Neurosis and Narrative: The Decadent Short Fiction of Proust, Lorrain, and Rachilde

Neurosis and Narrative: The Decadent Short Fiction of Proust, Lorrain, and Rachilde

Neurosis and Narrative: The Decadent Short Fiction of Proust, Lorrain, and Rachilde

Neurosis and Narrative: The Decadent Short Fiction of Proust, Lorrain, and Rachilde


Renée A. Kingcaid uses the theories of Jacques Lacan to explore the relationships between the literary structures found in the short stories of three writers of the French Decadence- Marcel Proust, Jean Lorrain, and Rachilde (Marguerite Vallette)- and those psychological structures that underlie neurosis.

Kingcaid demonstrates, for example, how Marcel Proust uses fetishism to advance the plot in several of the short stories from his first published work, Pleasures and Regrets (1896). In discussing Jean Lorrain's stories from Masked Figures and Phantoms (1891- 1905), Kingcaid shows how repressed childhood trauma becomes a form of metonymy that inflates to assume the entire perceptual field and then leads to moments of horrible realization. By populating her short fiction from Demon of the Absurd (1894) and Stories (1900) with characters who are more interested in inspiring sexual desire than fulfilling it, Rachilde produces love stories that, according to Kingcaid, exemplify her ability to capture the possibilities of language to express desire, even as a structure of lack.

Kingcaid's rhetorical analysis of some of Freud's case studies and her brief critique of Simone de Beauvoir's Second Sex add to the comprehensiveness of her study.


To make this study as widely accessible as possible, I have provided translations of all of my original French sources, both primary and secondary. of the primary works -- Proust's Pleasures and Regrets, Jean Lorrain's Masked Figures and Phantoms, and Rachilde's Stories and Demon of the Absurd -- only the Proust, to my knowledge, is available in English translation. That translation, done by Louise Varese and published by Ecco Press in 1949, offers only selected parts of the original Les plaisirs et les jours: the four major short stories of the work -- the four I will be looking at here -- the preface by Anatole France, two minor short stories, the society portraits known as the "Fragments of Italian Comedy," and the prose poems "Regrets, Reveries, Changing Skies." the translation does not include Proust's own preface to the work, that is, the extended dedication to Willie Heath in which Proust develops the theme of illness as poetic inspiration, the theme that opens the work on a distinct note of Decadence.

I have used Varese's translation for my citations from the major short stories of Pleasures and Regrets: "The Death of Baldassare Silvande," "The Melancholy Summer of Madame de Breyves," "A Young Girl's Confession," and "The End of Jealousy." Page references to these stories in the text refer directly, therefore, to Varese's text. the translations from Proust's own preface, however, are my own, as are all of the translations from Lorrain and Rachilde; my page references to these works are therefore to the French editions cited in the bibliography. in each instance of my own translation of a primary source, I have additionally supplied the French original in the notes. Readers of French will undoubtedly wish to evaluate both my translations and my literary analyses on the basis of the original texts from which I worked. in all translations, I have attempted to retain both the literal meaning and the suggestive nuance of the . . .

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