The Bedtrick: Tales of Sex and Masquerade

Paperback (Print)
Used and New from Other Sellers
Used and New from Other Sellers
from $20.04
Usually ships in 1-2 business days
(Save 37%)
Other sellers (Paperback)
  • All (9) from $20.04   
  • New (5) from $30.72   
  • Used (4) from $20.04   

Overview


"Somehow I woke up one day and found myself in bed with a stranger." Meant literally or figuratively, this statement describes one of the best-known plots in world mythology and popular storytelling. In a tour that runs from Shakespeare to Hollywood and from Abraham Lincoln to Casanova, the erudite and irrepressible Wendy Doniger shows us the variety, danger, and allure of the "bedtrick," or what it means to wake up with a stranger.

The Bedtrick brings together hundreds of stories from all over the world, from the earliest recorded Hindu and Hebrew texts to the latest items in the Weekly World News, to show the hilariously convoluted sexual scrapes that people get into and out of. Here you will find wives who accidentally commit adultery with their own husbands. You will learn that in Hong Kong the film The Crying Game was retitled Oh No! My Girlfriend Has a Penis. And that President Clinton was not the first man to be identified by an idiosyncratic organ. Funny, sexy, and engaging, The Bedtrick is a masterful work of energetic storytelling and dazzling scholarship. Give it to your spouse and your lover.

"Doniger seduces the reader with her casual erudition, tempering the dizzying accumulation of evidence with wry asides."—Edward Rothstein, New York Times

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

Katharine E. Eisaman Maus
In lesser hands, the reult might be a mess. In this case, it is a truimph. Any one or two of Donger's chapters might stand on its own as an ordinary academic monograph. Ten such chapters, by a writer so learned, inventive and theoretically sophisticated, provide and astonishingly rich reading experience.
Times Literary Supplement
Read More Show Less

Product Details

Meet the Author


Wendy Doniger is the Mircea Eliade Professor of the History of Religions in the Divinity School and a professor in the Department of South Asian Languages and Civilizations and the Committee on Social Thought at the University of Chicago. She is the author of numerous books, including, most recently, The Woman Who Pretended to Be Who She Was
Read More Show Less

Read an Excerpt


The Bedtrick



Tales of Sex and Masquerade


By Wendy Doniger


University of Chicago Press



Copyright © 2003


University of Chicago
All right reserved.


ISBN: 0-226-15642-7





Chapter One


Sex, Text, and Masquerade

Bedtricks

You go to bed with someone you think you know, and when you wake up you
discover that it was someone else-another man or another woman, or a man
instead of a woman, or a woman instead of a man, or a god, or a snake, or
a foreigner or alien, or a complete stranger, or your own wife or husband,
or your mother or father. This is what Shakespearean scholars call "the
bedtrick"-sex with a partner who pretends to be someone else. The bedtrick
contests the intimate relationship between sex and gender, power and
identity, raising a number of questions: Why weren't you able to tell the
difference in the dark? And why does it matter so much? Why is this story
told over and over again? Why do we find it compelling? What deep human
concerns does it respond to? How unique and unmistakable is one lover to
another? Can you recognize your lover in the dark? Can true love always
tell the difference? Is it the body that is desired, or the mind? How does
sex change if we do or do not know who our partner actually is? And, at
thebottom of it all, does sex tell the truth or lie?

The basic plot should make it onto anyone's list of the Ten Greatest Hits
of World Mythology. There are Rachel and Leah, Tamar and Judah, and (I
believe) Ruth and Naomi in the Hebrew Bible; Amphitryon in the Greek and
Roman traditions; and, in medieval European literature, King Arthur
begotten by a masquerading father and both Elaine and a false Guenever
masquerading as Guenever. There are the bedtricks in Boccaccio and in so
many Shakespeare plays, especially All's Well That Ends Well and Measure
for Measure
. In opera we have Mozart's The Marriage of Figaro and Cosi fan
tutte
, Richard Strauss's Rosenkavalier and Arabella, Johann Strauss's
Fledermaus, and Richard Wagner's Tristan and Isolde and Gotterdammerung.
There are the transsexual and transvestite bedtricks in contemporary
theater (M. Butterfly, Prelude to a Kiss) and cinema (Some Like It Hot,
The Crying Game)
. Moving outside the European tradition, we encounter an
eleventh-century Japanese novel about a brother and sister who change
places in their respective marital beds (The Changelings) and a modern
Japanese novel about a bedtrick (Fumiko Enchi's Masks), as well as an
infinite variety of bedtricks in the Arabian Nights and in the ancient
Indian storytelling tradition. All of these texts are myths by my
definition: stories that are believed to be true and that people continue
to believe in the face of sometimes massive evidence that they are, in
fact, lies; much retold narratives that are transparent to a variety of
constructions of meaning, neutral structures that allow paradoxical
meanings to be held in a charged tension.

