“Serafina’s Got No Drawers”: The Absence of Underwear in Chanteys as a Specter of Castration


Jessica Floyd (Community College Baltimore County)

This presentation investigates the lack of underwear in songs from the unpublished manuscript of Gershon Legman and Stan Hugill. I argue that the paucity of undergarments demonstrates castration anxiety (Butler 1993) as underwear rises, in its absence, as a spectre of castration, powerful and frightening in its silent quality. By erasing underwear from the narrative space and moving characters directly to penetration and erotic release, these songs appear to combat castration and loss of agency; however, the haunting reality is that disempowerment is always lurking like an uncanny, constant companion, and this is captured in the absence of genital coverings.

Part of 26-06 Folksong, Agency, and Social Critique, Tuesday, October 19, 5:15 pm–6:45 pm