Out of Bounds: Male Writers and Gender(ed) Criticism

By Laura Claridge; Elizabeth Langland | Go to book overview

Projection and the Female Other: Romanticism, Browning, and the Victorian Dramatic Monologue

U. C. KNOEPFLMACHER

We shall become the same, we shall be one Spirit within two frames, oh! wherefore two?

SHELLEY, Epipsychidion

What I see is that I have become Total-Image, which is to say, Death in person; others -- the Other -- do not dispossess me of myself, they turn me, ferociously, into an object, they put me at their mercy, at their disposal, classified in a file, ready for the subtlest deceptions. BARTHES, Camera Lucida

BROWNING'S 1864 monodrama James Lee's Wife contains a remarkable passage in its ninth and last section, On Deck. The "ill-favored" female speaker, ready to annul herself by migrating "Over the sea," has "conceded" the failure of her union with James Lee, the object of her desire. The speaker accepts her self-exile from the apathetic "mind" of the man she continues to worship: "Nothing I was" will, she has now come to realize, ever find a "place" in that masculine mind. And yet, boldly and unexpectedly, she imagines a future moment in which a depleted James Lee "might" fade into

a thing like me,
And your hair grow these coarse hanks of hair,
Your skin, this bark of a gnarled tree, --
You might turn myself! [368-71]1

The metamorphosis the speaker envisions is neither the natural outcome of aging nor a wishful act of supernatural witchery. Her visionary casting into the future is a projection (from pro-jacere: to throw ahead). But what is involved is not the kind of "projection" that led a Paracelsus or an Agrippa,

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