TABOO - TRANSGRESSION - TRANSCENDENCE
in Art & Science
27-29 September 2023, Malta Society of Arts, Valletta
In 1936, the writer Anaïs Nin wrote House of Incest, a book of prose on the themes of transgression and the taboo of incest, loosely based on a relationship with her father. In writing about these themes, did Nin want to emancipate herself from her father, with whom she allegedly had a sexual affair? Or was it an orchestrated strategy: a deliberate act of destruction and transgression to break down the male-centric world of sexuality, thus taking control of female sexuality? What were Nin's philosophical, artistic, and intellectual underpinnings in writing this book? When Nin wrote House of Incest, she was in the throes of a sexual and artistic awakening that both emerged simultaneously. As a result, both awakenings overlapped and nourished the other's development. As a writer, Nin's influences at the time were Henry and June Miller, Proust, and many others, but the most significant influence was Otto Rank. Rank encouraged her as an artist and supported the expression of transgressive fantasies of her father in her art. This thesis argues that, however, one interprets the relationship with her father, it does not take away the fact that he had a profound and fertile effect on her writing. Nin's relationship with her father was the catalyst – the ultimate transgression – that enabled her as an artist and sexual woman to break away from the limitations of sexuality and discover a subjective, psychic experience of female sexuality, eroticized through her art in the prose of House of Incest.