The Death-Ego and the Vital Self: Romances of Desire in Literature and Psychoanalysis

The Death-Ego and the Vital Self: Romances of Desire in Literature and Psychoanalysis

The Death-Ego and the Vital Self: Romances of Desire in Literature and Psychoanalysis

The Death-Ego and the Vital Self: Romances of Desire in Literature and Psychoanalysis

Synopsis

This volume presents original views of the relationship between desire and romance. It begins by looking anew at the nature of desire, citing its central theoretical text as Freud's Beyond the Pleasure Principle. It traces the struggle between myth and romance, between the ego on its way to death and the self in search of life, through close readings of poems and letters of John Keats and in detailed considerations of a series of novels including Frankenstein, Wuthering Heights, Jane Eyre, and Sons and Lovers.

Excerpt

A simplified notion of desire underlies modern critiques of romance. Northrop Frye describes romance as a genre marked by its "perennially childlike quality ... its extraordinarily persistent nostalgia, its search for some kind of imaginative golden age.” His definition of romance as a "wish-fulfillment dream” relies on the language and thought of early psychoanalytic texts like The Interpretation of Dreams (1901) and "Creative Writers and Daydreaming (1908).” Frye's "golden” romance derives from Freud's affirmations of pleasure as the motive for narrative and narrative as the anticipation of reality. Based on early psychoanalytic theory, Frye's attractive fantasy of a pleasure-romance is a creation of his own romance with romance. His "nostalgic” genre cites Freud's unitary concept of psychic motivation. In the earlier phase of psychoanalysis, our unconscious drives (expressed in our motives) and our unconscious fantasies (expressed in our dreams) take pleasure as their ultimate goal.

II

Frye advances criticism by uniting a genre, the romance, and a psychic state, the search for the satisfaction of a want (in both

Theoretical Forenote: This is about our need to study the connections between romance and desire more closely. We can achieve this by examining Freud's presentation of desire in Beyond the Pleasure Principle. Freud's essay, both a reading and a rendering of desire, contains five fragments of Romantic narrative which, taken together, compose a psychoanalytic romance. Lacan helps us bridge drive and desire.

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