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Unformatted text preview: [“x‘ European Journal of English Studies l382—5577/02/0603-343$16.00 If. S f 2002, Vol. 6. No. 3, pp. 343—359 ©Swets & Zeitlinger Ki Mind the Gap: Possible Uses of Psychoanalysis in the Study of English Literature. With an Illustration from J oyce’s “Eveline” Hedwig Schwall University ofLeuven 1. Introduction: Psychoanalysis and Literature The pertinence of Jacques Lacan’s work to the study of literature derives in large measure from the fact that it is more (and to some perhaps also less) than a kind of therapy: mainly informed by the quirks of language, it is an epistemology, a discipline which focuses on unconscious interac— tions, integrating bodily. pictorial and verbal expression. Concerned as it is with the rhetoric of the psyche, it has this in common with deconstruc- tive reading, that instead of discarding marginal and obscure passages, it concentrates on them: they could be ‘the navel’ of the text. In order to have as many ‘contexts’ at hand as possible, the analytic reader listens to other critics, just as analysts need to remain in supervision, to check regularly on the tendency of their own subjectivity. During the analysis, the details are framed and reframed, till that context is found which allows for the most consistent linkage of the greatest number of (structural) details. In his Clinical Introduction to Lacam'an Psychoanalysis,‘ Bruce Fink shows how, in its broad strokes, Lacan’s system of diagnosing is surpris- ingly simple. All human beings, in varying degrees of health, tend to neu— rosis, psychosis or perversion. In their tentative answers to the questions we all ask ourselves (What do the others want from me? What is my life for?), all develop a different relation to the Other (the unconscious and the language system, symbolised by respectively the Mother and the Name— of—the—Father). A neurotic person (e.g., the hysteric) will hold up her own Correspondence: Hedwig Schwall. Dept. of English, University of Leuven, Blijde-Inkomst- straal 21. B — 3000 Leuven, Belgium. Bruce Fink. A Ciinica! Introduction to Lacanian Psychoanalysis. Theory and Tech riqu (Cambridge and London: Harvard University Press. [997). 344 HEDWIG SCHWALL imagined version of the Other, and by simultaneously prefiguring and thwarting her partner’s desires tries to keep herself in demand. The per- vert disavows the Other and singlehandedly dictates the latter’s desire. The psychotic person (e.g., the melancholic) has not distanced himself from the mother’s enjoyment, and if he lapses in a psychotic crisis, he feels the mother’s body enveloping him again. In this situation, the father’s function has failed: he has not introduced the child properly into the functioning of language, which must help the child to protect itself against too Oppressive (mater)realities. Lacanian psycho-theory is one thing, using it as a reading method in other media is another. For many, Slavoj Ziiek is the first to come to mind as one of those who have used the principles of analytic thinking to interpret literature, film and other arts, thus making Lacan‘s concepts more accessible to the wider (English—speaking) public. The senior in the field, hOWever, is Shoshana Felman (from the 19703 on); in her reader, Literature and Psychoanalysis. The Question of Reading: Otherwise, she gives a brilliant interpretation of Henry James’ The Turn of the Screw. 2 There, she avoids all the traps analysts may fall in: she does not go for an author-centred analysis, nor does she get stuck in character diagnosis, as her predecessors did. Indeed, there are many ways in which one could ‘translate’ or ‘transpose’ psychoanalytic thinking to the reading of litera— ture,3 but it is in approaches specifically attuned to the stylistic turns of the text that such transpositions have proved to be most fruitful. This is underscored by Peter Brooks, who claims that ‘narrative truth depends as much on the discourse of desire as on the claims of past events’." He maintains that readers should keep an eye peeled for ‘parts of the story of the past (which) may not ever be recalled but may nonethe— less be figured’.5 This focusing on the intensity and insistence with which 2 Shoshana Felman, ‘Turning the Screw of Interpretation”, in Literature and Psychoa- nalysis. The Question of Reading: Otherwise, ed. Shoshana Felman (Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 197?.) Felman’s Jacques Lacan and the Adventure of Insight: Psychoanalysis in Contemporary Culture (Cambridge [Mass]: Harvard University Press, 1987) is still one of the best introductions to the discipline in its interaction with various other fields. Her Le scandale du corps parlant. Don Juan avec Austin ou la seduction en (lent languan (Paris: Le Seuil, 1980, translated in Eng- lish), focuses on Don Juan’s perlocutionary speech and broadens these considerations about modes of promising, so that literary criticism helps to elaborate psychoanalytic problems. 