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Title: The modernist anti-mental : literary life-writing, neurology and medical psychology, 1860-1939
Author: Christensen, Susie
ISNI:       0000 0004 5366 4249
Awarding Body: King's College London (University of London)
Current Institution: King's College London (University of London)
Date of Award: 2014
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This thesis examines the selves represented by early-twentieth century modernist writers in the light of neurological developments which occurred during the late-nineteenth century. After the 1860s, the nervous system was understood in newly evolutionary terms. This meant that the lowest and fundamentally non-mental aspects of the nervous system became the basis of the conscious mind and mentality. The central concern of the thesis is with what I call the modernist anti-mental. This manifests itself in three clear ways. Firstly, I use the anti-mental as a term to describe a non- Freudian (or perhaps ambiguously Freudian) and explicitly physical mode of unconsciousness . Secondly, I argue that a certain strand of modernism itself, as a set of stylistic qualities and ideas emerging in both literature and medical science, was concerned with representing and often celebrating mindlessness and the primitive, and therefore debunked the rational mind. Thirdly, I use the term the anti-mental, or anti-mentality, to gather together the ways in which modernist writers, neurologists, and medical psychologists alike were concerned with placing the non-mental at the core and/or foundation of selfhood. The introduction establishes modernist anti-mentality and the anti-mental as an alternative to the idea of the unconscious mind as well as examining the complex relationship between neurology and psychology during the period in question. The first chapter considers the foundational figure of the thesis, the neurologist John Hughlings Jackson, and argues that although he pathologised anti-mentality, his account of the nervous system also meant that it became the bedrock of human selfhood. Hughlings Jackson's neurology is considered in relation to D. H. Lawrence's writings which have the anti-mental at their heart. Chapter two examines the potential for the anti-mental to be spiritual and physical all at once, exploring various oceanic states and metaphors in the works of sexologist Havelock Ellis and writer H.D. Chapter three considers how the anti-mental becomes a key concern for the modernist practices of sensory self-observation carried out in very different contexts by Virginia Woolf and the neurologist Henry Head. Chapter four questions the limits of textual expression of supposedly anti-mental states. It uses the diaries of Anaïs Nin and psychological writings by Otto Rank in order to challenge the modernist attempt to portray anti-mentality in textual forms.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available