One of Ann Dowd's passions both in her poetry and scholarly writing is women's reclamation of their bodies and their voices. Thus, her current manuscript under preparation is entitled 'Bodies in Revolution: Theorizing the Female Tattooed Body and its Language'. In addition, she is an assistant professor at Framingham State College in Massachusetts.
Volume 9, May 2002
The body says, read me. The tattoo
becomes even more than an art form;
it becomes language itself.
The woman writer, traditionally represented in the eighteenth century as the unspeaking subject whose sole means of public voice was in the letters she crafted, assumes a new character in this postmodernist age of pop culture. She still writes letters, but whereas once they were emblematic of female processes and sentimentality, now her messages - often thoughtful expressions of identity, authenticity, and self-ownership as well as marks of ritual and liminality -reflect her affirmed role as author, and for the purposes of this discussion, she trades in her pen for a tattooist's needle. Indeed, the modern tattooed body can be interpreted not merely as the mark of authorial presence, but rather, as the author in a very real sense.
History tells us that initially tattooing was popular among the middle and high-class social sets. However, its appeal spiraled progressively downward as newspaper stories linked tattooing to illegal and illicit behavior. This trend was solidly imbedded in the social conscious during the Depression when women acquired tattoos as a means of making a living as circus 'freaks.'1 And although the tattoo is yet again in the throes of redefinition, this ignominy persists. In fact, it is the Rabelaisian past that today invites a reading of the tattoo that seeks to forge pioneering connections: artistic, literary, and cultural. The primary premise for my argument is the synonymy between the theoretical terms of the letter and those commonly revealed about tattoos. They are claims of identity and ownership; the doubleness of tbecause they are self-inscribed with their own design, they are also weapons of empowerment in a society still dictated by gender. Sigmund Freud makes a connection between the ego, or identity, and bodily manifestations when he writes: 'the ego is ultimately derived from bodily sensations, chiefly from those springing from the surface of the body. It may thus be regarded as a mental projection of the surface of the body' (Freud, 1923:24). It seems that women's tattoos are demonstrations of Freud's statement in that they project literal images on the skin. But since the body is a means over and through which relations of power are created, driven and thwarted, then the statements the body makes become increasingly more critical. As Freud suggests, for many women their tattoos speak of who they are and how they want society to 'read' them.
In a survey that I conducted recently targeting forty academic and professional women with one or more tattoos,2 thirty-four of them linked their tattoos to claims of identity and ownership of their bodies. Four out of the remaining six respondents referenced happenings such as the birth of a child or the death of parents, events that are intimately related to both the body and to psychic life. Reaching beyond my sampling to the broader spectrum of literature written about the culture of tattoos, it becomes apparent that there is commonly implicit personal meaning in the choice of tattoo designs. In my study, 'cultural heritage' is literally imprinted with new meaning. As one respondent concludes, 'I wanted to have a tattoo that was somehow symbolic of myself and my background/history, so I got one that I had mostly designed and drawn myself and had a female tattoo artist do it' (personal communication). Another young woman tells about a magnolia tattooed on her back to signify her southern roots and a second-generation Irish woman has a Celtic knot inscribed on her wrist. Women's identities are tied also to their passages into health from disease such as cancer, or from self-induced conditions such as anorexia, bulimia, alcoholism, and drug addiction. In other cases, women are reclaiming their bodies from the trauma of childhood sexual abuse and adult rape. As one respondent concludes,
As someone who battled anorexia and bulimia - and who still has problems with eating "normally" - I usually find it hard to think that I value my body, but there are certainly times when I realize that I am in pretty good shape … I never thought of getting a tattoo when I was younger, so I never had the potential problem of doing something in my rebellious youth … Getting tattoos now is comfortable for me … (personal communication)
Thus, when the tattoo generates a personal narrative it becomes a means of autobiographical disclosure much like a private diary or an intimate letter written to a friend. This contextualizing accommodates women's specificity because it destabilizes the relationship between gender and identity. In "The Laugh of the Medusa," Helene Cixous calls for an end of silence instituted upon women by the male economy. She does this by making biological determinism work for women when she proposes a feminine practice of writing that urges women to write themselves using the 'white ink,' the milk of the mother's breast (1980:251). My interpretation of this is that men cannot silence that which feeds their offspring so they are forced to let it flow in its own manner and design, be it the 'white ink' of the breast or the multi-colored inks of the tattooist's needle. While feminist critics continue to explore how to acquire language outside of the Symbolic order, this system of writing from the 'breast' allows for an exclusivity among women that undermines patriarchal political agendas.
