Academic journal article Papers on Language & Literature

Male Relations in Thomas Hardy's Jude the Obscure

Academic journal article Papers on Language & Literature

Male Relations in Thomas Hardy's Jude the Obscure

Article excerpt

I. AMBITIOUS AND EROTIC AIMS

In a classic study of the female novel, Nancy K. Miller has drawn attention to Sigmund Freud's assumption that, for women, ambitious wishes are subsumed in erotic ones. In his essay, "The Relation of the Poet to Daydreaming" (1908), Freud argues that novelistic fictions represent the fulfillment of their authors' "unsatisfied wishes": "The impelling wishes vary according to the sex, character and circumstances of the creator; they may easily be divided, however, into two principal groups. Either they are ambitious wishes, serving to exalt the person creating them, or they are erotic. In young women, erotic wishes dominate the phantasies almost exclusively, for their ambition is generally comprised in their erotic longings; in young men egoistic and ambitious wishes assert themselves plainly enough alongside their erotic desires." Freud asserts that the protagonists of the popular novel move confidently forward to the realization of their dreams; "this ... invulnerability very clearly betrays--His Majesty the Ego, the hero of all daydreams and all novels" (Miller 32; emphasis added).

While Miller's main interest is in whether Freud reserves "a place" (32) for the ambitious wishes of young women, I am interested in the connection between the "ambitious wishes" and the "erotic desires" of young men. When Freud speaks of these desires as occurring "alongside" (neben) ambitious wishes, he might consider the conjunction in his own life of his engagement with Martha Bernays in June 1882 with his discovery, in the same month, of the "key" to psychoanalytic theory (Koestenbaum 22, 27). Regarded in another light, however, Freud's erotic desires appear "alongside" his professional involvement in his mentor Josef Breuer's study of hysteria in a much more intimate way. Freud, in his own words, "first became aware of the power of the unconscious" when, at the end of her treatment, Anna O., a patient of Dr. Breuer, suddenly experienced the pains of a "hysterical childbirth" (Koestenbaum 26, 17). In the view of Wayne Koestenbaum, Freud fantasized his collaboration with Breuer as a sexual union in which Freud became mother of the text of psychoanalytic theory while simultaneously supplanting Breuer as father because Breuer refused to acknowledge the processes of transference and countertransference that accounted for Anna O's delusion.

This account suggests that the relation between erotic and ambitious wishes in young men may be far from "plain enough." And while Victorian novelists who consider the possible confusions tend to focus, as does Freud in the 1908 essay, on the choice of a suitable partner in marriage, the example of Freud and Breuer suggests another set of relations in which the mingling of wishes is liable to be especially occluded, namely the connection between mentor and protege. In recent years Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick has emphasized that, in order to "get on," men in late Victorian England needed mentors and friends in all-male institutions like the public schools, the older universities, or the professions. Such relations existed in a double bind in which "the most intimate male bonding" was prescribed at the same time that "the remarkably cognate" homosexuality was proscribed ("Beast" 152). Whether institutionalized in public schools in friendships between older and younger boys or in relationships between teacher and student, pedagogic eros helped motivate educational reform and was a major aspect of the ethos of school during the century (Crompton 74ff., Chandos ch. 14). Such friendships could likewise be idealized by men like Thomas Hardy who lacked similar advantages.

A venerable literary tradition authorized intimacy between tutor and pupil. And although the emotional power of these relationships in literature was usually baffled in the sentimental language of schoolboy friendship and swathed in a Platonizing rhetoric, Greek pederastic tradition made writers aware of the sexual undertones (Crompton 267-68; Hekma 435-40). …

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