Gestures of Healing: Anxiety & the Modern Novel

Gestures of Healing: Anxiety & the Modern Novel

Gestures of Healing: Anxiety & the Modern Novel

Gestures of Healing: Anxiety & the Modern Novel


Gestures of Healing shows how the dominant novelists of American and British modernism - James, Conrad, Ford, Forster, Joyce, Woolf, Lawrence, Fitzgerald, Hemingway and Faulkner - express a common condition of pain: anxiety produced by the experience of chaos in the self.


Michel foucault has expressed, expressed wonderfully because precisely, the opposite of my own orientation.

According to Foucault in "What Is an Author?" writing has "freed itself from the dimension of expression." the "author" is, he says, dead, so dead that the news is old hat by now. Then he examines what an author is outside of our idealizations:

These aspects of art individual which we designate as making him an author are only a projection, in more or less psychologizing terms, of the operations that we force texts to undergo, the connections that we make, the traits that we establish as pertinent, the continuities that we recognize, or the exclusions that we practice. (P. 110)

Foucault is, of course, neither right nor wrong; he has offered an analytical heuristic, a brilliant move designed to leave him with texts and without privileged authors. My own approach is so different that I can use his passage as a touchstone: if you find Foucault's orientation compatible with your own, you will probably be resistant to mine. Foucault has played a magician's trick to eliminate the human creatures who suffered and rejoiced and wrote out of this suffering and joy, adapting the language of our common experience. But it's precisely those actual human beings who interest me. I see their writing as expressions of pain and as complex gestures of healing to handle that pain. I am interested in what their writing did for them and what it does for me as a particular reader.

Why would anyone want to reduce the significance of the person writing?

Partly, it is to get rid of the magnified, reified, mythologized capital a author. But largely, I think, the postmodern critique of selfhood, of the . . .

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