In the African Aka tribe, the men stay at home with the babies while the women assume the role of the hunter, yet these men are not teased for being “feminine” and the women are certainly not seen as undesirable for having such “manly” roles. In the Western world, a man cannot wear a pink shirt without having his sexuality questioned. Certainly, these differences suggest that gender is not biologically based, or a fixed identity; however, we treat it as such.
In short, homosocial describes same-sex relationships that are not sexual or romantic. Sedgwick elaborates that homosocial categories are “applied to such activities as ‘male bonding,’ which may, as in our society, be characterized by intense homophobia, fear and hatred of homosexuality” (2466). Although homosocial relationships are strictly platonic, it nevertheless causes anxieties related to homosexual behavior.
For Foucault, the relationship between discourse and sexuality is significant and hence becomes the focus of his argument. Through disagreeing with the repressive hypothesis (sex, except for the means of production is a taboo and should therefore not be discussed), Foucault claims that discourse on sex has intensified since the 18th century. Now this notion may not be shocking, considering that sex is found almost anywhere.
Although this Western metaphysical mindset upsets Derrida, he is more upset about its assumptions of language and speech. We value presence: it is visible, it is tangible, and it exists in the present. Due to this, we tend to believe that the spoken word is more valuable than the written word. This is because “there is no temporal or spatial distance between speaker, speech, and listener, since the speaker hears himself speak at the same moment the listener does.
Building on the ideas from Saussure and Nietzsche, Paul de Man argues that language and nature are disconnected. Although language is presumed to be expressive in its nature, language does not actually express nature. This is because the signified (concept) has no innate relation to the signifier (word). To make this concept easier, think of words that have meanings change over time, an example being “ice cube.” Typically, this term is used to refer to the solid state of water, however, in Snoop de Dogg’s “Drop It Like It’s Hot,” Snoop questions us if we “See these ice cubes?”
Roman Jakobson states that the poetic function of language “cannot be productively studied out of touch with the general problems of language; and, on the other hand, the scrutiny of language requires a thorough consideration of its poetic function. Any attempt to reduce the sphere of the poetic function to poetry or to confine poetry to the poetic function would be a delusive oversimplification” (1150).
Yet, what exactly does this all mean?
Reading this paired with the constant analogy of music that Mallarmé uses, I found myself remembering a quote that I have come across numerous times. Imagine yourself as a teenager again: After an argument with your parents about whether you could go out on Saturday night, you storm into your room and find solace with your computer. You blast “We’re Not Gonna Take It” and vow that you are not gonna take it anymore. You open up AIM and enter your new away message, “Where words leave off, music begins,” which was probably the same away message as half of your contacts. This overly cliché saying seems to be extremely similar to Mallarmé’s assertion that poetry is an extra extension of language as it bridges the gap between what is desired to be said and the limits of language.