On Tuesday we talked about how Jacques and Roule blur the lines between male and female. While I was reading over the weekend this stuck with me but I’m most interested in how this works in connection with men and women’s roles as images and viewers. In chapter 1 Roule suggests that Jacques should be a stonebreaker because it would be more natural for him. The note attached to this line states that it is an allusion to Corbet’s painting ‘The Stonebreakers’ and “turns Jacques, as a workman, into subject matter for an artist and displaces him from the status of being an artist himself” (Rachilde, pp 16).
While I was reading this line I also began to think of its connection to Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema by Laura Mulvey. Looking and sight are incredibly important for an artist. I think Mulvey’s understanding of women and men in cinema can be applied here for artists. They painter is the one who views something and puts it on a canvas—they are always the lookers in the relationship and their subject matter is the object. In this relationship traditionally men were the artists and women were their models. (I think this is even more interesting because often models were prostitutes because no other respectable woman would sit nude for a man). Later in the novel we can see how Roule creates an entirely new version of Jacques to fit her desires—she is the creator and he is her masterpiece. Side note: for anybody who’s seen Vertigo (which Mulvey cites) this reminded me a lot of Scottie transforming Judy into Madeleine.
Although, I think it’s interesting that Roule and Jacques trade roles as man and woman in their relationship (switching the terms wife and husband, cross-dressing, etc) I think it’s especially compelling that Rachilde explores this idea down to a very basic level of who is subject and who is the object. Even without considering clothes, and forms of address, Rachilde is playing with the very essence of what people thought of as inherently feminine or inherently masculine. Even if Roule’s did wear masculine clothing, hairstyle, or name, I think the reader would still understand that a subversion of accepted gender roles was taking place.