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Title: Schopenhauer and the unconscious origins of literary modernism
Author: Heaney, J. C.
Awarding Body: Queen's University Belfast
Current Institution: Queen's University Belfast
Date of Award: 2014
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This thesis explores the initial history of Schopenhauer's reception in Britain and then considers in detail his impact on the work of Thomas Hardy, D. H. Lawrence and Samuel Beckett. It argues that Schopenhauer's influence on the literature of the modernist period was both more nuanced and pervasive than has been previously supposed, contesting in particular the typical reduction of this inheritance to that of 'pessimism'. Special attention is paid to the philosophy's significance as an early theorisation of the unconscious. It will be a central tenet of this thesis that Schopenhauer's colossal influence on the intellectual developments of the latenineteenth and early-twentieth centuries has tended ultimately to obscure his wider cultural legacy, with the literary employment of ideas that were contained in embryo in his writing often ascribed automatically to later thinkers, such as Darwin, Nietzsche and Freud. The chapter on Hardy considers the possible influence of Schopenhauer's metaphysics on the treatment of 'evolutionary themes in his later novels, and - by analysing the use of the reproductive urge in these works to underscore humanity's essential identity with the natural world - seeks to elucidate the degree to which early notions of the unconscious originated from a monistic understanding of nature. The following chapter argues that the idiosyncratic psychology expounded in Lawrence's 'psychoanalytic' essays of the 1920s is indebted to Schopenhauer's theory of will, which is reflected equally in the model of consciousness that finds expression in his fiction of the period. The final chapter argues that the proliferation of 'pseudocouples' in Beckett's writing have their roots in Schopenhauer's dissection of the Cartesian cogito into the ontologically distinct elements of will and intellect, a radical reimagining of human subjectivity which also illuminates the trope of the listener and speaker which achieves similar prominence in the later work. The conclusion highlights Schopenhauerian elements in the work of Joseph Conrad, Wyndham Lewis and Vladimir Nabokov.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available