3 Meredith Anne Skura, The Literary Use of the Psychoanalytic Process (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1981). 4 Peter Brooks, Psychoanalysis and Storytelling (Cambridge [Mass] and Oxford: Black- well, ]994). p. 59. 5 Brooks, Psychoanalysis and Storytelling, p. 59. USES OF PSYCHOANALYSIS IN THE STUDY OF ENGLISH LITERATURE 345 words are used, may enable the reader to discern how ‘the present itself is shown to be the place of struggle.“ It is this Lacanian sounding 0f the libidinal flows that overdetermine the turns of the plot, the ‘interplay of form and desire’ .7 which I want to take up in a reading of Joyce’s ‘Eveline’ seen here below? 2. The human subject in Freudian and Lacanian concepts In his 1914 study, Remembering, Repeating and Working Through, Freud finds that the deeper layers of the psychic system are subject to the repeti— tion compulsion. This drive. which makes people repeat unpleasant expe- riences, proves to be stronger than the ‘pleasure principle’, which Freud initially had held to be the ruling principle of the healthy human being. He further differentiates between two kinds of drives, namely the Eros and the Thanatos drive: and their interaction will account for the different kinds of pleasure in ecstasy. which can lead to painful kinds of pleasure.9 Lacan’s rereading of Freud’s revised system renames the psychic system as the ‘R(eal)l(maginary)S(ymbolic)’ system and shows how it comes into being. At the moment of its birth, the human being is a split, or barred subject " Brooks. Psychoanalysis and Storytelling, p. 10. Brooks. Psychoanalysis and Storytelling, p. 28. In his article ‘Du paradigme freudien au paradigme lacanien’. Rene Major points out how both Joyce and Lacan focused on the gaps and chinks of discourse, and on the overdetermination of words. After Lacan had read F innegans Woke he concentrated more than ever (in the wild ‘faunétique‘, the phonetic aspect of language, and punned more than ever. But both Lacan and Joyce realised that constant foregrounding of the material aspect of language paves the way to a psychotic frame of mind. Rene Major, ‘Du paradigme freudien au paradigme lacanien’. in Actualite’ de l’hyste’rie. Monog- raphies o'e clinique psychanalyrlque. ed. Andre Michels (Ramonville: Editions Erés, ZOOI), p. 88. For details on the link Laean—Joyce, it is best to read Jacques Lacan, 'Joyce le symptome I, 11’, ‘Le sinthome’. in Joyce aver: Lacan, ed. Jacques Aubert, (Paris: Navarin. 1987). In view of both writers’ affinities, it is not surprising that many Joyceans are Lacanians. In the James Joyce Quarterly of 1991, a whole volume was dedicated to Lacanian readings, and ‘Eveline’ was the one story picked from Dublin- ers. Garry Leonard’s approach even focused on the same phenomenon as I do, only I think he left a few hiatuses. (Garry M. Leonard, ‘Wondering Where All the Dust Comes From: Jonissance in “Eveline”, The James Joyce Quarterly 29:] (1991). 23—42. In my reference to other authors I will not elaborate on my argument. as this would go beyond the scope of this article. As Paul Verhaeghe puts it, ‘Eros seeks fusion and thrives on a heightening of tension, while Thanatos aims at fragmentation and here, it is the zero level of tension. sleep, even death, which generates pleasure‘. Paul Verhaeghe, ‘Les deux théories freudiennes sur l’hystérie’. in Actuatire’ rte l’hysie’rie. Monogrophies ale clinique psychonalytique, ed. Andre Michels, p. 76. 346 HEDWIG SCHWALL (S): it is sexuated (i.e., symbolically castrated, given neither a male nor a female name) and mediated (from now on, the baby will be addressed and will have to address others to make his needs known). Yet, in the first months of its existence, the child is not aware of the subject—object differ- ence: it still thinks of itself as an extension of the mother. This experience of symbiosis sinks into the unconscious. Lacan calls this the dimension of the ‘Real’, as the world seems all-too—materially real. It is only at the time of weaning that it starts to dawn on the baby that it has lost some mythic completeness; mythic, because though the child has memories of full fusion with the mother, this was an illusory fusion, an impossible unity. The irony of the child’s history is that, while it experienced a kind of completeness, the child was still in the state of the ‘corps morcelé’, the fragmented body: it did not know that this foot and that arm belonged to him. It is only in the mirror stage or Imaginary stage, that the image in the mirror starts to work its ‘orthopaedic function’, giving the child another illusion of completeness as it notices its mastery of its own image. The narcissistic illusion of being able to possess and direct oneself will help the child to realise itself. Indeed, every subject needs to form a self-image, which is (more or less successfully) projected onto one’s own body. In the third, oedipal stage, however, the child has to accept the Name-of—the- Father, to enter the Symbolic order, i.e., the