chapter  6
28 Pages

The quilting point 1

Vita Sackville-West’s secular Joan of Arc
ByKaryn Sproles

Sackville-West's journal is a candid exploration of her own gender and sexuality, including her affair with Rosamund Grovesner before and throughout her engagement to Harold Nicolson. No saint (indeed if anything Sackville-West was areligious), perhaps it is cross-dressing that is the point of identification, which Lacan calls the point de capiton or quilting point (Lacan, 1993: 268–269) between Sackville-West and Joan of Arc. Sackville-West narrates her own experience as a cross-dresser in a journal that was posthumously published in her son's joint biography of her and his father, diplomat and biographer Harold Nicolson, Portrait of a Marriage. Sackville-West seems to be basing her deductions on common sense, a characteristic she values highly when she attributes it to Joan. But common sense tends to blindly accept the sweeping generalizations and traditional gender role assumptions of the dominant perspective. Perhaps one reason for the difficulties in Sackville-West's biography is in her position as outsider.