The Danish Girl

Organ Rejection: The Phallus or the Womb in The Danish Girl College

According to Jack Halberstam in his book The Queer Art of Failure, “the queer art of failure turns on the impossible, the improbable, the unlikely, and the unremarkable. It quietly loses, and in losing it imagines other goals for life, for love, for art, and for being” (88). In The Danish Girl by David Ebershoff, protagonist Lili Elbe experiences the queer art of failure within her own body when the womb Professor Bolk implants is rejected–a procedure that was considered impossible, improbable, and unlikely by many characters in the novel is proved to be so. Halberstam’s chapter “Dude, Where’s My Phallus?” identifies a phenomena that may explain Lili’s failed organ transplant: women cannot be the phallus, so art portrays them rejecting the phallus (along with other organs). In this essay, I intend to examine the male force on the female body and the consequent repudiation of the phallic power; specifically, the force of the medically ambitious Professor Bolk in Ebershoff’s The Danish Girl and Lili’s experience with the rejection of her uterus and her forgetfulness.

Although Lili’s desire to be a “real woman” is evident throughout the novel, she falls victim to phallic force when the concept of bodily alterations is thrust upon...

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