Academic journal article Style

Response to Alan Palmer

Academic journal article Style

Response to Alan Palmer

Article excerpt

I want to thank Alan Palmer for agreeing to write and edit his target essay "Social Minds" in Style, and then to respond to the several scholars who have written reactions to it. Many readers have found his first book, Fictional Minds, as well as the current essay, stimulating, and their brief but pointed responses to the latter, both positive and critical, have led to a useful interplay of arguments and ideas that will add to Palmer's major contributions to narrative study. I would not typically include my own reactions--trying to keep my role as journal editor clearly separate from that of essay respondent--but since I have been involved in these matters of social mind (although I did not call it that in 1996) for many years, I can hardly keep myself from voicing ah opinion. Although I will be suggesting some additions to Alan's ideas, I should make it clear how much I admire his achievements in his two books (Narrative Minds [2004], and Social Minds in Fiction, 2011), in subsequent essays, and, of course, in this target essay for Style.

For my own response, I want to focus on Palmer's ideas concerning aspectual points of view and situated identity. For Palmer, "the concept of aspectuality serves as a reminder that ... the storyworld is ... being experienced differently, under other aspects, by all of the characters who are not currently being focalized in the text." He then notes my discussion of the father, Walter Morel, in Lawrence's Sons and Lovers, as ah example of how aspectuality is "a way of bringing to centre stage previously marginalized characters whose voices may not often be heard" (cf. Striking). l would like to elaborate on some reasons why previous discussions of character in this novel have been so relatively one-sided for/against either spouse, what this critical bias has meant generally, and why I think this example suggests how Palmer's work is a major, but, from my own perspective, a somewhat incomplete step in a nonetheless useful critical direction.

One practical reason for the critical diminution of Walter's character in Sons and Lovers is textual: between 1913 and (roughly) 1992, the text available to almost every reader was a variation of the first edition that had been severely edited by Edward Garnett who reduced the role of Paul's brother, William--and, therefore, William's relationship with Walter--and the size of the novel generally by a tenth (Lawrence xvi). With the work done by Helen Baron and Carl Baron in the new Cambridge edition (1992), William's place in Lawrence's original text was restored, and, thus, his and Walter's interactions were enhanced significantly (see Striking, for a detailed discussion).

Another important reason was the domination--until the mid-1990s--of psychoanalysis as the psychological tool to understand the Morel family dynamic. Given the psychoanalytic penchant for comprehending characters (and people) one-at-a-time, many critics sought to take sides in what I have described as a family fight (Striking 61). More importantly, there was not yet, even by the early 1990s, an elaborated literary critical psychology to account for the aspectual nature of family dynamics. One possible exception was in the earlier writings of Karen Homey, as discussed by her biographer and promoter, Bernard Paris, on mother-child dynamics (The Therapeutic Process). This particular theorizing of Horney's tended to diminish the role of the father in family dynamics, since the male, in her psycho-dynamic model, derived most of his sense of well-being from externals or career rather than from acting as an integral part of the family. By contrast, since the early 1960s, family systems therapists have become as focused on the father's roles and vital importance in raising children as on the mother's primary care-giving (Wilson 331).

Finally, the social fabric out of which mimetic character theory has been--until Palmer's ideas of characterological aspectuality--relatively under-discussed. …

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