The Subject of Modernism: Narrative Alterations in the Fiction of Eliot, Conrad, Woolf, and Joyce

Overview

Like other poststructuralist theories, Lacanian theory has long been accused of being ahistorical. In The Subject of Modernism, Tony E. Jackson combines a uniquely graspable explanation of the Lacanian theory of the self with a series of detailed psychoanalytic interpretations of actual texts to offer a new kind of literary history. After exposing the seldom-discussed history of the self found in the work of Lacan, Jackson shows that the basic plot structure of realistic novels reveals an unconscious desire to ...
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Overview

Like other poststructuralist theories, Lacanian theory has long been accused of being ahistorical. In The Subject of Modernism, Tony E. Jackson combines a uniquely graspable explanation of the Lacanian theory of the self with a series of detailed psychoanalytic interpretations of actual texts to offer a new kind of literary history. After exposing the seldom-discussed history of the self found in the work of Lacan, Jackson shows that the basic plot structure of realistic novels reveals an unconscious desire to preserve a certain kind of historically institutionalized self, but that the desire of realism to write the most real representation of reality steadily makes the self-preservation more difficult to sustain. Thus in following through on its own desire to prove the certainty of its being, realism eventually discovers its own impossibility. Jackson charts the resistances to and misrecognitions of this discovery as they are revealed in the changes of narrative form from Eliot's last, most ambitious novel, Daniel Deronda, through Conrad's most modernist novels, Lord Jim and Heart of Darkness, to Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway and The Waves. He ends with an appended consideration of the "Cyclops" and "Nausicaa" chapters from Joyces's Ulysses. While other critics have argued that realism structures a certain self and modernism undoes that self, they have not attempted a historical explanation of why this change should have occurred. Jackson reads the emergence of modernism as a kind of generic self-analysis of realism, analogous to the self-analysis performed by Freud: when realism discovers the significance of its own desire to write the most real representation of reality, it has, in that moment, become modernism. It has grasped its own nature and so fully becomes itself, for the first time, as modernism. The Subject of Modernism will appeal most obviously to readers of Victorian and modernist fiction, but it will also draw those interested in the history of the novel
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780472105526
  • Publisher: University of Michigan Press
  • Publication date: 2/1/1995
  • Pages: 224

Table of Contents

Introduction 1
1 From Kinds of History to Kinds of Reading to Kinds of Being 15
2 Subjectivity a Lacan 25
3 The Generic Self-Representation of Realism 35
4 Readers and Readings in Daniel Deronda 47
5 Sailors, Readers, and Muddied Mirrors in Lord Jim 67
6 Naturalism and Unconsciousness in Heart of Darkness 99
7 Metaphor, Metonymy, and the Subject of Mrs. Dalloway 113
8 The Waves and the Narrative of the Crisis in Narrative 139
9 In Conclusion: The Lack of Limit 163
Appendix: Joyce's Imaginary Irish Couple 169
Notes 189
Works Cited 201
Index 207
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