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(352). He chooses a “clumsy” saddle instead of his wife’s more

comfortable one to further his masochistic pleasure. As he goads a

stallion called “Firebird” into a frenzy gallop through the forest,

Penderton has a near-death experience. Barely able to whisper “I

am lost” and ready to give up life, Penderton “suddenly began to

live. A great mad joy surged through him” (354). As “in delirium,”

this ecstatic horse riding helps him achieve an orgasmic state and

makes him experience a kaleidoscopic vision. He feels as if “he had

soared to that rare level of consciousness where the mystic feels

that the earth is he and that he is the earth. Clinging crabwise to

the runaway horse, there was a grin of rapture on his bloody

mouth” (354). The macabre horse ride thereby becomes the

occasion for an extraordinary rapture.

This terrifying horse riding is illuminating because it signifies

Jean-Luc Nancy’s notion of “ex-stasy”

a passion of being outside

of oneself (1991: 6-7, 19-21). In writing about masochism, queer

theorists such as Leo Bersani and Kaja Silverman attempt to

explore its liberating possibilities. In reclaiming “masochism” as a

privileged sexuality for the production of a new subjectivity,

Bersani deconstructs Freud and finds in him his most original and

subversive argument (“sexuality . . . as a tautology for masochism”)

that Freud fails to repress in his Oedipalized, heterosexualized, and

teleologically driven model of sexuality (Bersani, 1986: 39).


Silverman also sees in masochism a powerful occasion for creativity.


Male Subjectivity at the Margins

, she is interested in anatomizing

the kinds of male subjectivities that embrace femininity, castration,

alterity, and masochism. She links masochism to ecstasy


identification which is a ‘rapture’ or ‘transport,’ the condition of


For Bersani, masochism is constitutive of sexuality (see Bersani,

Freudian Body

[1986], especially 34-47). The constitutive nature of masochism can be traced

back to the infant’s susceptibility to being violently but pleasurably overwhelmed

by stimuli. Accordingly, all of adult sexuality, not just some presumably marginal

“perversion,” is structured around the urge masochistically to repeat such

pleasurable self-shattering.