Summary

“The Deodand” furthers what Hecht once confirmed as a strange fascination with stories and paintings of Christian martyrdom, which, he noted, could be understood in two different ways. The paradox of comprehending and expressing sacrifice, combined with ekphrasis (poetry concerned with highly visual scenes) and historical narrative, is the featured function of “The Deodand.” The first half of the sestina depicts the “swooning lubricities and lassitudes” of the subjects of a Eugène Delacroix or Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres painting—who pose as femmes de la nuit (ladies of the night), or harem girls—starkly contrasted with the sestina’s latter half of a young French legionnaire who is forced to dress in the clothes of a woman and made to beg for food. The juxtaposition is classic, signature Hecht, who deftly reconciles and coalesces the opposing forces and acts of [in]humanity.

Bibliography

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