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Freud understood foot fetishism as a compensatory response to infantile confrontation with the castration complex (that is, with the absent phallus of the mother).With this reading in mind, the reference to the Venus Anadyomene, “sea-born” from the castration of the God of the sky, appears all the more significant.Cet article analyse la place centrale accordée à l’érotisation du pied dans l’œuvre de certains écrivains victoriens, notamment Algernon Charles Swinburne dont la poésie païenne explore à l’envi le motif sadomasochiste du piétinement en lien avec une conception dionysiaque du rythme poétique.Bien que stigmatisée comme perversion sexuelle dans le discours médical de l’époque, la podophilie ouvrit ainsi des perspectives libératrices à de nombreux auteurs et artistes, comme la danseuse Isadora Duncan, fervente lectrice de Swinburne, dont les théories très politisées sur la danse, inspirées de l’art grec antique, prônaient l’émancipation du pied et du corps de la femme.If he was certainly right about the importance of Venuses in Keats’s and Swinburne’s poetry, revealing their more “feminine” Hellenism, Etienne probably also had a point about feet: these indeed play a crucial role in the works of the two poets, as epitomized by Keats’s famous address to “the naked foot of Poesy” which he wished to free from its prosodic strictures, like Perseus liberating Andromeda: In a much more recent essay devoted to Keats’s “boyish, fetishist erotics” (Turley 100) and entitled “‘Strange longings’: Keats and Feet”, Richard Marggraf Turley suggests that Keats’s supposed poetic effeminacy may be partly reflected in his regressive podophiliac fantasies.However nowhere does Turley relate the Romantic poet’s foot obsession with his fascination with antiquity, although many of the examples quoted are explicitly pagan―for instance the comparison of Diana’s and Venus’ feet in Book one of According to Turley, Keats focuses “on Diana’s feet” as a “fetishized substitute for the missing phallus” in order “to avoid unpleasant thoughts of castration” (95)―drawing on Freud’s analysis of fetishism as the displacement of sexual desire onto inanimate body parts (and feet in particular).The last two sections of this essay contextualize and politicize this fascination with feet by emphasizing on the one hand the stigmatization found in medical treatises exposing so called “sexual perversions” such as podophilia, and on the other the liberating prospects offered by such erotic displacements―notably in the work of the American and hellenophile dancer Isadora Duncan who was also an enthusiastic reader of Swinburne’s poetry.century poetry and the visual arts are generally rather discreet or secondary and when such body parts do feature prominently, it could be argued that podophobia rather than podophilia is implied.
Although stigmatized as a form of sexual perversion in the medical discourse of the time, poetic podophilia thus offered liberating prospects to many writers and artists, including the American and hellenophile dancer Isadora Duncan who was also an enthusiastic reader of Swinburne’s poetry, and whose politicized theory of dance, strongly indebted to ancient Greek art, centered on the emancipation of the naked foot and of the female body.
For instance, the huge foot in Henry Fuseli’s chalk composition entitled However, with Swinburne, such treading or trampling no longer appears as a negative metaphor for the burden of literary filiation.
Not only does this excerpt conjure up and intermingle Swinburne’s “sea complex” which Gaston Bachelard convincingly related to a longing for the mother figure (the great “Mother” to take up Swinburne’s own pun This article aims to explore the key role played by the eroticizing of feet in the libidinal economy of Swinburne’s early “pagan” poetry, focusing both on foot fetishism and on related imagery of masochistic trampling which provide an interesting variation on his well-known algolagnia or flagellating fantasies.
But this erotic beating was also closely intertwined with Swinburne’s poetics and conceptions of rhythm―as he reclaimed the pun on metrical feet so frequently used in both Greek and Latin poetry.
John Keats, Algernon Charles Swinburne, John Addington Symonds, George Du Maurier, Isadora Duncan, Simeon Solomon, Henry Havelock Ellis, Théophile Gautier, Jane Ellen Harrison, Friedrich Nietzsche, Wilhelm Jensen, Sigmund Freud, Donatien Alphonse François de Sade, Homer, Hesiod, Euripides, Sappho, Anactoria, Dionysos, Aphrodite, Atalanta, the French literary critic Louis Etienne underlined the striking similarities between Keats’s and Swinburne’s pagan and sensual inspiration, deploring, however, the lack of manliness of their verses.
Rather than emulating the virile ideal which the ancient Greeks had set so high, Keats and Swinburne seemed indeed to have favoured excessive “crying at the feet of Venus”―an effeminate whining tendency which Etienne detected “on almost every page” (316) of Swinburne’s (1866).