Telling Tales: The Hysteric's Seduction in Fiction and Theory

By Katherine Cummings | Go to book overview

Epilogue

Seduction is a complicated event. Here, I have said little about representations of sexual abuse and less about actual incidents of rape, choosing instead to relate the story of seduction as told in fictional and metafictional texts. The telling began with fathers (three theorists and three novelists) who revised and repeated "seduction," spinning an enticing narrative from an originally traumatic event. In writing, each took the part of woman--seducing, dissembling-- as she is reputed to do. Each also launched a critique of the father, which differs in the particulars addressed. Yet all six writers retain something of the progenitor's prerogative, nonetheless.

Had I staged an Oedipal drama, simply, then all of them would have been cast as usurping sons. This has been another sort of theater, however, whose leading men have followed two scripts. One has taken its cues from Oedipus and the other from Freud's encounter with hysterics; the second has been the more significant of the two. For if the "family scene" produces sons as paternal impostors (or figures who take their fathers' place), the scene of seduction produces impersonators of "the second sex": that is, men who make use of a "feminine style" and woman's figure in constructing a masculine defense.

I have repeated these paternal plots in writing, but I have tried to configure them differently: often recounting events from the position of the hysteric, "who took the role of a resistant heroine" ( Newly Born Women9) in Freud's work, and always from the place of the daughter, speaking--where the hysteric falls silent--in her defense. It has taken many twists, this telling, "partially" miming an hysterical address. It might also be said that it has been unfaithful to the directions and categorical distinctions of its primary texts. Where

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Telling Tales: The Hysteric's Seduction in Fiction and Theory
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Acknowledgments vii
  • Contents ix
  • A Note to the Reader xi
  • Introduction 1
  • Chapter One Seduction and Psychoanalysis 19
  • Epilogue 65
  • Interlude: "Between the Acts" 67
  • Chapter Two Clarissa's "Life with Father" 90
  • Interlude: A Spurious Set (Up) 157
  • Chapter Three Rereading Bleak House: the Chronicle Of A "Little Body" and Its Perverse Defense 191
  • Chapter Four Translation, Transference, and Other "Tender in the Night" 230
  • Epilogue 279
  • Reference Matter 281
  • Works Cited 283
  • Index 293
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