Novelist Kathy Acker is a paradigm for the politics of gender, the female body and of sexuality as they apply to writing the body. Following in the steps of de Sade, her work is a skillful manipulation of sadistic eroticism that is informed by the ills of society. In her novel, Empire of the Senseless, Acker's heroine, Abhor, a half-robotic/half-human terrorist travels throughout Paris with her pirate-partner, Thivai, in an attempt to survive an apocalyptic event. Beginning with 'The Rape of the Father,' the ethics of sexuality and gender reflect the erotic, emotional and physical carnage through which Abhor struggles. One of the relevant themes in her book that concerns this article is Abhor's desire to become a pirate, the outward symbol of which is the tattoo. At one time, the French feminists' ideas of writing like a woman and of women writing their own bodies was a gross break of the Symbolic order. Now, although to write as a woman is still to challenge language, the tattooed woman demonstrates the creativity with which women's speech prevails. As mentioned previously, letters, once used by women as a vehicle for language, are retrieved again, albeit recast in a reactionary postmodern light. In Empire of the Senseless, Acker literally sheds the old epistolary skin for an anti-aesthetic version in order to define women's writing when she composes a letter to the two men who are teaching her how to write. In part, the letter reads:
Every time I talk to one of you, I feel like I'm taking layers of my own epidermis, which are layers of still freshly bloody scar tissue, black brown and red, and tearing each one of them off so more and more of my blood shoots in your face. This is what writing is to me a woman. (1988:210)
Acker's citation is reflective of Freud's aforementioned quotation regarding bodily sensations that appear on the surface of the body. For Acker, the unspecified sensation of pain seems inherent in the process of removing layers of her skin. This process of exfoliation resonates with the conditions of abjection as put forward by another French feminist, Julia Kristeva. According to Kristeva, abjection is the transgressive site of struggle between the subject and the object for material existence whereby the subject must expel the abjects - tears, blood, urine - for a 'clean and proper' body (1982). However, they are impossible to expel because they are a precondition to corporeal existence vis-à-vis the Symbolic order of the phallus.
One of the manifestations of the abject is in various cultural taboos, the classification of which the tattoo fits remarkably well. This is because first, even though it is more commonplace to see women with tattoos, the tattooing of women's bodies still is considered taboo. In an interview, Acker attributes her motivation for acquiring tattoos from the notion that 'NO!' 'is the very first word … burnt in your flesh' (Juno, 1991:179). Second, a connection is established easily between abjection and tattoos because of the blood that oozes from the flesh in the process of tattooing. This bloodletting acts as a kind of catharsis for women whose patterns of silence and ingestion are clearly traceable, and as Acker implies, whose practiced traits of sacrifice are summed up so succinctly in the word, 'no.' Abjection is both ambiguous and unstable and Krsiteva's work historically centers on avant-garde texts where the semiotic transcends its Symbolic borders and therefore, becomes a useful model not only for reading Acker's work, but also, for reading tattoos as an epistolary form. Acker acknowledges her critical ties to Kristeva in the same interview when she draws from Kristeva's book, Powers of Horror: An Essay on Abjection and notes how 'art comes from a gesture of power turned against itself. She calls it "ejection": when you take that emotion and turn it in on itself- which is what tattooing does' (Juno: 179). Both in Epistolary Histories and in her book, Bad Girls and Sick Boys, Linda Kauffman makes a connection between the tangible signs of bodily suffering on the letter in the form of tears, blood etc … of the epistolary heroine and "tattooing [as] a means of imprinting on the body what has been repressed by culture."3 It is true that cultural censorship - conscious or repressed - probably taints most bodily decisions made by women. And I obviously agree that the connection between epistolary and tattoos is valid. However, Kauffman generalizes the value of the tattoo since not all tattoos represent cultural repression. Indeed, when the cartography of the tattooed body is read as an open letter, the mapping touches on issues of colonization - particularly the appropriation of the female body - left behind by epistolary criticism. In contrast, in the context of a public letter, the power of the feminine makes a dramatic shift to the center.
In traditional epistolary criticism, there is an assumption of a writer (author) and a reader (onlooker), intended or unintended, and that the letter is of a reciprocal nature. What is so compelling about tattoos is the notion that, unlike the public letter, the author of the message is always one with the message itself. In other words, the author is the canvas, and as such, both complicates the author function as well as upsets the weight put on the reader because moreover, neither can the author eliminate the reader since the reader is also the tattooist and thus, reading/interpreting the message as it is inscribed. Consequently, the liminality of both the positions of author and reader has complex consequences for epistolary analysis.
