“Through its nuanced discussion of Victorian novels, this book pursues the psychoanalytic insight that subjectivity is built on a foundation of wounding and loss. The work of a learned, accomplished critic, Inaugural Wounds engages with current debates in criticism and theory, but it is above all a rich and perceptive literary study.”
William A. Cohen, author of Sex Scandal: The Private Parts of Victorian Fiction
Desire, Jacques Lacan suggests, is a condition or expression of our wounded nature. But because such desire is also unconscious, it can be expressed only indirectly, for what we consciously desire is hardly ever what we really want. Desire makes itself known, but disguises its presence—appearing, for example, in unconscious but repetitive, and sometimes even self-destructive, patterns of behavior.
Informed by the voices of Freud and Lacan regarding the nature of language and desire, Inaugural Wounds examines the ways in which five major nineteenth-century English writers explored the trajectories and shapes of desire. Arguing that we need to give to novels the same kind of close scrutiny we give to poetry, author Robert Lougy suggests that when we do so, we discover that they often astound us by the resonance and range of their language, as well as by their ability to take us to strange and haunting places.
The five narratives examined—Charles Dickens's Martin Chuzzlewit, William Thackeray's Journey from Cornhill to Grand Cairo, Elizabeth Gaskell's Ruth, Wilkie Collins's The Woman in White, and Thomas Hardy's Jude the Obscure—testify to the mysterious origins of desire. Although each of the novels tells its own story in its own way, they share a fascination with the nature of desire itself.
Drawing upon recent work that has challenged historicist approaches toward nineteenth-century British literature, Professor Lougy uses the insights of psychoanalysis to enable us to more fully appreciate the depth and power of these novels. Of great value to Victorian and psychoanalytic scholars, Inaugural Wounds will be useful for teaching undergraduates as well.
Robert E. Lougy is an associate professor of English at Pennsylvania State University. His previous books include Charles Robert Maturin, an edition of The Children of the Chapel by Mary Gordon and Algernon Charles Swinburne, and Martin Chuzzlewit: An Annotated Bibliography.
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