Communication and Construction of Monstrous Embodiment
June 15-16, 2012

Thursday, 22 December 2011

Conjoined Twins in the News

This post isn't strictly tied to the theme of sensualising deformity, but given the extraordinary nature of the case and the time of year I felt that it warranted sharing. A pair of conjoined twins of the most rare degree, dicephalic parapagus, where two fully formed heads share a single body, including internal organs, have been born in Brazil.

The amazing thing about this is the fact that both the babies and the mother are alive and, we can assume, healthy. Obviously whether their condition will impact on their development remains to be seen, but at the moment it is simply wonderful that these two boys have survived to term and have been born without any apparent complications.

Perhaps the more disturbing note here is the article's insistent emphasis on separation, which has arisen in spite of the fact that doctors admit it to be impossible; separation in this instance would be "removal", selection one of the children to deliberately kill. That the conversation is taking place despite both twins exhibiting normal brain function and with no visible threat posed by one twin to the health and survival of the other is somewhat unsettling to say the least, but not surprising. To what degree does the assumption that separation is a given play in to legitimate medical concerns, and to what degree does it reflect the same anxieties of human form and human subjectivity which have always plagued conjoined twins?

Today, however, with the twins born only a few days before Christmas and Hanukkah, and right in the midst of the winter holiday season, we'd just like to wish them, and you, all our best. 

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

“Just a wooden stake”: (de)sensualising Dracula

Hopefully, you are already enjoying your holidays and long winter nights with a good book or an interesting piece of writing. For those of you passionate about vampires and Gothic literature, take a look at Elizabeth Miller's intriguing article Coitus Interruptus: Sex, Bram Stoker and 'Dracula' which dissects Stoker's timeless classic by reflecting on numerous interpretations and critical works which highlight the novel's overwhelming sexuality. Introducing the article, Miller writes that readers of 'Dracula' have been repeatedly assured that the novel is "all about sex" where "every sexual practice has been thrust upon its pages" like necrophilia, fellatio, homoeroticism, bestiality, incest, pedophilia, sexually transmitted diseases and others. Miller argues that:
Words have been twisted to yield new meanings, passages have been examined out of context, and gaps in the text have been declared intentional omissions. Furthermore, critics comb every aspect of Stoker’s life looking for evidence for their particular brand of psychosexual analysis, sometimes even inventing “facts” to support flimsy theories. The preponderance of such readings of Dracula demands re-assessment.
Basically, Miller invites readers to imagine 'Dracula' where a 'wooden stake is just a wooden stake' and 'blood is merely blood'. While Miller does not deny the existence of eroticism and sensuality in the novel, she argues that certain readings' insistence on certain sexual contexts may lead to "reductive textual nit-picking" and could be a consequence of projecting modern sensibilities and discourses of sexuality onto a Victorian text (for example, numerous readings of the scene of Lucy's staking which most popularly refer to phallic symbols, sexual violation and many others). Taking Miller's article and other readings into account, it seems that the extent of sexual contexts, practices and overtones present in 'Dracula' remain shrouded in speculation and mystery. Finally, Miller tellingly concludes the article:
But in the flush of excitement to validate the novel, to give it relevance in a postmodern world, one can too easily fall victim to distortion or even the creation of information to support a theory. That is where, in the view of this writer, we should pull back. For sometimes a wooden stake is just that—a wooden stake.