First, permanence is a major ramification for the author of a tattoo. With the exception of expensive and painful laser surgery, removing a tattoo, unlike the option one has with destroying a traditional letter, does not exist. Decisions made in moments of foolhardiness, under the effects of alcoholism or in the frenzy of high emotion are irreversible. But even calculated choices are at risk, as for example, a person who wears the name of a beloved only to have the relationship dissolve.4 Thus, the fictionality in letters that takes place in the transference of thoughts to ink marks on the page, as well as the indeterminateness that haunts the destiny (and in traditional epistolary, the destination) of the writing is all the more critical when the transference is lastingly inscribed on the body (Barthes, 1978:158-9). Having said this, no one in my study regrets her decision regarding the acquisition of her tattoo(s) or the choice of tattoo design. As one respondent writes: 'it's a way to permanently express who you are without needing to say a word' (personal communication).
Second, epistolary discourse is marked by the boundaries of privacy that are often trespassed, transgressions that provoke discussion regarding private and public spaces, protecting privacy and the ethics of 'reading other people's mail.'5 The terms of privacy have evolved and changed since the 17th century when the community was privileged and individualism was considered suspect. Today, there is an assumption that 'information about the self is regarded as a possession, as tangible psychologically as are material goods. Self-disclosure, then, places the individual in a vulnerable position' (Brooks, 1993:33). Do women who make their letters known to the public, that is, exhibit their tattoos, forfeit this presumed entitlement to privacy? Many women protect their right to privacy by designing tattoos that are encoded, indecipherable to all but perhaps a select community knowledgeable in the sphere of the image. For example, one-third of the respondents to my survey wear tattoos influenced by goddess worship. Thus, the security of one's privacy seems correlative to the adeptness of the interpreter. In reply to the question: do you consider your tattoos to be a kind of public statement, one respondent writes: 'Yes, I do consider it to be a public statement … And it is a coded message to those who know the symbolism, although no one (as yet) has been able to identify all of the images. It is a statement about my spiritual path, my cultural heritage, and my name' (personal communication). Thus, no reader can really know the full meaning assigned to a tattoo, no matter how numerous are the clues. On the other hand, due to the dichotomous nature of privacy that works for and against itself, even the most enigmatic tattoos, are still available for public scrutiny. In fact, my research in epistolary criticism consistently confirms the opinion that '… each letter, however private and personal it may seem, is a letter marked by and sent to the world' (Gilroy and Verhoeven, 2000:1). This same sentiment can be applied to the tattoo because, whether realized or not, women who have a visible tattoo are conveying expressions of themselves to a readership/audience. What Roland Barthes says about the fictionality and illusory nature of love letters works as a paradigm for the doubleness inherent in the practice of wearing tattoos when he writes, 'it [the love letter] is, more profoundly, an inscription: the other is inscribed, he inscribes himself within the text, he leaves there his (multiple) traces' (Barthes, 1978:157). In other words, the beloved (reader) can come to know the authentic lover (author) only as close as a series of clues will allow. Thus, the tattooed skin, no longer the unblemished, creamy white construction legitimized by society, now invites mapping. A single tattoo will reveal only so much of its wearer while a topography of multiple tattoos, as with a series of letters rather than only one or two, begins to unravel an autobiographical narrative. Moreover, as with a letter, the tattoo narrative is perforated by the fragments, discontinuity, and ellipsis in information that traces imply.
