of homosexuality and transvestism which White tackled earlier in his fiction are now the cynosure of all eyes and fused with identity concerns, even though the author did not intend his novel to be a piece of queer activism.

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