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Title: Setting the scene : the writing of desire and vision in Henry James and Freud.
Author: Wilson, Frances.
ISNI:       0000 0001 3570 1606
Awarding Body: University of Sussex
Current Institution: University of Sussex
Date of Award: 1992
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The correspondence and antagonisms between writing and looking and fiction and painting were continually being explored by James, and this thesis continues that exploration, but with a view to seeing how the analogies collapse, writing and seeing often becoming interchangeable activities. This thesis is concerned with visual anxiety, the circulation of textuality and the construction of female identity in James, and, by extension, it also discusses the anxiety or 'blindness' of James's readers. My argument draws heavily on both the theory of the visual and anamorphosis discussed in Jacques Lacan's seminar 'Of the Gaze as Object Petit a' and on Hans Holbein's anamorphic picture, The Ambassadors. The challenge to seeing and identity that the anamorphic object raises I relate to the difficulties and anxieties posed by the challenge of writing for James and to the difficulties and anxieties experienced by the threat of reading James. Starting from the descriptions of writing and seeing in James's notebooks, I draw on a wide range of his work, including the late novels and some of the lesser known and unfinished fictions, but focussing on the ghost stories, the plays and theatre writings, and the paradox surrounding the commercial success of film versions of the 'repudiated' early novels, The Europeans and The Bostonians. The plethora of visual images and scenarios that emerge in Jamesian moments of crisis, either in the terror of planning his fiction in the notebooks, or in the horror felt when a character in the fiction is confronted by a sight that deeply shocks and excludes him or her, suggest a relation between the fear of seeing and the fear of writing that I analyse through Freud's descriptions of visual blocks: the primal scene, castration and fetishism. For Freud, from these climactic moments of delayed and displaced sight will emerge the direction and development of sexuality, subjectivity and visual pleasure, and these psychic scenarios are no less dense than the visual scenes that precede and preoccupy James's writing. But where psychoanalysis can provide an account of many anxieties, associations and visual seductions, it leaves the connection between anxiety, writing and vision unexplored. I try to examine, through a reading of Freud's case histories and thoughts on heredity, sexuality, error, chance and telepathy, why he is particularly silent on this problem and how a recognition of the relations between visual and writing 'blocks' can offer a way of reading James.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Literature