The question of privacy is all the more problematic due to the contradictory nature of tattoos, which is both to conceal and to expose. This inconsistency is illustrated by the women whose provocative choice of placement for their tattoos begs the question: are these locations informed by the politics of sexual power and play? ' I love to see mine [tattoo] peeking above my waist band.' wrote one respondent (personal communication). Interestingly, bodily movement is often tied in to the amount of tattooed exposure, as is the case with one teacher who bared her lower, tattooed back when she lifted her arm to write on the blackboard. Alternatively, women often elect to place their tattoos where they can make conscious choices whether to fully hide them or not, such as on their wrists, ankles or shoulder blades. As one respondent writes, 'my tat is on my lower back, and visible if I wear a "crop top" or bikini. I chose the location because I could decide daily whether to shoe [sic] or cover my tat' (personal communication). These selections, whether it be the placement of the tattoo or the style of dress that conceals or reveals, seem defined by the conditions of flirtation, the core of which is the expectation to sustain the life of desire. In this article, 'On Flirtation: An Introduction,' Adam Phillips's understanding of flirtation can be used to read Acker whose transgressive writing is often informed by the same dichotomous conditions that Phillips consigns to flirtation: that is, the simultaneous movements of 'uncertainty' and 'control.'6 In Empire of the Senseless, Acker writes about Abhor, who both hates and lusts after her father. When she finds him dead, she is devastated. But, knowing that her desiring body will never be satisfied, Abhor substitutes the sexual encounter with the process of tattooing. Abhor states, 'there was nothing left to do. So … I went and got tattooed. Carved with roses' (Acker, 1988:140). The rose, usually a signifier of conventional love and romance, takes on an incestuous, and therefore, tabooed significance in this book. Moreover, the roses tattooed onto her back where she determines when, where, and if, anyone sees them, demonstrates her talent for preserving her body through 'cutting that language' of male egotism. Therefore, for Acker, it seems that human experience has an origin in things being cut, most of all her flesh. She assigns language with new meaning when she talks about a unique method of tattooing that 'consisted of raising defined parts of the flesh up with a knife' (Acker, 1988: 117). For Acker, 'raising' the flesh seems to be a metaphor for privileging the semiotic that informs the anti-phallocentric notion of women writing their bodies. In general, Acker's writing shines with the gaps, fissures and sudden shifts that are primary in ecriture feminine.
Alternatively, privacy is lost to interception, an activity that takes place in the distance that separates the author and the intended addressee, or reader. Poe's 'Purloined Letter' is a paradigm for the intercepted letter, and shows the shifty slippage between what is both private and public, as well as the tricky business of hiding something in plain sight. The letter in Poe's story is branded by a 'seal [that was] large and black, with the D___ cipher; there it was small and red, with the ducal of the S___ family' (Poe, 1902:49). The text, with its ink-inscribed family seals, resonates with the ink marks of the tattooed body where text both is exposed and concealed in two ways. First, there is the inscription itself: various combinations of art and language, the meanings of which extend from unintelligible to knowable. Second, there are the tattoo patterns, as they seem to ride the valleys and curves of the body in synchronous motion, over and under clothing, hiding and showing by chance. With traditional letter writing, interception not only is conceivable, but in certain circumstances, annoyingly universal as in instances of error: mail thrust in the wrong post office boxes, lost in transit, or delivered to incorrect addresses. However, the postal service, so heavily figured in epistolary theory, becomes superfluous when the author is also the mail carrier. In contrast, the purloined letter is a result of motive and calculation. In addition, in the case of interception, the distance between the author and addressee is consequential. If this is so, how can a tattooed body be the object of intervention?
The tattooist is both the artist (in truth, a kind of translator of ideas from someone else's head to the ink strokes) and the first reader. This situates the tattooist in an awkward position of being betwixt and between because of the proximity to the client/author. In some cases, the tattooist is intimately involved with the person being tattooed. For example, one of the respondents in my survey explained that in lieu of an engagement ring, she and her fiancée decided to wear matching tattoo designs that symbolized their love. Since he was both an artist and a tattooist, he created the design as well as did the tattooing. In this case, the tattoo becomes a love letter addressed to a present other, which can be read as a public letter since the tattoo is on the respondent's ankle. However, this does not happen as frequently as does a straightforward business agreement between tattooer and paying client.
With tattoos, since the author and the letter are an inseparable unit, the discourse that surrounds the absent addressee would seem to be much less of an issue since there is no intervening distance and as such, the author never loses ownership of her text.7 Nevertheless, a case can be made for the sexualization and objectification of the tattooed body under the male gaze, in itself, a kind of appropriation. Indeed, it seems that the tattooed body occasions an uncanny movement between itself and its audience. On one hand, under a cover of multiple, interlinking tattoos, the body is less visible because the artwork becomes the spectacle. Accordingly, the same way that one critically studies art is the manner in which the tattooed body is appreciated and analyzed. On the other hand, the inscribed flesh can be interpreted as encouraging attention, and inviting singular looks. Even so, is this to say that women seek to be both the substance and the dread implicit in male fetishism?
