Title: Mind the gap: possible uses of psychoanalysis in the study of English literature, with an illustration from Joyce's Eveline
Authors: Schwall, Hedwig # ×
Issue Date: 2002
Series Title: European Journal of English Studies vol:6 issue:3 pages:343-359
Abstract: Lacan's work is an more than a therapy: it is an epistemology, integrating bodily, pictorial and verbal expression. It focuses on marginal and obscure passages, as they could be ‘the navel’ of the text, and tries to link them consistently to a number of (structural) details. Structural to all protagonists is the question “What is my life for?” which characterizes their relation to the unconscious and the language system, symbolised by respectively the Mother and the Name-of-the-father. Yet caution is needed: using psychoanalysis in literature differs from using it with patients. Zizek, Felman and Brooks clearly show how psychoanalysis is not a matter of character analysis but of stylistic turns which reveal the libidinal flows and eddies in the text.
In Joyce’s “Eveline” we find the fight between repetition compulsion and the pleasure principle staged, with the latter losing the contest as the protagonist moves from a hysteric tendency to a psychotic one when the ‘Name-of-the-Father’, arch-metaphor and the instrument of socialization, fails. This entails that the child cannot situate itself in the chain of generations, nor in its own sexual identity. Neither is Eveline able to distinguish between literal and metaphoric, and thus she lacks all possibilities to mediate realities. While the girl is inhibited by habit, inhabited by inhibition, she still has some leeway. But as the story moves inexorably to its end we see how it hinges on two major signifiers: the dust in the first part, the mother’s nonsensical deathbed refrain in the second part.
The father’s authority prevails in part one: though his criticism and that of Mrs Gavan is brushed aside, his theatrical self is foregrounded, acting as a ‘screening memory’ of the worse aspects of family life. Here, Eveline’s perception still follows a hysteric pattern (ambiguous father relation, aggrandized self, dreamy past, hatred of routine, loves of promises and hatred of decisions etc.) typical of an Imaginary perception. Yet in part two the Real grips the girl as the mother’s presence touches upon the quick of her being, inundating her with jouissance of Being. This leads the repetitive compulsion to get the better of the protagonist, which is reflected in the circularity in the place descriptions.
If we read ‘bifocally’, with a ‘docta ignorantia’, that is ‘a willing suspension of self-belief’, one can focus on marginal and connotational sideways in a text, the interpretation of which may help to revitalize canonical texts.
Description: Subfaculteit Letteren Campus Kortrijk.
ISSN: 1382-5577
VABB publication type: VABB-1
Publication status: published
KU Leuven publication type: IT
Appears in Collections:Faculty of Arts, Campus Kulak Kortrijk
× corresponding author
# (joint) last author

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