Scholars of high culture (particularly opera and Shakespeare) have tended
to regard the bedtrick as a cheap trick-morally corrupt (the trickster who
assumes another person's identity in bed is regarded as a kind of whore),
titillating, unrealistic, or simply farcical. The fact that the bedtrick
is both tragic and comic-that the very word "tragicomedy" was first coined
to describe a play about a bedtrick (Plautus's Amphitryon)-is a paradox
that accounts in part for the confusion in its critical reception. Dr.
Jonson, damning the bedtricks in All's Well That Ends Well (in which
Helena substitutes for Diana in Bertram's bed) and Measure for Measure
(in which Mariana substitutes for Isabella in Angelo's bed), remarks, "The
story of Bertram and Diana had been told before of Mariana and Angelo,
and, to confess the truth, scarcely merited to be heard a second time."
Even critics of popular culture tire of it; Terrence Rafferty, reviewing
the film Multiplicity (1996), calls "the hero's anxiety that one or more
of his doppelgangers will sleep with his wife (who's unaware of their
existence)" a "not very compelling issue ... resolved in a protracted and
mildly amusing farce climax." Yet the bedtrick continues to compel
audiences; though night-lights and pillow talk made the bedtrick harder
and harder to take seriously after the seventeenth century, and though it
strikes a contemporary reader as counterintuitive if not counterfactual,
"the irony of physical closeness and mental distance which underlies it
persists in the modern understanding of sex." Terence Cave encapsulates
the paradox with regard to recognition scenes in general (of which
bedtrick recognitions are a subspecies) as he attempts "to account both
for the extraordinary popularity of recognition scenes in all types of
literature and for the contempt and suspicion with which they are commonly
regarded. The accusation of fraudulence is not simply an instance of
cultural snobbism, although it may well take that form."

There is a tension here between sex and text: though real people are often
fooled with minor deceptions in bed, actual consummated bedtricks are rare
in life but very common in texts. These stories seem to take place in a
world in which many people literally do not know who they are in bed
with-or, in the case of animals and gods, what they are in bed with.
Why is there so much fantasy about the bedtrick if it happens so seldom in
reality? The answer is that there are many good, human reasons, which are
encoded in the stories in this book. These myths imagine a situation in
which a man or woman goes to bed with someone s/he is crazy about and
wakes up to discover the astonishing fact that the body in the bed belongs
to someone entirely different, someone hated or alien or just different.
Now, this is not just a myth. It happens to all of us, all the time, for
that ol' black magic, sexual passion, is transformative, at least
transformative of our perspective; it changes our view of our partner.
Sometimes we go to bed with an animal and wake up with a god; that is, we
go to bed relatively indifferent and wake up enchanted by sexual magic. On
other occasions, we go to bed with a god and wake up with an animal; that
is, we go to bed blinded by desire and wake up with our eyes relatively
cleared by satiation. (My preliminary, unofficial opinion poll indicates
that there is widespread disagreement about the prevalence of one model or
the other.)

