Moments of apperception in the modern novel : a study of Henry James, Virginia Woolf, E.M. Forster and James Joyce related to the psychiatric and philosophic developments in the late Nineteenth and early Twentieth centuries
This thesis is an examination of the moment of apperception, a special form of insight, which occurs frequently in the novels of Henry James, Virginia Woolf, E. M. Forster, and James Joyce. Such moments are not confined to modern literature and I discuss earlier examples which derive from a variety of intellectual traditions. The marked frequency of such moments in modern literature can, I believe, be traced to the new thinking in psychology and philosophy in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, which emphasizes the role of the unconscious mind and stresses the way the individual conditions his responses. I use the term 'apperception', after Leibnitz and Kant, to indicate the way the self informs these moments. I also trace the development of this thinking for the light it throws upon the moments in the novels. Henry James's novels offer many examples of such moments. Most occur at the level of personal and social relationships and are highly qualified by the previous experiences and preconceptions of the characters. Some suggest pathological states of mind. James employs a series of elaborate devices to present the moments. There are a number of examples in Virginia Woolf's novels of moments of apperception into self and other. But there are a greater number which present apparent insights into extremes of experience. The moments represent the attempts, and thefieeds, of the characters, to recreate experience in terms of their own personalities. E. M. Forster's characters, at least in the first four novels, experience moments of apperception into qualities of the universe, into themselves, and into others. Often, in these early novels, the responses seem conventional and highly rhetorical in presentation. Once again, the moments seem to be the products of the perceiver's mind. In A Passage to India, however, the treatment is far more searching. Various approaches to the truth are tried but none yields a final answer. James Joyce proceeds, from his notion of the epiphany, to present epiphanies unknown to the characters which reveal significant qualities to others and to the reader. He also presents epiphanies of which they are conscious. These are moments of apperception. The techniques of presentation are especially important in Joyce. They are not only the medium of the apperception but in a sense the apperception. The moments of apperception as presented by the four novelists also throw light upon such apperceptions as they may themselves have experienced. Although no final objective truth may be attained, a study of these moments yields other satisfactions and suggests at least an approach to more objective ways of thinking.