By Thomas Freller
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Extra info for Cagliostro and Malta: Fact and Fiction and the Greatest Impostor of the Eighteenth-Century
It is only the reader’s limiting expectation that this book is for a child audience alone, and hence should be void of sexual content, that privileges the more respectable interpretation. 40 Stuckness in the Fiction of Mervyn Peake On the next page, according to the verbal text, the Captain decides to return to the pink island: “The Yellow Creature must have understood for he got very excited” (CS, 36). Again the picture subverts the words, this time towards masturbation as well as exhibitionism, and the reader is implicated as voyeur.
Along with oral and anal implications, the whale picture hints at sexual pleasures and anxieties to do with the penis. The whale’s tail, missing its tip, is not represented as bloodily mutilated but as phallic, with a slightly wrinkled gigantic foreskin revealing the smooth glans (much like the Captain’s “leg” in the illustration discussed previously). From the smile on the whale’s face and its bright eye, it can be read as a cheerful masochist, unperturbed by all the foreshadowings of its destiny as dinner.
48 In this book I always formulate “symbolic” as “symbolic order” when a Lacanian or Kristevan meaning applies. Otherwise, “symbolic”, “symbol” and “symbolise” are used in a more Jungian sense, one that does not neutralise the signifier and sets no limits on its significations: The more archaic and “deeper”, that is the more physiological, the symbol is, the more collective or universal, the more “material” it is. The more abstract, differentiated, and specific it is, and the more its nature approximates to conscious uniqueness and individuality, the more it sloughs off its universal character.