The Madness Outside Gender The Madness Outsi:Travels with Don Quixote and Saint Foucault

That the Conclusion of Don Quixote returns the knight one final time to the project of narrating her MALE double's life  seems  IMPORTANT.  When Don Quixote is at last ready to understand St Simeon neither as her "master" nor her possession, she is at last able also to understand her mad love not as a curse but as a source of creative power. She is now ready for her story's final revelation: that she is her own master and can make up her own god. She is ready to leave her feverish dreams of loss and abandonment, or inferiority and deprivation, and awaken "to the world which lay before [her]" (207). At last Don Quixote and St Simeon become as indistinguishable from each other as her mad love led her to fantasize they were. They meet in a place beyond the complaints and competitions determined by binary, masculine-feminine gender identifications. MacKendrick argues one of the primary "aim[s] of asceticism [is] the refusal of finitude, exhaustion, and limit--all through the body. Which is, of course, impossible" (70; emphasis hers). Don Quixote stops being a foolish woman querulously and resentfully in love with a man, with all the cultural and social baggage that position entails and begins to be like St Simeon at his least rational, a mad ascetic and saint, living always within the impossible dream of physical sensation more powerful and endless than thought. To move into this position means moving away from anything the dominant culture can recognize as sanity because our culture "increasingly regard[s asceticism's] excess as pathological" (MacKendrick 71). It also means attaining to some extent the community of "freaks" beyond gender for which she yearns. As long as she tries to speak in socially recognizable and legitimated languages to the k/night that she inhabits and to the pirate-dog-masochist-misfits who share it with her, Acker's protagonist can only reiterate the alienation she feels due to being biologically relegated to the role of woman, but when she stops trying to communicate reasonably she can relax into companionable closeness to Rocinante and a covenant with her degendered deity, for "Mad language is consciousness in myth'" (192). And "Language presupposes community" (202).


(70; emphasis hers)

(MacKendrick 71)



 In Saint Foucault, David Halperin praises the use, in Butler's earlier work, of Foucauldian genealogy as an example of how "a number of lesbian and gay critical and cultural theorists" refuse to debate "homophobic discourses . . . of psychiatry, sexology, criminology, and social science" and instead analyze the construction of the discourses, "their subjects and objects" (43). My aim in this essay has been to show that when feminist theorists of gender follow this Foucauldian path, they can provide readers with an approach that allows access to spaces outside society and its constructions of gender, as they are illuminated by mad texts like Acker's Don Quixote. But to incorporate the psychoanalytic understanding of subjectivity into the genealogical tracing of any contemporary gender identification means obscuring the revolutionary novel's violent evocation of an outside to mainstream societies and also means silencing its ability to demand an accounting from those societies.  

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