Male Confessions: Intimate Revelations and the Religious Imagination

By Björn Krondorfer | Go to book overview
Save to active project

INTERLUDE On Testimony

Confessional writing is a gendered activity. It is an attempt at giving testimony to oneself and (imagined) others, an act of becoming a public witness to one's intimate self. Etymologically, the act of bearing witness is linked to the male sexual anatomy: “testifying” and “testicles” have a common root in the Latin testis (witness). Although contested by some scholars, this linkage points—beyond a homophonic similarity—to a strong cultural-semantic connection “between testicles and solemn declarations” (Katz 1998, 191).1 In a more literal sense, testicles witness male sexual intercourse, virility, and fertility. Transferred to the ritual realm, testicles have assumed a legal function across different cultures. In ancient Greece, for example, “testicles of ritually slaughtered animals” were employed in deciding homicide trials (194). The Torah attests to a similar ritualized legal power of testicles when Abraham demands that his servant take an oath to protect Isaac's lineage: “Put your hand under my thigh [Hebrew, yarek], and I will make you swear by the Lord” (Gen. 24:2–3), a ritual gesture that is later repeated between Jacob and his son Joseph (Gen. 47:29). Taking an oath while grabbing the male organ (yarek) secures loyalty and patrilineal continuity.2

Confessional writings testify to various levels of prowess and impotence of the male subject. As a solemn declaration, they are most persuasive and effective when the confessant successfully conveys to the reader the sincerity of the oath he has taken: “to lay bare one's heart, to write that book about oneself in which the concern for sincerity would be carried to such length that 'the paper would shrivel and fare at each touch of his fiery pen'” (Leiris 1992, 158). There is a fierce energy in the act of confessing—dangerous and seductive. “To expose myself to others,” Leiris continues, “was an attempt to seduce my public to be indulgent” (156). At the same time, the male confessant fears his impotence. Socially and sexually frustrated, Leiris threatens to castrate himself (137, 142). A “slight strain in one testicle,” he writes, caused him a “sense of impotence” and rendered impossible “any sexual relation with women” (132).

-72-

Notes for this page

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Notes
Cite this page

Cited page

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
Male Confessions: Intimate Revelations and the Religious Imagination
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this book

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen
/ 298

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?