Victorian familial enigmas: inheritance and influence
Wood, Madeleine Alice (2008) Victorian familial enigmas: inheritance and influence. PhD thesis, University of Warwick.
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Official URL: http://webcat.warwick.ac.uk/record=b2280292~S15
The thesis works from the conceptual premise that the parent-child relation is constitutive of both subjectivity and narrative form in the Victorian novel: the role of the orphan, the dislocation of the family and the drive to reconstitute it, are primary concerns and condense complex issues of narrative structure, genealogical failure, and the problematisation of parental roles. There have been valuable feminist readings of specific family positions in the Victorian novel, such as ‘the mother’ or ‘the daughter’, but there is still a lack of analyses which locate narrative and thematic concerns in the dynamic interplay between parental and childhood desires: the relation between two or more subjects. I look at four novels in detail: Charles Dickens’ Dombey and Son and Little Dorrit, and Wilkie Collins’ No Name and Armadale. The thesis shows how parent-child relationships are mediated through gendered conflicts: it is, in fact, almost impossible to isolate singular relationships for analysis; the family is a gestalt, becoming greater than the sum of its parts. Throughout the novels repudiated family members, or strange family ‘doubles’, become the focus for the movement of the plot: the way in which fantasy operates across a family group, rather than as an intrasubjective phenomenon, is a key concern.
The analyses of the literary texts will demonstrate the processes of transformation that familial desires and fantasies undergo in the characters and in the novels themselves. The concept of generational inheritance, central to the aesthetics and psychologies of the Victorian novels considered here, motivated my turn to psychoanalytic theory. I do not limit my use of psychoanalysis to one model, instead using a dialogical approach dictated by the novels themselves; I incorporate aspects of Jean Laplanche’s theories of ‘general seduction’, in addition to Sigmund Freud’s own writings and later psychoanalytic ideas of inheritance and influence.
The ‘family’ is the structuring force for the four novels under consideration. Without always attempting to create a ‘realistic’ psychology of character, Dickens creates competing worlds of personal, familial and social fantasy. The family is a site of anxiety, an anxiety which is not wholly contained, or controlled, by the narrative. Collins likewise engages with the question of inheritance, but, increasingly throughout his writings, he prioritised the emergence of female agency in the wake of a persecutory paternal narrative.
|Item Type:||Thesis or Dissertation (PhD)|
|Subjects:||H Social Sciences > HQ The family. Marriage. Woman
P Language and Literature > PR English literature
|Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH):||Dickens, Charles, 1812-1870. Dombey and Son, Dickens, Charles, 1812-1870. Little Dorrit, Collins, Wilkie, 1824-1889. Armadale, Collins, Wilkie, 1824-1889. No name, Parent and child in literature, Psychoanalysis and literature, English literature -- 19th century -- History and criticism|
|Official Date:||October 2008|
|Institution:||University of Warwick|
|Theses Department:||Department of English and Comparative Literary Studies|
|Supervisor(s)/Advisor:||Fletcher, John, 1948-|
|Sponsors:||Arts and Humanities Research Council (Great Britain) (AHRC)|
|Format of File:|
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