Journal article Open Access

Performing Bodies and Bodies in Performance in Genet's Un Chant d'Amour

Chitrangada Deb

Autonomous selves incarcerated under hegemonic binaries invent new forms of language. Performance of
desire transforms all body parts into independent and unrestricted meaning-making machines.
Consequently, state-sponsored, syntactic language dismantles, and a silent, schizophrenic rhythm is
created. Genet’s objective in Un Chant d’Amour is to claim this primal silence of sexual bodies and their
identities through symbolic metamorphosis of objects, dance, fantasies and longings. Originally
conceptualized as an image film with no script and dialogue, Genet’s tour de force exhibits sexuality and
performing bodies as brute force rupturing the veil of the big Other. The film unfolds inside a Foucauldian
Panopticon-like prison cell, where the Guard observes, interrogates, tortures, and simultaneously derives
voyeuristic pleasure out of the inmates’ sexual acts carried out under ‘enclosure’. The Guard is not only
the measuring rod which bears the mark of state capitalism, but is also a divided subject, split between his
duties toward the order and his native libidinal responses. Genet’s film is attuned to the subversive
Postmodernist ambience of the 1950s’ Europe when the ‘centre’ was dismantled leading to a proliferation
of multiple centres, multiple truths and thus multiple sexualities. In my proposed paper, I would look at
theatre artist Jean Genet’s only (silent ) film Un Chant d’Amour (“A Song of Love”), released in 1950 and
subsequently banned, and investigate how in its presentation of homosexuality, Genet adheres to as well
deviates from Foucault’s ‘sexuality’, considered as the most powerful starting point of Queer Theory. This
paper would further delve into the various aporias generated in the text, and the absence of language as a
tool for restructuring and re-writing.

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