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Rosen, S.J. (1993). Homoerotic Body Language in Dostoevsky. Psychoanal. Rev., 80(3):405-432.

(1993). Psychoanalytic Review, 80(3):405-432

Homoerotic Body Language in Dostoevsky

Steven J. Rosen, Ph.D.

Dostoevsky, like the rest, can nicely stick his head between the feet of Christ, and waggle his behind in the air. And though the behind-wagglings are a revelation …

— D. H. Lawrence to J. M. Murry, August 28, 1916 (Lord, 1970, 9)

The Problematical Importance of Posture and Gesture

Alone in a crowded tavern, longing for attention if it costs him a beating, the antihero of Notes from Underground (Dostoevsky, 1960b) experiences a Dostoevskian epiphany: Suddenly, the Underground Man finds himself gripped by the shoulders, then simply moved aside. At once he learns that he is held of no account —and learns it bodily. An army officer has merely found him in the way. Reflecting that he “could have forgiven blows but … not forgive his having moved me without noticing me,” the Underground Man becomes obsessed: For years he dreams of bumping back this officer (66). Why does the Underground Man attach such mysterious significance to what he also calls “this trivial incident” (67)?

Note that he engages here, despite his usual verbal energy, in a silent, purely physical confrontation. When finally, several years later, he wordlessly jostles back the passing officer, the Underground Man perpetuates their initial encounter's silent physicality.


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