Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
Family Secrets and the Psychoanalysis of Narrative

Family Secrets and the Psychoanalysis of Narrative

Esther Rashkin
Copyright Date: 1992
Pages: 228
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt7zv01s
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Family Secrets and the Psychoanalysis of Narrative
    Book Description:

    Family Secrets and the Psychoanalysis of Narrative is the first book to explore the implications of the psychoanalytic theory of the phantom for the study of narrative literature. A phantom is formed when a shameful, unspeakable secret is unwittingly transmitted, through cryptic language and behavior, transgenerationally from one family member to another. The "haunted" individual to whom the "encrypted" secret is communicated becomes the unwitting medium for someone else's voice--and the result is speech and conduct that appear incongruous or obsessive in a variety of ways. Through close readings of texts by Conrad, Villiers de l'Isle-Adam, Balzac, James, and Poe, Esther Rashkin reveals how shameful secrets, concealed within the unspoken family histories of fictive characters, can be reconstructed from their linguistic traces and can be shown not only to drive the characters' speech and behavior but also to generate their narratives. First articulated by the French psychoanalysts Nicolas Abraham and Maria Torok, the theory of the phantom here represents a radical departure from Freudian, Lacanian, and other psychoanalytic approaches to literary interpretation. In Rashkin's hands, it also provides a response to structuralist and poststructuralist critiques of character analysis, an alternative to deconstructive strategies of reading, and a new vantage point from which to consider problems of intertextuality, "authorship," and the formation and origins of narrative.

    Originally published in 1992.

    ThePrinceton Legacy Libraryuses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-6303-7
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

Export Selected Citations Export to NoodleTools Export to RefWorks Export to EasyBib Export a RIS file (For EndNote, ProCite, Reference Manager, Zotero, Mendeley...) Export a Text file (For BibTex)
  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xii)
  4. Note on Documentation
    (pp. xiii-2)
  5. Introduction Character Analysis, Unspeakable Secrets, and the Formation of Narrative
    (pp. 3-12)

    This book is a study of the haunting effects of family secrets on characters in narrative. It grew out of an interest in the psychoanalytic study of fictional personae in works of literature. Over the years, the field of character analysis has entertained a variety of theories and methodologies that have been invented and applied to texts in order to account for the actions and speech of their protagonists. The analytic approach I delineate and whose implications I explore in this book is markedly different from these previous perspectives and is even more at odds with recent attempts to bracket...

  6. CHAPTER 1 For a New Psychoanalytic Literary Criticism: THE WORKS OF ABRAHAM AND TOROK
    (pp. 13-48)

    For the last twenty-five years the link between literature and psycho-analysis has been the subject of an energetic and at times impassioned debate that no well-informed literary scholar has been able to ignore. Sigmund Freud and Jacques Lacan are the two major figures whose works have articulated the terms of this debate: the problematic relationship between psychic structures and textual structures, between the language of the mind and the language of the poetic work. With the publication in France in 1976 ofLe verbier de l’homme aux loups,¹ the first volume of the collected writings of Nicolas Abraham and Maria...

  7. CHAPTER 2 The Ghost of a Secret: PSYCHOANALYTIC ALLEGORY IN JOSEPH CONRAD’S THE SECRET SHARER
    (pp. 49-63)

    If there is an obvious choice for inclusion in a study of secrets it would seem to be Joseph Conrad’sThe Secret Sharer(1909–1910).¹ The idea that something is kept hidden is inscribed throughout the tale, even if the precise content of the secret and the identity of the characters involved in its concealment are open to debate. At the same time, the story’s references to ghostly apparitions, haunting, and uncanniness, elements traditionally viewed as signs of mental perturbation, suggest its appropriateness for a psychoanalytically oriented inquiry. The tale has in fact served as something of a Rorschach for...

  8. CHAPTER 3 The Interred Sign: L’INTERSIGNE BY AUGUSTE DE VILLIERS DE L’ISLE-ADAM
    (pp. 64-80)

    Although he was considered a genius by Mallarmé and other French contemporaries, Jean-Marie-Mathias-Philippe-Auguste de Villiers de l’Isle-Adam (1838–1889) has traditionally lingered on the periphery of literary scholarship, known primarily as a contributor to the French symbolist movement and symbolist theater. The 1986 publication of the Pléiade edition of Villiers’s complete works has given momentum to scholars who in recent years have undertaken to reassess Villiers’s place in literary history and his role in the evolution of literary genres from the gothic to science fiction. While increased attention has been paid in this endeavor to Villiers’s novel,L’Eve future, and...

  9. CHAPTER 4 Legacies of Gold: HONORÉ DE BALZAC’S FACINO CANE
    (pp. 81-92)

    It is a truism that the passion for gold is a dominant theme woven throughout Balzac’s works. FromEugénie GrandettoLe cousin Pons, Le père GoriottoGobseck, gold is a much-desired object, fought and schemed for by nobles and peasants, bankers and merchants, lovers and enemies alike. In the vast field of Balzac criticism,Facino Canehas more often than not been viewed as a footnote to Balzac’s pursuit of this theme, as one more instance of an obsession with gold leading to financial and personal ruin. This exemplary aspect of the tale is beyond dispute.

    The story...

  10. CHAPTER 5 In the Mind’s I: THE JOLLY CORNER OF HENRY JAMES
    (pp. 93-122)

    The Jolly Corner(1908),¹ one of Henry James’s last completed works, is not nearly as well-known or as fervidly debated asThe Turn of the Screw, the James text to which it is most frequently compared. It has nonetheless been host to numerous and often conflicting commentaries from biographical, sociohistorical, psychoanalytic, and structuralist perspectives that are noteworthy for both the variety of their concerns and the textual enigmas they leave unaddressed.

    Biographical approaches to the story have viewed it as a reflection of James’s ambivalent feelings toward the United States. In 1904 James made one of three voyages to America...

  11. CHAPTER 6 A Meeting of the Minds: EDGAR ALLAN POE’S THE FALL OF THE HOUSE OF USHER
    (pp. 123-155)

    This reading of Edgar Allan Poe’sThe Fall of the House of Usher¹ is intended as both an expansion and a commentary on the preceding texts and interpretations in this study. It treats in a way not previously seen the questions of how a secret can be shared, how a phantom may be transmitted, and what forms a phantom’s haunting may take. It also responds to an issue not yet addressed: what makes a drama traumatic? that is, what causes a drama to be made into a secret? Poe’s tale contains encrypted within it the decision-making process, “lived” by a...

  12. Conclusion
    (pp. 156-166)

    This study has aimed to show how the motivation of characters in certain works of fiction can be explained psychoanalytically. In the process, an interpretive methodology different from previous approaches to character analysis has been elaborated, along with an implicit response to structuralist and poststructuralist contentions of the illegitimacy of analyzing fictive characters. While the close reading of five literary texts is not a sufficient basis from which to draw sweeping conclusions of either a theoretical or methodological nature, the results of my interpretations do provide an opportunity to reflect upon specific questions concerning the generative force of secrets in...

  13. Notes
    (pp. 167-200)
  14. Index
    (pp. 201-206)