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Literature and the Relational Self

Barbara Ann Schapiro
Copyright Date: 1994
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 220
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  • Book Info
    Literature and the Relational Self
    Book Description:

    "Literature and the Relational Self is a tribute to the rich complexity of human nature - as poets, novelists, and relational models of contemporary psychoanalysis mutually attest." - Psychoanalytic Psychologist While psychoanalytic relational perspectives have had a major impact on the clinical world, their value for the field of literary study has yet to be fully recognized. This important book offers a broad overview of relational concepts and theories, and it examines their implications for understanding literary and aesthetic experience as it reviews feminist applications of relational-model theories, and considers D. W. Winnicott's influential ideas about creativity and symbolic play. The eight incisive essays in this volume apply these concepts to a close reading of various nineteenth and twentieth-century literary texts: an essay on Wordsworth, for instance, explores the poet's writing on the imagination in light of Winnicott's ideas about transitional phenomena, while an essay on Woolf and Lawrence compares identity issues in their work from the perspective of feminist object relations theories. The cultural influences that have led to the development of the relational paradigm in the sciences at this particular historical moment have also affected contemporary art and literature. Essays on John Updike, Toni Morrison, Ann Beattie, and Alice Hoffman examine self-other relational dynamics in their texts that reflect larger cultural patterns characteristic of our time. The author reviews feminist applications of relational-model theories and applies these models to works by William Wordsworth, Virginia Woolf, John Updike, Toni Morrison, and others.

    eISBN: 978-0-8147-8873-8
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. ix-xiv)
    Jeffrey Berman

    As New York University Press inaugurates a new series of books on literature and psychoanalysis, it seems appropriate to pause and reflect briefly upon the history of psychoanalytic literary criticism. For a century now it has struggled to define its relationship to its two contentious progenitors and come of age. After glancing at its origins, we may be in a better position to speculate on its future.

    Psychoanalytic literary criticism was conceived at the precise moment in which Freud, reflecting upon his self-analysis, made a connection to two plays and thus gave us a radically new approach to reading literature....

  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xv-xviii)
  5. Chapter 1 Introduction
    (pp. 1-28)

    The scientific theories of any age, as Thomas Kuhn has argued, are dependent on the presuppositions, the underlying belief systems and models of reality that determine the experiments, the observations, and the consequent “facts” on which the theories are built. Freud’s psychoanalytic model of the mind was highly determined by a Newtonian and Cartesianbased scientific paradigm. His concept of mind as a closed-energy, hydraulics-type system reflects the Newtonian mechanical model of nature; and the conflict and division he assumes between the subjective inner world and an objective external reality is premised on a Cartesian duality. Drive theory, as Stephen Mitchell...

  6. Chapter 2 Wordsworth and the Relational Model of Mind
    (pp. 29-45)

    A long-standing debate in Wordsworth criticism concerns the relative weight or dominance of the visionary mind: one view stresses the perception of nature in the poetry as mind dependent, while the opposing view emphasizes nature as concrete and solidly “other” than the mind. Some critics, such as C. C. Clarke and Eugene Stelzig, have focused on the tension between these two perspectives as the source of Wordsworth’s creative genius. Stelzig takes issue with Geoffrey Hartman, who has argued that Wordsworth fails to achieve the visionary or apocalyptic imaginative power of Blake or Milton because of his blind allegiance to nature....

  7. Chapter 3 The Rebirth of Catherine Earnshaw: Splitting and Reintegration of Self in Wuthering Heights
    (pp. 46-61)

    Perhaps no line fromWuthering Heightshas been quoted more often than Catherine’s exclamation, “‘Nelly, IamHeathcliff…’” (E. Brontë 74). The fused identity of these two characters—Catherine’s assertion that “he’s more myself than I am” (72) and Heathcliff’s furious lament over Catherine’s dead body, “‘Icannotlive without my life! Icannotlive without my soul!’” (139)—sparks the central psychological current of the novel. One’s interpretation of this fused relationship will indeed affect one’s reading of the novel as a whole. Gilbert and Gubar, for instance, argue from a feminist sociohistorical viewpoint that Heathcliff’s original arrival on...