child has to acknowledge that it can only fully function if it can use language. So the subject is a split subject (S) because its perception is steered by the Real (early affects churning in the unconscious), the Imaginary (images strengthening the narcissistic ‘1’) and the Symbolic. These three aspects of perception have to be balanced as much as possible. This is not obvious, because the Symbolic system is deficient in (roughly) two ways: it cannot name that which is lost forever to a dark past, the illusory, pre-mediated unity, the monolithic experience of ‘the Thing’, as Lacan calls it, which keeps haunting every human subject‘s imagination. Nor can it name the subject’s destiny, or desire, because every signifier will turn out to be not quite what one had in mind. As a result, the language system, the Other, (l’Autre) is formulated as ‘the barred Other’, A. Yet because a tension remains between the nostalgia for the mythic, pre-sexuated wholeness on the one hand, and the in(de)terminable desire of the mediated subject on the other, the human being is susceptible to the ‘reminders’ which are left on the road which led from pre-castrated to castrated (i.e., oedipal, properly speaking) subject. These reminders are called objet petit a. These objects are linked to the consecutive stages in the child’s weaning from that mythi— cal unity (from oral to anal to oedipal stage): the breast, the anus, the mouth and the eye and their products (milk, faeces, voice and look). Because these USES OF PSYCHOANALYSIS IN THE STUDY OF ENGLISH LITERATURE objects are linked to rims of the body and to boundary lines in the psychic development, special power is ascribed to them. And indeed: the objects (little a), linked to the myth of an omnipotent Other (big A), turn up time and again in anaiysands’ stories, either in their most typical form or in a closely related, metonymical form. The effect of this ‘object a’ is usually fear—inspiring: it brings the immediacy of the Real back, a materiality which overwhelms and obliterates all ‘normal’, habitual perception. 80, between the ‘objects a’ and 2%, the subject has to follow up its desire, its destiny. But if desire is an energy linked with the Symbolic function, the ecstatic forces Freud discovered beyond the pleasure principle tend to be ruled by the Real, and Lacan renames the energy of these drives ‘jouis- sanc-e’. ‘Jouissance represents the paradoxical relation between pleasure and the death drive’.‘0 Lacan distinguishes between ‘phallic jouissance’, ‘jauissance of the Other’ and ‘jouissance of Being’ . ” To put it succinctly: phallic jauissance is the most common, linked with the phallic physical ecstasy of the coitus, and generated by an unconscious in which Eros and Thanatos are in balance; jouissance of the Other, or female jouissance, originates from a strong, insatiable Eros drive and is more diffuse; while jouissance of Being springs from a strong Thanatos drive, and aims at unification with the Thing. Nowjouissance is an energy that can to a certain extent be channelled by one‘s use of language. This brings us to the Name—of—the—Father, the last important term we must define before we can move to the literary field. The fact that not “the Father’ is the guarantee of the referential func— tion, but the ‘Name-of—the-Father’, indicates that not so much the parents but their speech is important, the way in which they situate children in the family, and the family in the wider world. The parents’ words are to instill the child with trust in the language system, to familiarize it with the possibilities of language, to promise, remember, represent — to keep one’s head in the perplexities of the enigma of the sexual difference, of absence, doubt, 1038, fear, desire. I used the expression ‘to keep one’s head” because it is also used in the ‘Eveline’ story; ‘the enigma of sexual difference’ refers to the castration 1“ In their article mButterflies caught in the network of signifiers”: the goals of psy- choanalysis according to Jacques Lacan’, Psychoanalytic Quarterly. LXX, l (200I), 201—230, Beatrice and André Patsalides briefly discuss the different kinds of jouissance (p. 205). Though their representation is rather concise, i recommend this article as a perfect introduction for any beginner in Lacanian thought. Lacan elaborates on the different kinds of ‘jouissance’ in his seminar Encore. Le sémi- flaire XX. 1972-1973 (Paris: Le Seuil, 1975): but for a systematized account of these concepts one should read Nestor Braunstein’s La Jouissance. Un concept lacam'en (Paris: Point hors ligne, 1992). El 343 HEDWIG SCHWALL phantasm or oedipal phase, in which the subject has to consciously accept its (fe)male role and explore its implications in a certain culture. The ‘Name-of—the-Father’ is the arch-metaphor, the instrument of mediation, of socialisation. If the Name—of—the-Father is rejected, the child will not be able to situate itself in the chain of generations, nor in its own sexual identity. It will not be able