September 28, 2010

Abstract for Northampton Research Seminar: Alan Moore and the Problem of Women’s Desire

This Thursday, I am trying out a paper that I am writing on the Northampton University staff research seminar. I’m writing it up for a collection on Alan Moore and love.

Alan Moore and the Problem of Women’s Desire: Exploring Sexual Domination in From Hell and Lost Girls

This paper explores Alan Moore’s representations of rape, seduction and domination via the theories of Jessica Benjamin in The Bonds of Love: Psychoanalysis, Feminism and the Problem of Domination (1988). In thinking through sexual domination and the master-slave dynamic, Benjamin turns to Pauline Réage’s sadomasochistic fantasy, The Story of O (1954), a text that, for Benjamin, represents all that is problematic about sexual domination in Western culture. Domination of women by men exists ‘in the opposition between violator and violated’ where ‘one person maintains his boundary and the other allows her boundary to be broken’ (Benjamin, p. 64). What Benjamin uncovers in her study though ultimately is that the foundation of sexual domination is in Western society’s attitudes to women – especially mothers.

Explorations of sexual domination are integral to Moore’s work and Benjamin’s model is particularly suggestive in analyzing From Hell (1991-1996) and Lost Girls (2006). From Hell traces the history of Moore’s version of Jack the Ripper, Dr. Gull, and Moore represents the murders of London prostitutes as morbid rituals that reinvigorate male power and ensure the domination of women by men. Fear of the mother is obvious in Dr. Gull’s discussion of matriarchal figures like Boudicca who avenges her raped daughters. More possibilities exist, however, in Lost Girls as it traces a path from abuse to women re-discovering their own sexual desire. Benjamin notes that too often ‘women […] seek their desire in another’ turning to ‘a powerful other who remains in control’ (p. 131). The analysis of Lost Girls describes how the three fabled protagonists, Dorothy, Wendy and Alice, manage to overcome the problem of women’s desire to discover ‘another dimension’ of recognition between man and woman (Benjamin, p. 132).

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