Many myths are simply the narrative embodiment, sometimes an exaggerated
embodiment, of metaphors, even cliches. English-speaking writers speak of
something as "just a metaphor," but metaphor in India can be the strongest
possible statement of causation. The shock of violated intimacy in the
bedtrick-the violation of the mind, often together with the rape of the
body-is a mythologized form of the everyday shock that makes people say,
as the heroine of Love Letters (1945) says to the man who is in fact a
different person from the man she agreed to marry, "You're a stranger to
me" or, as the confirmed bachelor in Guys and Dolls (1955) complains,
"You marry a girl, and you wake up with somebody else." Perhaps the world's
shortest switchback bedtrick narrative appeared in the New Yorker on
October 11, 1999, in the "Constabulary Notes from All Over" department:
"[From the Sudbury (Mass.) Town Crier] 1:58 a.m. A Hudson Road resident
reported a strange man in her bed, but then realized it was her husband"
(p. 54). The casual joke that people make so often at their own expense-"I
went to bed with X and woke up with Y"-implies that sex is revelatory,
that in the morning you know the truth, that Y is the real person:
"Behold!" as the Hebrew hinneh is usually translated (as in "Behold! It
was Leah!"), for which the modern equivalent is probably "Oh wow!" or some
blasphemous exclamation.

The mythology of the bedtrick unpacks the experience expressed in these
and related cliches. Thus, the authors of The Three Faces of Eve
literalized a cliche to explain Eve White's split personality: "With a
good deal of truth perhaps it may be stated that after her marriage, Mary
Blank changed, that she became another woman." And when Eve
White (Lancaster) herself told her story a year later, she argued, "This isn't
as farfetched as it may sound at first. On the contrary, as an idea it's
probably a cliche.... We say: The war changed him. Marriage made a new
woman
of her. He's a different person since he stopped drinking. He
found himself in his new job. He isn't the man he once was." But Mary
Blank does not divorce her husband for sleeping with the "new woman," which is what
Eve White wanted to do. The myth of the bedtrick is about the violent
disjunction that often takes place when we come up too quickly from the
deep-sea dive of sexual intimacy into the cold light of the morning air
and experience the emotional equivalent of the bends. Even in reaction to
ordinary sexual betrayal, the betrayed partner may retroactively believe
that the lover was someone else because the lover had been with
someone
else.

All sexual acts are bedtricks in the weakest sense: you never really know
everything about your partner, and afterward, if you become estranged, the
sudden distance, the total loss of intimacy, sometimes seem almost
unbelievable, mythical. Similarly, the most basic bedtrick occurs, not
when you mistake Joan for Susan (or Steve for Sam, not to mention Joan for
Sam or Sam for Joan), but when you mistake lust for love; the shadow area
between the two, lust and love, is where the bedtrick happens, and why it
matters. The myths in which the impostor is not who he or she seems to
be is the strong form of the bedtrick, which dramatizes the weak form that
occurs in more banal situations in which the impostor is not how he or
she appears to be (ugly instead of beautiful, unfaithful instead of faithful,
out of love instead of in love, married instead of unmarried, and so on).
Often a myth expresses the extreme case of a human situation; thus, the
quandary of the copulating conjoined twins expresses the extreme case of
any two people whose bed is crowded by the phantoms of other people, and
the story of the French diplomat Boursicot, who discovered that his lover
of twenty years was not a woman but a man (the plot that was fictionalized
in M. Butterfly), expresses the extreme case of morning-after
disappointment, regret, or surprise.

The bedtrick is not literally a universal theme, though it is demonstrably
cross-cultural. I have found it in certain cultures at certain moments
(ancient India, the Hebrew Bible, Renaissance England and Europe,
Hollywood films), and different individuals in different cultures imagine
different sorts of bedtricks to overcome different cultural barriers, from
the great religious mythologies of the world to contemporary popular
culture. Alexander Goldenweiser's "principle of limited possibilities"
explains what he calls "dependent convergences" without recourse to a
theory either of universal archetypes or of historical diffusion. If we
apply his theory of cultures to narratives, it suggests that the
constraints of the traditional narrative form must somehow accommodate the
constantly changing needs of the narrative community, and there is a limit
to the number of basic plots that can be used. Thus, something like a
law of "irrational choice" operates to invoke bedtricks as so many dei ex
machina in recurrent situations of sexual aporia. By asking profound
questions about the interrelationships among sex and love, mind and body,
identity and recognition, sameness and difference, illusion and reality,
tales of the bedtrick offer a unique human probe into the ways in which
these forces function in cultures, in stories, and in individual
perceptions and individual lives.


