Psychoanalysis, Language, and the Body of the Text

Psychoanalysis, Language, and the Body of the Text

Psychoanalysis, Language, and the Body of the Text

Psychoanalysis, Language, and the Body of the Text

Synopsis

"Offers its readers stimulating cross-disciplinary perspectives on a variety of literary works and enables each of them to spring to life anew. Its manifest aim, the desire to integrate corporeal and cultural experience in original ways, seems right on target for the nineties."--Ellen Handler Spitz, author of Image and Insight and Museums of the Mind
"A major scholarly contribution which will alter and extend the received understanding of the history of the novel."--Peter Rudnytsky, University of Florida
The growing field of "body studies," which examine the relationship between corporeal experience and the mind, includes scholars from the areas of psychological literary criticism and semiotics as well as psychoanalysis and gender studies. Combining contemporary linguistics and psychoanalysis, this work focuses on how the body emerges in the novel. In particular, it looks at the role that language plays in integrating the body and the mind.
By drawing on language theory forged by Noam Chomsky and on the body awareness articulated by Sigmund Freud and others, Martin Gliserman discovers that the presence of the body is the core phenomenon of the novel. He scrutinizes the syntax of the novel's text (the arrangement of words in sentences, paragraphs, and chapters) as bodily gestures in a range of works that include erotic novels as well as those with themes of violence. Concentrating on primal bodily pain, he examines four novels chosen to span the issues of history, gender, and race: Daniel Defoe's Robinson Crusoe, Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre, Virginia Woolf's To the Lighthouse, and David Bradley's Chaneysville Incident. In each he reveals a primitive body fraught with desire that is distorted by fear, pain, and conflict.
For Gliserman, words have a double life--they generate and fulfill our narrative lust; they also "live in another (deconstructed, synchronic, slipped) universe of discourse." In this work he unlaces language from the body and discovers a common, existential flesh.
Martin J. Gliserman is associate professor of English at Rutgers University and a psychoanalyst in private practice. He is the editor of American Imago: Studies in Psychoanalysis and Culture and has published articles in Modern Psychoanalysis, Jump-Cut, College English, and other journals.

Excerpt

This book is about how the human body makes its appearance in those literary texts we call novels and what message that body transmits. By demonstrating the powerful presence of the body in the novel, I hope to clarify further the intricate relationship of body and mind, in particular the role that language plays in integrating these major centers of being. I want to show how inextricably the body laces into the language of narrative. In literary texts, at least, the body evidences itself in the language that is the literary text. It does so by mentioning the body explicitly as well as by alluding to it; by offering shared symbols with personal variations; by presenting structures indicative of motion, dimension, tension, and stability; and by its protean disguises, including its seeming absence.

In investigating the presence of the body in the language of the text, I bring together the description and analysis of language which Noam Chomsky forged and the sensitivity to the presence of the body in language which Freud articulated as psychoanalysis. The general contribution of this work is to a growing field of "body studies." In bringing this synthetic analysis to literary language, literary critics, teachers of literature, and historians gain a new dimension to seeing the body of the text -- something that has hitherto been described in relatively flat ways. Specifically, I am adding a major element to aid in the analysis and perception of the body in literature by examining the syntax of the text (sentences, paragraphs, and chapters) as bodily gesture, appearing in the shape of both desire and despair. I see the body as embedded in the syntax of the sentence. This aspect and those described by others together develop a quantity of redundancy that in turn precipitates a fuller sense of the body. I think I have succeeded in making the body more dimensional and thus more apparently present, at least given a willing suspension of disbelief or a willingness to participate in a thought experiment -- that the body can be tangible without being corporeal.

Although the work is not clinical, I hope psychoanalysts find interest in this work insofar as psychoanalysis works in and with language, knows the . . .

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