Topics in Orgasmicism: The Masturbating Maeterlinck

May 2005

Where the essay ["Le Tragique Quotidien"] is at times comfortable with its cosy mysticism (the kind of cosy mysticism that characterizes Maeterlinck's subsequent writings), the plays it is held to 'explain' instead privilege the sinister and energetic forces beneath the stillness of the surface. Indeed, this is the same cosy mysticism through and by virtue of which the Deleuzian abstract machine effortlessly fuses the inter-, intra-, extra-, para-, pre-, post-, semi-, anti-, pro-, intro-, immanuel-, robo-, socio-, temporo-, economico-, manifesto-, potato-, al-strata (as well as all others this writer has failed to mention) into one singular Uberstratum. Hence the 'stillness' is itself inexplicable--and to 'explain the stillness' is an all but oxymoronic proclamation, which, finally, converts Maetelinck's pitiable masturbatory self into his writerly persona, and thereby propells him to the contradictory saint/satan status equivalent to Derrida's--simultaneously Christ, Mary, the Devil, the Darwinian monkey, and Freud's Dora. It is precisely this peculiar status that this present work intends to negotiate and problematize. In a sense, while Maetelinck the writer enjoyed the celebration of his contemporary Parisian artists and intellectuals, Maetelinck the man never progressed past the Lacanian Mirror Stage and remained in 'infancy' with a muddled self-perception and a complete inability to identify with his German roots. Therefore it is more appropriate and critically fruitful to consider 'Maetelinck' a poststructural, postmodern, postcoital phenomenon--specifically, a conjoinment of contradictory signified-signifier pairs and an illusion unifying fundamentally incompatible selves--than a person. Symptoms of schizophrenia are evident in the semi-autobiographical 'Alliman,' in which Maetelinck's brutal and resolute denial of an allegoric distance between theatre and life proved too much for his acquaintances, family, and indeed his own sanity. To further demonstrate this point I refer to his last play, which he wrote on his death bed in Luxembourgh and aptly, schizophrenically named 'Ich bin mensch? Les Ecrits Orgasmique!'...