Showing posts with label Castration Anxiety. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Castration Anxiety. Show all posts

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Histoire de l’oeil

An ancient adage says, “The eyes are the window to the soul,” while in the Gospel of Mark the eyes are likened to the windows of the heart (7:20-23). Perhaps because beauty is so closely associated with the eyes, the eyes are considered highly seductive. Despite the vital role that she plays in his La Vita Nuova and The Divine Comedy, Dante’s beloved Beatrice is admired almost exclusively for her smile and shining eyes; otherwise, we know very little of her physical appearance. In the Middle Ages, gray eyes were considered a sign of nobility (class, but not necessarily character). By the time of Shakespeare, the metaphorical relation between eyes and beauty had become such a hackneyed literary stereotype that he tried to work against that tradition (“My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun”).

But according to Georges Bataille (in his essay Eye, 1929, first published accompanied by a portrait of Joan Crawford, pictured), for the civilized person, the eye is a source of great anxiety. While the eyes of animals and men are considered extremely attractive and seductive, “extreme seductiveness is probably at the boundary of horror” (17). He writes:

. . . the eye could be related to the cutting edge, whose appearance provokes both bitter and contradictory reactions; this is what the makers of the Andalusian Dog must have hideously and obscurely experienced when, among the first images of the film, they determined the bloody loves of these two beings. That a razor would cut open the dazzling eye of a young and charming woman—this is precisely what a young man would have admired to the point of madness, a young man watched by a small cat, a young man who by chance holding in his hand a coffee spoon, suddenly wanted to take an eye in that spoon.

Obviously a singular desire on the part of a white, from whom the eyes of the cows, sheep, and pigs that he eats have always been hidden. For the eye—as Stevenson exquisitely puts it, a cannibal delicacy—is, on our part, the object of such anxiety that we will never bite into it. The eye is even ranked high in horror, since it is, among other things, the eye of conscience. (17)

Kim Carnes recorded “Bette Davis Eyes,” a song explicitly about the seductiveness of the eyes--but it is a song, if you seriously think about it, that tries to push seductiveness to the boundary of horror, that is, it articulates a strong anxiety about the eyes. Georges Bataille had a fascination with Joan Crawford's eyes, Kim Carnes with Bette Davis's. How utterly appropriate, then, that both of these actresses--linked in their professional lives through their well-publicized and bitter rivalry--would, in the latter stages of their careers, star in horror films. And how remarkable that Georges Franju, director of Les Yeux sans visage (Eyes Without a Face) would be linked to Georges Bataille through a mutual fascination with the abottoir--Franju would make a memorable film about a Parisian abottoir, Le Sang des bêtes, while Bataille would use the image of the abottoir in his writings as a way to explore the relationship between death, ritual, and sacrifice. None of this, of course, prevents popular songwriters from employing the standard relationship between the eyes, the heart, and the soul.

Audio Ocularity, A – Z

Abba – Angeleyes
Jackson Browne – Doctor, My Eyes
Kim Carnes – Bette Davis Eyes
Bob Dylan – Blood In My Eyes
The Eagles – Lyin’ Eyes
The Flamingos – I Only Have Eyes For You
The Guess Who – These Eyes
Hall & Oates – Private Eyes
Billy Idol – Eyes Without A Face
Judas Priest – Prisoner Of Your Eyes
Lenny Kravitz – Little Girl’s Eyes
Gary Lewis and the Playboys – Has She Got the Nicest Eyes
Van Morrison – Brown-Eyed Girl
Willie Nelson – Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain
Roy Orbison – Sad Eyes
The Platters - Smoke Gets in Your Eyes
Quicksilver Messenger Service – Light Your Windows
Todd Rundgren – I Saw the Light
Sugarloaf – Green-Eyed Lady
Them – Mystic Eyes
U2 – Spanish Eyes
Bobby Vee – The Night Has a Thousand Eyes
Bobby Womack (Patti LaBelle and George Benson) – Through the Eyes of a Child
XTC – Love At First Sight
Neil Young – Tired Eyes
ZZ Top – Penthouse Eyes