Aphrodite’s Land, a Pornotopia: Women and the Island Nation in Baret Yacoubian’s Avalo

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


    The sexist and overly sexualised images of women, which abound in Baret Yacoubian’s novel Avalo, convey Aphrodite’s birthplace, the island of Cyprus, as a pornotopia. However, pornotopia, as critic Linda Williams has argued, can be viewed as other utopias in that it endeavours to solve problems. This chapter argues that the novel’s disturbing representation of women in fact strives to critique and queerly counter the prejudiced heteronormative island setting these representations are set against. The novel’s sexist representation of women functions as a mimetic literary device, in Homi Bhabha’s sense of mimicry as postcolonial resistance. Yacoubian’s protagonist viciously repeats discriminatory traits of his community in his own derogatory and misogynistic descriptions of Cypriots in order to shock them into compassion and change. The protagonist presents for instance a mother’s mistreatment within her dysfunctional home and proceeds to attack her passivity by provocatively referring to her as ‘the swallower’ throughout the novel. He mimes the misogynism of her social milieu in order to disidentify with it, a strategy, which is in turn analogous to José Esteban Muñoz’s queer disidentification that aims to unsettle dominant oppressive ideologies from within. Yacoubian’s own disidentification with prejudiced Cypriot sociality rearticulates the traumatic metanarrative of the Turkish invasion, which exasperated separatist and prejudiced sentiments in the Cypriot community. Instead, the novel attempts to foster a greater sense of compassion and to connect the community specifically through non-normative forms of intimacy. In this way, Yacoubian’s text agrees with and highlights postcolonial, queer, and contemporary psychoanalytic ideas about the necessity of unsettling debilitating metanarratives for dignified and life-affirming survival. Ultimately, Avalo’s pornotopia acts as a site of transformative possibility where non-normativity can come to flourish – in lieu of prejudiced, heteronormative, national social connections – for a more sympathetic sense of belonging that will help counter national trauma.

    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationTransgressive Womanhood
    Subtitle of host publicationInvestigating Vamps, Witches, Whores, Serial Killers and Monsters
    Number of pages8
    ISBN (Electronic)9781848882836
    ISBN (Print)9789004374218
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2019


    • compassion
    • cyprus
    • heteronormativity
    • island
    • misogynism
    • pornotopia
    • queer
    • recovery
    • trauma
    • Women


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