Freud suggests that the female body in all of its beauty, fascination and lure works as a kind of camouflage or mask that holds the male gaze at the same time that it distracts the male psyche from the woman's 'wound' (the hole caused by the lack of a penis) concealed beneath. The dread of what is hidden behind the mask creates the anxiety. The male gaze, then, symbolizes masculine desire caught in an alternation between erotic obsession with the female body and fear of the castration that it signifies. The paradox is that the Medusan image of the woman gives the male world a sense of order at the same time that she is yearning to escape from it, and the consequent shackles of objectification forced on her. Critics tout the impossibility of women transcending their symbolic constraints through their bodies. At present, while I must concede their point, the tattooed body seems clearly to offer a potential avenue for altering our interpretation of the way the objectified woman is constructed and viewed.
Throughout this essay, I have looked at the female, tattooed body as a kind of women's autobiography. That is, the topography of the tattoos becomes a living, moving projection of actual (and fictive) human experience. Read in this way, as a barometer of personal narratives, the language of the tattoo rejects the claustrophobic containment of fixed definition because the woman's body is her canvas - simultaneously author/self and objet d'art. As a result, her mobility incites discourse surrounding the locus of performance as well as the relations between spectacle and spectator.
In the familiar Freudian binary, the male is the active voyeur while the image of the female is one of passive exhibitionist. Borrowing from the world of cinematic theory, however, the neatness and logicality of this binary is susceptible to upset. In her book, Fetishism and Curiosity, Laura Mulvey considers the female protagonist of the melodramatic genre to be a woman who deflates the collective male fantasy. She writes:
Rather than performing as spectacle for consumption, the female figure performs the woman who must perform, and for whom performance is invested in appearance. Performance, appearance, masquerade and their erotics shift from the surface of the screen into the story itself…While in Hollywood generally the spectacle of woman is a symptom that relates back to the male psyche and blocks the understanding of the social, the melodramatic symptom 'tends to de-eroticise its female spectacle. (Mulvey, 1996:38-9)
For the female tattooed body, this citation raises several intimate and intersecting questions regarding notions of gender, control, and the presentation of the author/artist in a very real, performative sense. Therefore, while Mulvey asserts that the melodrama is directed toward a female audience, her ideas take on further meaning when situated within the context of the male spectator. Because when the male gaze is averted, and perhaps even reversed, there is a concurrent shift of sexual power. Mulvey's principles serve my argument well since the underpinnings of the melodrama - '… women's resistance to their confined and subordinated positions in a male-dominated world' (Erens, 1990:356) - echo the suffragette-like cries of the objectified other presented in this essay. The stylized, highly made-up and coiffed actress of the melodramatic screen is representational of the enigmatic female masked by her desires to hold her femininity at a distance; that is, 'to masquerade is to manufacture a lack in the form of a certain distance between oneself and one's image' (Erens, 1990:49). Unlike her voyeuristic audience who attempts to permanently situate her in his sights, the tattooed woman uses her own body as a disguise in an absolute way. Furthermore, given that the voyeuristic look relies on the distance between male spectator and fetishized object (since desire is a construct built on its absent object), the tattooed woman collapses the distance between spectator and spectacle because she is not a projection on the screen. Rather, she is real, and in the present. In being so, desire as well as the gaze, are lost to her proximity. The confidence with which she performs her body, revealing and exposing her tattooed flesh at will, shifts the distinction between the subject who desires and the one who is desired. She is no longer the objet d'art, but rather, herself the artist. Moreover, her male spectator, now himself the observed, is further disconcerted by the nearing distance between him and the woman's 'woundedness.' Not only does he fear castration but also, the mental picture of the multiple puncture wounds caused by the tattooist's needle mixing blood and color threatens to reduce him into oblivion as with the abjected female body who writes with the 'ink' of her breast. For the woman, empowerment comes from the deflection of the male gaze which, in turn, shifts her status from objectified other to writing/speaking subject. In addition, the act of tattooing, once a singularly male experience of pain and pleasure, now infuses her body with the same sense of powerfulness. The tattooed woman seems to jump from the screen of distance into life itself, rather than solely into the story, as with Mulvey's actresses.
Indeed, beginning with Simone Beauvoir in the aftermath of the Second World War and gaining fever pitch in the latter part of the 20th century, French feminist theorists helped to shift the balance of a phallic dominant economy to make room for feminine theory based on an autonomously constructed female sexuality and morphology. In the space left, the onus fell on women to find ways of expressing themselves. The same spirit of revolution that was behind earlier epistolary prompted contemporary women to create more aggressive, assertive and transgressive models of communication. Now, after decades fraught with continual waves of cultural change, both the feminine body and the body of the letter emerge as iconographical totems of female privilege when linked to the tattoo. And although reading the tattoo as an open letter disrupts the margins of established literary taxonomies, such as the epistolary narrative, failing to do so wrongly mitigates the import of the tattoo as a cultural barometer of new epistolary as well as of artistic modes.