Telling the Difference

Contemporary Americans tend to assume that sexual intimacies, even
intimacies exchanged in silence and in the dark, are as highly
individualized as fingerprints, that bodies as well as faces have
distinctive physiognomies, that sex leads to an exploration of what is
unique and distinctive about each partner. Yet many bedtrick stories seem
at first to assume that if two people look alike, one cannot tell them
apart (indeed, that in the dark one cannot tell anyone from anyone
else).
More than that: the stories often begin with the assumption that sex is an
act in which the parties are interchangeable, that bodies can be changed
without one's knowledge. But sometimes they go on to warn us that two
people who appear to be identical are not in fact the same person, that we
must strive to find other ways (the voice, the scar, memory, the mind,
behavior) to tell the two apart-and that sexual intimacy is the best way
of all. On this deeper level, the face proves to be a false image of
sameness, and the stories warn us that we must go deeper to find the mind
and soul beneath the face. Although many of the stories seem to begin by
privileging vision, the fact that the reader or hearer always knows that
people who look alike are not alike is a clue to the not-so-hidden agenda,
which intersects with a primary agenda of our own time (particularly but
not only as argued by feminists): to deconstruct vision. And some
bedtricksters do not look exactly alike (except under cover of darkness):
sisters, brothers, close friends, sons and fathers, mothers and daughters,
servants and masters, and so forth. Thus, while some myths reaffirm sexual
stereotypes, others challenge them. A gender asymmetry is also at work
here: men and women do not always feel the same about the power of sex to
reveal either the distinct individualism or the sameness of partners in
the dark.

Bedtricksters are doublers: sometimes they become the doubles of other
people (who may or may not exist), and sometimes they split themselves
into an original and a double. But our double is not us: by definition, it
is where we are not, and therefore things happen to it that do not happen
to us. The idea of the substitute presupposes the idea of the unique, the
authentic, the true form of which it is a false copy. What is it, then,
that makes us say of a masquerading double, "It is the same"? The judgment
that two different things are the same is, after all, our basic way of
making sense out of the chaos of experience, the principle underlying all
of our cognitive and scientific understandings, from the taxonomies of
Linnaeus to the atomic periodic tables. When, therefore, we ask of
doubles, "Is it the same? Is it the same person?" the answer is one of the
many paradoxes that make people tell this story over and over again: "It
is the same and it is not the same."

Continues...




Excerpted from The Bedtrick
by Wendy Doniger
Copyright © 2003
by University of Chicago.
Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Read More Show Less

Table of Contents


Preface: Why a Book about a Bedtrick?
Texts and Approaches
Texts as Contexts
The Uses of Insomnia
Apologia for the Length of This Book

Acknowledgments

Introduction: Sex, Text, and Masquerade
Bedtricks
Telling the Difference
Sexual Lies and Sexual Truth
Texttricks

One: How to Commit Adultery with Your Own Spouse
The Double-Back
The God Who Committed Adultery with His Own Goddess
Double-Backing Husbands
The Double-Play, or Mixed Doubles
The Double-Cross
The Double-Back-Cross
The Double-BackBCross-Play
The Double-Bind
Approach One: Philosophy, or Love/Sex = Mind/Body?
Body and Soul (and Mind)
Sex and Love
Desire, Duty, and Domination

Two: The Rape of the False Mother
Sexual Violence in Ancient India
Is a Bedtrick a Rape?
The Abandoning Mother and Lover
Approach Two: Psychology
The Case of the Missing Identity
Freudian Bedtricks
Otto Rank on the Double
Lacan on the Mirror Stage

Three: Waking Up in Bed with an Animal
Animal Lovers: Beauty and the Beast
Horses and Swans
Snakes and Mermaids
The Fatal Error
Animal Husbandry and Animal Brides
Night and Day
Approach Three: Zoology
The Cuckoo's Nest: Sexually Deceptive Animals
The (Teaser) Mare's Nest: "Not as Good as Stallions"
Is Zoology Destiny?

