예이츠와 여성: 남성적 나르시시즘의 모순


Yeats and Woman: Male Narcissism and Its Dilemma


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Yeats suffered greatly from the love affair with Maud Gonne but particularly from the contradiction that she manifested. The poet devoted his love and poems to her in vain. But the contradiction is not peculiar or unique problems to Yeats but all men in Western patriarchal tradition. Indeed women for men are figuring simultaneously as madonna and whore, angel and beast. Because the woman has the power to provoke the tumult of desire in man and to gain over him through the desire, the men is afraid of being weaken by her, infected with her feminity and of then showing himself incapable or castrated. The fact that woman from a phallocentric viewpoint appears to be castrated is as reassuring for men as it is alarming. On the one hand, he projects her as lack and sees himself completed in her, thus confirming male hegemony. On the other hand, the so-called castrated woman can reflect back to man a dangerous paradox: if she had been castrated, then his own possession of a penis was in danger by her. In order not to be a paralyzing threat, a woman must have phallic attributes and must become the phallic woman idealized beyond sexuality. The phallic woman is thus fantasized by the man as a defense against castration anxiety. Representation of the phallic woman, he believes, protects him against doubts about his masculinity. Making her like a man conserves the man’s narcissism. The ambiguous nature of the woman is well presented in Yeats’s “Presences.” Here Yeats categorizes the woman as archetypes “harlot,” “child,” and “queen.” And their seductive “rustle of lace or silken stuff” evokes a contradictory femaleness over which he has no rights and which can move rapidly from vulnerable to ruthless, even turning that very vulnerability into a disturbing power over him. In “A Bronze Head,” the woman representative of Maud Gonne remains mysterious and inaccessible, overflowing the ‘images’ and ‘forms’ in which he tries to capture her. In “No Second Troy,” Yeats blames Maud Gonne for her violent political action, perhaps because she cannot be desexualized, idealized, or fetishized fully as he wishes. One of the reasons that Yeats is desperate to prevent the woman from being involved in the politics is that for Yeats the ideal form of a woman would not allow for difference to infiltrate the idealized autonomy. In this sense Yeats prays for his daughter to be the woman with nature of mindless organic spontaneity and for her bridegroom to bring her to a house of custom and ceremony. The idealization of the woman as nature into civilization, however, will not entirely do because it inescapably exposed to the fearful power of death. As Freud argues in Civilization and its Discontents, Eros’s sublimation of the nature into civilization inevitably exhausts its power, which leaves it vulnerable to Thanatos that then threatens to destroy the social order one has so laboriously constructed. The dilemma of sublimation is well explicated in Yeats’s “Mediations in Time of Civil War“ where he perceives the conflict between insistent demands of death drive and the inhibitory requirements of civilization. “Leda and the Swan” shows that the phallic civilization is born together with the brute power of violence and destruction that is to threaten all the social orders. By desexualizing, idealizing, or sublimating the woman, the man may reduce the horror of castration. But his attempt is radically self-defeating and self-undoing, for the more he sublimates her, the more likely she becomes the destroyer of ideal orders. Because of this paradox, the woman remains ontological aphoria to Yeats.


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