Domesticating the Uncanny, Enlightening the Bestial:
On Some Features of the Gender Structure in Spy Fiction
Takayuki Yokota-Murakami (Osaka University) [BIO]
Most common representation of an agent in contemporary spy fiction is a super macho guy, typically expressed in James Bond. Subversion of such a popular image may easily be found in some classic spy fictions, though. For example, Somersett Maugham’s semi-autobiographical Ashenden may, in parts, be read as a subtle reference to his bi-/homo-sexual orientation. Thus, the hairless Mexican, a bloody murderer, “paradoxically” demonstrates a penchant for perfumes and other toiletry, and constantly caresses Ashenden.
Conversely, the pressure to liquidate such a gender ambiguity is observed in a popular rendition of the novel, i.e., a film, Secret Agent, by Alfred Hitchcock. Ashenden is now a tall, handsome spy. The Mexican is a merry, tough guy with a moustache, fond of women. Hitchcock also invents a female spy, possibly corresponding to Giulia Lazzari of Ashenden. However, in contrast to uncanny Giulia Hitchcock’s female spy is domesticated by Ashenden to be his good wife. Hitchcock thus recuperates male domination and patriarchal gender structure, made ambiguous by Maugham.
Such an act of disambiguation is, of course, once again prone to collapse. Eroticized, unfathomable, untamable women spies, of Guilia’s kind, reappear perpetually, as, for instance, in Hitchcock’s North by Northwest, defying a male representation of them as docile pet women.
The final part of the paper will (historically) analyze such an interplay of competing definitions of women (spies), taking Giulia and then Mata Hari, often compared to Giulia, as points of reference. I will attempt to demonstrate, how the (stereotypical) definition of Mata Hari as an exotic, Oriental, femme fatale, exchanging sexuality for political/military, i.e. masculine information, alienated from the (Western) traditional notions of femininity, was paired with the creation of the image of manly spies. I will also try to show that this definition of her was reinforced by a contemporary sexological definition of (fatal) women, but, eventually, was to be dismantled by the inner contradiction of male desire in these patriarchal literary / journalistic / scientific discourses that continue to both entangle and dissociate Mata Hari and her likes with/from themselves.