Four: The Lovely/Loathly Lady
The Lovely Lady
The Loathly Lady
The Magic Kiss
Old Women Masquerading as Young Women
The Substitute Bride. 1: Mothers
The Substitute Bride. 2: Sisters
Twin Sisters
Double Takes: The Twin Sisters on Film
Cats and Candles in the Dark
Are All Beautiful Women Alike in the Light?
Approach Four: Feminism, or Women Are Good to Think With
The Silent Woman
Night Blindness
The Mouth Says No but the Eyes Say Yes
The Double Standard: Asymmetrical Gender Patterns
Deconstructing and Reconstructing Beauty
Why Is Old Ugly?
Face-Lifts

Five: The Cuckolds of the Heart
Cuckolding to Kill
Sleeping with the Enemy
Paternal Insecurity, Family Resemblance, and Male Jealousy
Parental Imprinting
Approach Five: Theology, or When God Has Lipstick on His Collar
The Sexual Masques of God
Divine Betrayal
Human Blindness and Divine Invisibility

Six: Designated Hitters
Legal Male Surrogates
Brothers
Twin Beds
The Levirate, Hindu Style
The Levirate, Jewish Style
Bedtricksters in the Lineage of Jesus
Transformations of the Levirate
The Droit du Seigneur
European Subversions of the Droit du Seigneur
The Diritto della Signora
Hindu Subversions of the Droit du Seigneur
Jewish Subversions of the Droit du Seigneur
Approach Six: Law, or Loopholes in the Penal Code
Rape and Sexual Fraud
Rape and Multiple Personalities

Seven: Color, Class, and Clout
Color-Blind and Outcaste
Passing
In the Light, All Black Cats Are Black
Why Orientals Make Good (Masquerading) Wives
Close Your Eyes and Think of England
Double Penetration Agents
Pretenders
Pretending to be an American in Hollywood
Approach Seven: Weapons of the Weak

Eight: Cross-Cultural Cross-Dressing
Cross-Dressing to Kill
Cross-Dressing for Love
Gender-Bending in Hollywood
The Double-Cross-Dress
The Double-Back-Cross-Dress and Double-Back-Cross-Dress-Play
The Double-Cross-Dress-Back-Play
The Myth of Gender-Transcending in Reality
Turning the Transsexual Tricks of the Trade
Approach Eight: Queer Studies and the Theater of Deception
Cross-Dress Rehearsals
Operatic Scenarios
Sexual Objectives and Sexual Objects

Nine: Incest
Incest and the Bedtrick
Mothers and Sons
Fathers and Daughters
Brothers and Sisters
The Family Romance as Comedy and Tragedy
Approach Nine: Sexual Rhetoric
Aural Sex
Dirty Stories
The Double Entendre
A Lover by Any Other Name

Ten: Real Sex and Fantastic Sex
The Sexual Act
Postcoital Sleep
When a Kiss Is Not Just a Kiss
Penis Envy
The Wo/men's Room
The Return of the Return of Martin Guerre
Sexual Unreality-testing
Ten Ways Not to Know Your Lover
Fantastic Sex
When Dreams Become Nightmares
Double Beds Hold Three or More People
Approach Ten: Structuralism
Splitting Hares
Minimal and Other Pairs
The Structure of the Bedtrick
Sexual Paradox
Paradox Lost

Conclusion: Carnal Ignorance and Carnal Knowledge
Carnal Ignorance
Carnal Knowledge
False Ignorance and False Knowledge

Appendix: Bedtricks in Stith Thompson's Motif-Index

Notes
Bibliography
Filmography: Double Features: Bedtricks (and Related Plots) on Film
Index and Glossary

Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Be the first to write a review
( 0 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(0)

4 Star

(0)

3 Star

(0)

2 Star

(0)

1 Star

(0)

Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Noble.com Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & Noble.com that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & Noble.com does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at BN.com or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation

Reminder:

  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & Noble.com and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Noble.com Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & Noble.com reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & Noble.com also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on BN.com. It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

 
Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously

    If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
    Why is this product inappropriate?
    Comments (optional)