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Title: Beyond the gates : a psychobiographical study of death, mourning, and the Swedenborgian after-life in the later works of Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu
Author: Ashman, Anne
ISNI:       0000 0004 2689 4479
Awarding Body: University of Aberdeen
Current Institution: University of Aberdeen
Date of Award: 2005
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Summary Joseph Thomas Sheridan Le Fanu (1814-1873) became a virtual recluse after the death of his wife in 1858. However, after this date he published much of his best work, mostly on supernatural themes. This thesis uses Freudian psychobiography to explore this paradox, examining Le Fanu's preoccupation with the subject of death and the after-life. Chapter One - explains the psychobiographical methodology; establishes the biographical facts that are connected with symptomatic features of Le Fanu's fiction; and introduces certain Freudian concepts that are relevant to Le Fanu's case. My aim is to construct a psychobiographical profile of Le Fanu based on Freud's theory of the death drive, in order to relate a key phase in his life - namely, the death of his wife - to the subsequent development of his writing. Chapter Two - applies Freud's theory of the death drive and the repetition compulsion to an interpretation of Le Fanu's fiction. I examine the main tenets of Beyond the Pleasure Principle, which encompasses Freud's theory of the repetition compulsion operating at the heart of the death drive, to offer an explanation for the extraordinary patterns of repetition in Le Fanu's fiction. I explore Le Fanu's development of repetitive narrative techniques; his repetition of names and settings (where the central image of a great house is linked with the human psyche); his repetition of images; and his obsession with suicide. Chapter Three - shows how the sense of guilt that Le Fanu developed following his wife's death led him directly into a fictive exploration of a continued state of existence between the realms of life and death. I begin with a literary history of the vampire and show how Le Fanu recreated the vampire myth. Consideration is then given to Freud's theory of 'The Uncanny' and to the psychological implications of Le Fanu's creation of a sensual, female vampire, and his introduction of the suggestion of lesbian love into vampire fiction. Attention is also given to the collapse of the life/death dialectic in Le Fanu's fiction, to show how Le Fanu confuses the issue as to whether characters are living or undead. Chapter Four - explores Le Fanu's conception of the after-life using Swedenborgian analogies. I examine Swedenborg's philosophy through a detailed study of the central concepts of Heaven and Hell, before providing an analysis of Le Fanu's so-called 'Swedenborgian' texts, which are concerned with a visit to the underworld and the opening of man's interior sight. I compare Swedenborg and Freud's understanding of man's dual nature, and refer to the late eighteenth and nineteenth-century writers who acknowledged their indebtedness to Swedenborg. The chapter concludes with a close reading of Le Fanu's Uncle Silas: A Tale of Bartram Haugh.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available