The Hostess: Hospitality, Femininity, and the Expropriation by Tracy McNulty

By Tracy McNulty

The evolution of the belief of hospitality may be traced along the advance of Western civilization. Etymologically, the host is the “master,” yet this id is proven via expropriation and loss—the top host is the one that provides the main, eventually relinquishing what defines him as grasp. within the Hostess, Tracy McNulty asks, What are the consequences for personhood of sharing a person—a spouse or daughter—as an act of hospitality? in lots of traditions, the hostess is seen now not as a subject matter yet because the master’s estate. A international presence that either sustains and undercuts him, the hostess embodies the interaction of self and different in the host’s personal identification. right here McNulty combines serious readings of the Bible and Pierre Klossowski’s trilogy The legislation of Hospitality with analyses of exogamous marital trade, theological works from the Talmud to Aquinas, the writings of Kant and Nietzsche, and the speculation of femininity within the paintings of Freud and Lacan. finally, she contends, hospitality comprises the boundary among the right kind and the wrong, affecting the topic in addition to interpersonal family. Tracy McNulty is assistant professor of romance experiences at Cornell college.

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Extra info for The Hostess: Hospitality, Femininity, and the Expropriation of Identity

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Or, in Klossowski’s terms, the husband who offers his wife as a gift is “expropriated” of his identity as master when his “inactual essence” as host is actualized by the guest. When his wife is “surprised” by the guest in her quality as mistress of the home and actualized as hostess, the husband’s determination as master (that is, as one who is “eminently equal” to himself and capable of symbolically personifying the household) is rendered improper, alienated. He is realized as host precisely through the loss of his identity as master.

Hence the political concept of the person designated the one who represented the “image” of the ancestor, who possessed his death mask: All freemen of Rome were Roman citizens, all had a civil persona; some became religious personae; some masks, names and rituals remained attached to some privileged families of the religious collegia. Yet another custom arrived at the same fi nal state: that of forenames, surnames and pseudonyms (nicknames). The Roman citizen had a right to the nomen, the praenomen and the cognomen that his gens assigned to him.

But the second major consequence of female property being both identified with and in excess of the male master and host is that it is able to facilitate reciprocal relations between men, such as the relationship of mutual obligation that often binds the host and guest following an initial act of hospitality. Structuralist anthropology elucidates the importance of such institutions as hospitality and gift-giving to the social link, which is mediated by “things” that cannot be reduced to personhood traditionally understood.

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