Academic journal article Style

Metaphor and Mental Disturbance: The Case of Lady Chatterley's Lover

Academic journal article Style

Metaphor and Mental Disturbance: The Case of Lady Chatterley's Lover

Article excerpt

Peter Brooks has remarked that psychoanalytical criticism got a bad name because it mistook the object of analysis, applying Freudian concepts either to the author (and his intentions), or to the characters (and their neuroses), or to the reader (and his/her responses) ("Idea" 334-35). In subjecting the fictional text to this kind of appropriation, such criticism ignored fiction's status as a linguistic and a narrative construct. The real object of investigation, Brooks suggests, should be rhetorical - the correspondence between the operation of tropes in creating sense in the text and the operations of the psyche in making sense of the world. Indeed, in Reading for the Plot, Brooks himself explores this correspondence in depth, taking Freud's Beyond the Pleasure Principle as his model of psychical functioning. As Brooks shows, the narrative disposition of tropes has its simulacrum in the disposition of the psychical drives, so that the "study of human fiction-making and the study of psychic process are convergent activities and superimposable forms of analysis" ("Idea" 341).

While I shall take as my basic assumption that a correspondence such as Brooks describes exists, I shall shift the whole field of analysis. In so doing, I narrow the range of analysis, taking metaphor as my privileged trope and the neuroses and psychoses as my privileged psychical fields. Thus I link together two of Freud's major theoretical essays (on the difference between the neuroses and the psychoses) with two major (radically divergent) theories of the metaphorical process. I try to establish a rhetorical distinction between manifestations of a textual "neurosis" and a textual "psychosis," locating the difference in the different performances of metaphor that generate the world of the text. In so doing, I advance the following hypothesis: the Freudian distinction between the neuroses and the psychoses in their constitution of the real world has its structural homologue in the distinction between traditional metaphor, conceived of (by Aristotle and Roman Jakobson among others) as a simple substitution involving two words, and metaphor conceived of (by Paul Ricoeur and others) as a complex redescription involving the sentence in the constitution of fictional worlds. While the first (neurosis/substitution) creates merely local and controllable alterations (in life or the text), the second (psychosis/redescription) remakes and remodels the world and thereby forecloses an ordinary world and substitutes an alternative world in its place.

Since Freudian theory attributes a specific sexual etiology to both types of mental disturbance, the correspondence between rhetorical and psychical processes should be particularly striking in erotic narratives that have sexual conflict or trauma as their prime motor-force. For this reason, I have chosen D. H. Lawrence's Lady Chatterley's Lover as my exemplary text, though the analysis that follows has a potential application to erotic narratives in general. By juxtaposing rhetorical and psychical structures, I explore two central aspects of the modern literary representation of sexuality: first, as a textual neurosis that is triggered by libidinal repression or trauma and manifested in the form of the disfiguring metaphor; second, as a textual psychosis that is triggered by the orgasm and manifested in fantasies of complete wish-fulfillment, as a temporary form of delirium. While the first distorts the real world of the text(1) by metaphors of defacement, the second forecloses on the real world of the text, and the metaphorical is lived as if it were reality. I shall draw out the implications of these rather complex relationships.

I. THEORETICAL PRELIMINARIES

Freud's metapsychological essays consistently link neuroses with repression and symptom-formation. The repressed material establishes substitutive representations (symptoms) - those external marks of an internal trauma to which they bear an uncanny resemblance. …

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