to distinguish between literal and metaphoric, and thus will lack all possibilities to symbolize, to represent, to mediate (psychic or material) realities. In other words, the child will be a poten- tially psychotic subject, i.e., vulnerable to the breaking in of ‘the object a’, followed by the invasion of the Real which interrupts the current of desire, carried by the signifiers of phantasms and tentative speech, with which the subject feels its way forward, and paralyses or ‘aphanizes’ the subject. In crisis moments, when one is hard put to the hardest questions (What do you want of me? What is my life for?), the subject is most vulnerable to the Real, which activates the death drive, i.e., the way back to the smothering, wordless Real. Lacan calls this situation the ‘fixation on the empty place of das Ding’.12 If those familiar with ‘Eveline’ will have recognized certain situations, that is certainly a bonus. Yet, we must keep in mind that a psychoanalytic reading does not primarily aim at finding neat illustrations, mere ‘appli- cation’ of theory. If we want to ‘reactivate‘ both literature and psychoa- nalysis, as Felman, Brooks et all. would have us do, we must focus on the stylistic peculiarities and try to see which words or word clusters may bespeak libidinal currents as yet uncharted. 3. Inhibited by habit, inhabited by inhibition In his essay ‘Dead ends: Joyce’s finest moments’, Seamus Deane looks for marginal but insistent details. Deane observes how ‘One of the most obvi— ous effects of Joyce’s elaborate stylizations is to convert or pervert stories of imagined adventure, escape, heroism or fame into studies in a cultural pathology’.‘3 About ‘The Dead’, Deane says, ‘The key to the journey is 12 Or to put it with Slavoj Ziiek: ‘the “drive potential of man“ consists of drives that are already denaturalized, derailed by their traumatic attachment to a Thing, to an empty place, that excludes man forever from the circular movement of life and thus ppens the immanent possibility of a radical catastrophe, the “second death”. Slavo} Ziaek, Looking Awry: an Introduction to Jacques Lacan through Popular Culture (Cambridge [Mass]: MIT Press, 1991), p. '37. '3 Seamus Deane, ‘Dead Ends: Joyce’s Finest Moments’, in Semicoloniai Joyce, ed. Derek Attridge and Marjorie HoWes (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000), p.21. USES OF PS YCHOANALYSIS IN THE STUDY OF ENGLISH LITERATURE repetition It provides a safety net of correspondences into which any apparently random element might fall and find its place in the universal scheme. In all the stories in Dubliners other than ‘The Dead’, repetition has a critical and disturbing function.l4 Indeed I believe it is a good idea to start from ‘structural signifiers’, those which characterise the different psychic powers at play in this focal- iser and, through their repetition, mark the two main phases in the protago— nist’s development. Part one will focus on the dust in Eveline’s house, part two on the ‘foolish insistence’ of the mother’s voice. For readers who are not familiar with Joyce’s story. a kind of summary may be helpful 7 though the five pages of the story are so dense with ambiguous descriptions that this is a hazardous enterprise. So, in brief: at a vital moment of her life, Eveline is sitting at the window, reminiscing about the hardships and the more gleeful moments of her past life. She has to decide whether or not she will leave the house and follow Frank, a sailor whom she met, to Argentina. In the first part of the story, the father’s image dominates; in the second part, the mother’s voice becomes an overwhelm- ing presence. The whole short story seems to focus on two major signifiers: the dust in the first part. the mother’s nonsensical deathbed refrain in the second part. In the 2000 spring issue of EJES, Peter de Voogd maintains that ‘see- ing’ (and later showing) will be an important isotopy in this story.15 De Voogd further rightly argues that Eveline becomes more and more active as the story goes on, but this leads him to a surprising interpretation of the end, that Eveline acts the melodramatic part of the Victorian heroine: the phrase ‘She set her white face to him, passive...’ would ‘indicate activity and deliberation’.16 Activity and deliberation are not quite synonymous, and as I think this difference vital for a more plausible interpretation of the story’s end we will have to look into what Eveline focuses on, and how, and this not only in the optic, but also in the auditory and the tactile aspect of her perception. In brief, with my question concerning ‘Eveline’ — which factors in the psychic system steer her perception? — I hope to answer three important questions that have exercised numerous critics: What is the dust all about? Does Eveline act in a conscious or unconscious way? And what is the ‘meaning’ of ‘Derevaun Seraun’? I 4 Deane, ‘Dead Ends: Joyces Finest Moments”, p. 35. Peter de Voogd. ‘lr...
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