Plato, Spiritual Marriage, and the Disruptive Potential of Queerness in August Strindberg’s Giftas
AbstractRe-reading instances of same-sex desire in August Strindberg’s Giftas (1884, 1886) and in particular one story in Giftas II “Den brottsliga naturen” [“ e Criminal Nature”], this article utilizes the tools of contemporary queer theory and a Platonic lens inspired by textual allusions to classical discourse throughout both volumes of Giftas to provide new insights into Strindberg’s interest in non- normative categories. The article investigates the possibility that Strindberg perceived non-normative sexualities as useful in attempting to free himself epistemologically from the bounds of heteronormative marital conventions. Understanding this power of queerness to disrupt institutional heteronormativity seems just as relevant to contemporary discourses about rethinking hegemonies and systems of knowledge production. Throughout both volumes of Giftas, Strindberg continually champions what he calls “andligt äktenskap” [“spiritual marriage”], a union that escapes bourgeois marital convention while providing a space that might allow two people to expe- rience each other’s true selves. Allusions to Plato and other pre-modern discourse provide Strindberg with a transcendental model of homoeroticism which may assist in understanding Strindberg’s concept of “spiritual marriage” and provide a potential way of placing “Den brottsliga naturen” – a story of same-sex desire – in the context of a larger framework of stories focused on opposite-sex marriage. This article does not argue that the deconstruction of heteronormativity itself is ever truly Strindberg’s aim, nor will the paper seek to recuperate either the misogyny or the appropriation of queerness to wrestle with heterosexual desire. Strindberg filters this exploration of queerness through a privileged position of a white, cisgender male who can appropriate a queer lens when convenient to his project of reconstructing a more satisfying version of heterosexual marriage. However, Strindberg’s possible recognition of the potential of queerness to disrupt heteronormative conventions and to imagine contemporary futures free from those conventions is just as controversial today as it was in his own time.