1. In this article, the facts concerning the history of the tattoo are drawn from Victoria Lautman, The New Tattoo (New York: Abbeville Press, 1994); for an in-depth anthropological survey of modern tattoo culture, see Marge DeMello, Bodies of Inscription: A cultural history of the modern tattoo community (North Carolina: Duke UP, 2000); also, for a comprehensive study of tattoo history, ed. Jane Caplan, Written on the Body: The Tattoo in European and American History (New Jersey: Princeton UP, 2000).
2. The survey consisted of seventeen questions both tattoo-related and demographically oriented. The ages of the respondents ranged from 22 to 59. The survey went out to H-women, an academic on-line distribution list; in addition, it went to an engineering company in Maryland and a stock and bonds company in New York City. Thus, although the sampling is small, it is well diversified. Telephone conversations and e-mails were a follow-up to the original survey. Throughout this article, my respondents remain anonymous.
3. Gilroy and Verhoeven, p.204. Also, see Linda Kauffman, Bad Girls and Sick Boys: fantasies in contemporary art and culture (Berkeley: University of California P, 1998) 211. Clearly, both Kauffman's and my theories pull from the same pool of works by the French feminists. It is impossible not to duplicate when conducting a critical analysis of Kathy Acker's writing. However, whereas Kauffman theorizes about the future of epistolary fiction, my work transcends the written page to become a discourse on, through and about the body. Consequently, the writer, i.e. Acker, is only penultimate to the significance using the woman's tattooed body as a marker of personal, cultural, linguistic, and political empowerment. Indeed, I am indebted to Kauffman's work on epistolary criticism, the exploration of which prompted me initially to look at the tattooed body in the light of the epistolary form as well as her incisive classification of the motifs inherent in the 'epistolary anti-aesthetic' (Kauffman, Bad Girls: 201-202).
5. In her paper, 'I Wrote a Letter to My Love: Adultery, Scandal and Literary Scholarship,' Maryanne Dever borrows this axiom to mean the scholarly reading of private letters. Presented at 'Women's Private Writing/Women's History, University of New England, June 2000.
6. For more on flirtation, see 'On Flirtation: Introduction,' On Flirtation (Massachusetts; Harvard UP, 1994). Phillips writes that 'the generosity of flirtation is in its implicit wish to sustain the life of desire; and often by blurring, or putting into question, the boundary between sex and sexualization. Flirtation creates the uncertainty it is also trying to control; and so can make us wonder which ways of knowing, or being known, sustain our interest, our excitement, in other people' (Pixie).
7. This aspect of my argument raises an interesting issue regarding the authenticity of a facsimile that needs further examination. For example, what happens if the author makes a copy of the letter (the tattooed inscription) and posts it to an intended addressee? As with the facsimile of the purloined letter in Poe's story, which demonstrates the potential for undermining its originality through its imitation, might a reproduction jeopardize authenticity of the author and of the text? Or is the meaning of the text fixed?
Acker, Kathy. 1988. Empire of the Senseless. New York: Grove Press.
Barthes, Roland. 1978. A Lover's Discourse: Fragments. Translated by Richard Howard. New York: Hill and Wang.
Brooks, Peter. 1993. Body Work: Objects of Desire in Modern Narrative. Cambridge: Harvard Univ. Press.
Cixous, Helene. 1981. The laugh of the Medusa. In New French Feminisms, ed. Elaine Marks and Isabelle de Courtivron. London: The Harvester Press Ltd.
Freud, Sigmund. 1953-1974. In The Standard Edition of The Complete Psychological Works, ed. James Strachey. London: Hogarth Press.
Gilroy, Amanda and W. M. Verhoeven. 2000. Epistolary Histories: Letters, Fiction, Culture. Charlottesville: Univ. Press of Virginia.
Kristeva, Julia. 1982. Powers of Horror: An Essay on Abjection. New York: Columbia Univ. Press.
Phillips, Adam. 1994. On Flirtation. Cambridge: Harvard Univ. Press.
Poe, Edgar Allan. 1902. The Complete Works of Edgar Alan Poe, Vol. 6. ed. James A. Harrison. New York: Thomas Y. Crowell and Company.