  8. Chapter 4 Gender, Self, and the Relational Matrix: D. H. Lawrence and Virginia Woolf
    (pp. 62-83)

    The problem of identity, of the cohesion and integrity of the self, has long been recognized as a predominant issue in the modern novel. Psychoanalytic relational-model theories can provide a lens through which to view this central problem. By seeing the core self as based on an interactional construct, the relational perspective can show how textual representations of intimacy, love, and sexual relationships are bound up with the question of identity. The works of Virginia Woolf and D. H. Lawrence, despite vast differences in style and aims, are equally fueled by intensely conflictual preoedipal relationships involving infantile dependence, merging, and...

  9. Chapter 5 Boundaries and Betrayal in Jean Rhys’s Wide Sargasso Sea
    (pp. 84-104)

    Jean Rhys’sWide Sargasso Seais a favorite for English literature survey courses. In its reworking of Charlotte Brontë’sJane Eyre, Rhys’s novel makes the shift in literary sensibility from the nineteenth to the twentieth century particularly discernible. Rochester’s lunatic first wife, Bertha Mason, the madwoman in the attic in Brontë’s tale, assumes center stage in Rhys’s version. Rather than the haunting “other” ofJane Eyre, the madwoman’s searing subjectivity indeed defines Rhys’s novel. The collapse of rational order, of stable and conventional structures on all levels, distinguishes Rhys’s vision and places it squarely within the modernist tradition. Like many...

  10. Chapter 6 Updike, God, and Women: The Drama of the Gifted Child
    (pp. 105-126)

    One of the most prominent features of Updike’s fiction, and a topic equally prominent in the critical discussions of his work, is the conjunction of sex and religion. “Not many authors,” quips Frederick Crews in a review ofRoger’s Version, “get to please the horny and the sanctimonious at one stroke” (7). When asked in an interview if it was not perhaps a mistake to connect sex with religion, Updike, as Brooke Horvath notes, “offered an implicit ‘no,’ responding that ‘to have a woman or man love you is about like saying that the universe, appearances to the contrary, loves...

  11. Chapter 7 Internal World and the Social Environment: Toni Morrison’s Beloved
    (pp. 127-143)

    Toni Morrison’sBelovedpenetrates, perhaps more deeply than any historical or psychological study could, the unconscious emotional and psychic consequences of slavery. The novel reveals how the condition of enslavement in the external world, particularly the denial of one’s status as a human subject, has deep repercussions in the individual’s internal world. These internal resonances are so profound that even if one is eventually freed from external bondage, the self will still be trapped in an inner world that prevents a genuine experience of freedom. As Sethe succinctly puts it, “Freeing yourself was one thing; claiming ownership of that freed...

  12. Chapter 8 Ann Beattie and the Culture of Narcissism
    (pp. 144-159)

    Ann Beattie’s fiction has been hailed for its trenchant portrayal of the baby boom generation struggling to make sense of life after Woodstock. Her world of aging postwar children is marked by both passivity and restlessness, by a profoundly apathetic as well as an anxiously obsessive quality. Her representation of contemporary life lends credence to Christopher Lasch’s diagnosis of contemporary American society as a “culture of narcissism.” In his controversial book of that title, Lasch argues that individual character structure reflects the structure of the society or culture at large. Every society in every age, he believes, develops its own...

  13. Chapter 9 Desire and the Uses of Illusion: Alice Hoffman’s Seventh Heaven
    (pp. 160-179)

    Alice Hoffman’s novelSeventh Heavenis, above all, about desire. By desire I mean not only the erotic but also a more general condition of being and feeling. The condition is generated by absence; loss or lack is the seed of desire. I am associating desire, therefore, with a yearning or striving forpresence—presence as an experiential state that involves both self and other. The yearning for the presence of an other also contains the wish to recapture one’s own existential presence or fullness of being. Desire seeks to restore what has been lost, denied, or split off from...

  14. Chapter 10 Afterword
    (pp. 180-182)

    The essays in this volume reveal certain recurring relational themes. While those themes obviously reflect my own psychological issues and interests, I hope I have also proved their significant, shaping role in the texts themselves. The first and perhaps most fundamental theme concerns the paradoxical tension inherent in human relational life. From the moment of birth, we need and are dependent on other human beings, and that dependency makes for inevitable ambivalence. We love and hate the same person; we need the other’s recognition and care, but the helplessness bound up with that need incites anger and fear. The key...

  15. Notes
    (pp. 183-188)
  16. Works Cited
    (pp. 189-196)
  17. Index
    (pp. 197-202)
  18. Back Matter
    (pp. 203-203)