Volume 45 Number 2

Ghislaine McDayter (Ed.)

Untrodden Regions of the Mind: Romanticism and Psychoanalysis

2002
175 pages
ISBN 0838755178
Bucknell Review

Romanticism, perhaps more than any other literary field, has obsessively sought its identity, origin, and its primal scene in order to understand not simply who we are, but how we have fallen from what we once were. From Rene Wellek and Arthur O. Lovejoy's now famous clash over the definition of Romanticism, to Jerome McGann's effort to escape its "false ideologies" and retrace some allegedly pure and unsullied truth that "predates" critical constructions of Romanticism, we have failed at identifying "self." Psychoanalytic criticism has often been heralded as the ideal methodology by which to uncover such a self, whether it be through an analysis of the actual "historical" trauma of Romanticism, or even Romantic writer's life "laid bare" by critical analysis. However, what the following collection of essays illustrates, following Freud, is that this very construction of origin is precisely a fantasy which emerges through critical analysis itself. That is, no matter how many empirical facts we can rally to our cause, no matter how "naked" our subject might be, it is in the very process of interpretation that meaning emerges. In the critical fantasy of being able to "reveal all" about its subject - in this case, the revelation of the "true" Romantic ideology or the "truth" of the poet's mind - our critical gaze reflects back upon ourselves. Untrodden Regions of the Mind offers an extensive collection of essays written on Romantic literature from a psychoanalytic perspective, but it does not pretend to be the final word on the issue of Romanticism and the repressed "truth" of the field. Rather, the psychoanalysis, nor does it promise to uncover essays compiled here do the work of showing the many theoretical possibilities open to the critic when taking on the complicated and often treacherous realm of the unconscious in the literary corpus. As the following essays illustrate, the unconscious of the literary body resists and denies interpretive analysis just as forcefully as the individual consciousness, leaving us the difficult task of reading with the responsibility and with the recognition of our desire in the process of the construction of meaning. Literary critics are confronted, just as Freud had been in his "Creative Writers and Day Dreaming," with the question of how this "strange creature," this creative writer, "manage[d] to make such an impression on us with it and to arouse in us emotions of which, perhaps, we had not even thought ourselves capable." In these essays on such writers as Shelley, Beddoes, Coleridge, Wordsworth, de Stael and Keats, what becomes apparent is that this question about the origins of desire still fascinates and drives a "pleasure of the text" beyond the enjoyment of reading, into the realm of analysis itself.

Contributors: Guinn Batten, Sophie Thomas, Joel Faflak, Mark Redfield, Frances Wilson, and Toril Moi.

About the editor:

Ghislaine McDayter is Associate Professor in the Department of English at Bucknell University. She is currently completing a book titled Convulsions in Rhyme: Byron, Hysteria, and the Birth of Celebrity.

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