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Romantic Psyche and Psychoanalysis


Romantic Psyche and Psychoanalysis offers a series of shifting perspectives on the emergence of psychoanalysis and a psychoanalytical consciousness in early and later British and German Romantic poetry, fiction, philosophy, and science. Rather than read psychoanalysis as one of Romanticism's inevitable outcomes, this volume reads for what remains unthought between Romantic thought and contemporary theory and criticism about Romanticism and psychoanalysis. The papers herein map versions of a psychoanalysis avant la lettre, but more crucially these essays imagine how psychoanalysis before Freud thinks itself differently, as well as anticipating and staging its later concerns, theorizations, and institutionalizations. Together they offer what might be called the profoundly psychosomatic matrix within which the specters of modern subjectivity materialize themselves. Ildiko Csengei reads the faints/feints of eighteenth-century sensibility through novel developments that critique the blind spots of Freud's interpretations. Matt Ffytche examines how the Romantic soul or psyche is neither divine power nor archetypal reality but a mediation between psychology and ontology that brings the psyche into its own radically embodied being. Mary Jacobus explores in Romantic 'autothanography' an uneconomized and uneconomical Romantic feeling – a way of seeing feeling and of feeling what we see – that we are only beginning to understand. Julie Carlson sees in the 'in/fancy' of Romantic (self-)writing a Romantic phantasy that is our reality test, a psychoanalysis wilder than Freud's. Tilottama Rajan examines how German idealist thought, veering toward a psychoanalysis it both entertains and cannot avoid, suggests more broadly how psychoanalysis is always the detour that history and thought take, making both (im)possible, yet forcing history to think the human otherwise. And finally, Ross Woodman reads between Jung's work on analytical psychology and alchemy and Blake and Shelley Romanticism's unavoidable turn sideways from rationality toward the uncanny work of understanding and imagination that makes reason possible in the first place.

Joel Faflak, "Introduction."

Aside from outlining the historical and critical context within which the volume's paper's situate themselves, Faflak's introduction explores more specifically how Romantic psychoanalysis emerges alongside Romantic psychiatry. The latter emerges with greater socio-historical force, specificity, and effect than the former. Yet this clear difference also points to how Romantic psychiatry and psychoanalysis become uncanny reflections of the same cognitive maneuver to find and understand the hiding places of the mind's power, a psyche that remains radically unassimilable and indeterminate. It is perhaps one of Romanticism's most powerful and disturbing legacies to modernity that it signifies the absolute ambivalence between marking the psyche's resistance to symbolization and making its darkness visible to a public sphere increasingly concerned to seek out and neutralize the mind's sepulchral recesses.

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Ildiko Csengei, "'She Fell Senseless on His Corpse': The Woman of Feeling and the Sentimental Swoon in Eighteenth-Century Fiction."

This essay deals with typical signs of female sentimental emotional response in eighteenth-century novels, including Sarah Fieldings The History of Ophelia (1760), Jean-Jacques Rousseau's Julie, or the New Heloise (1761), and Elizabeth Inchbald's A Simple Story (1791). The female sentimental repertoire of psychosomatic fainting, silences, sighs, palpitations and states of mental distraction is frequently taken for granted, but rarely thoroughly explored by scholarship dealing with the culture of sensibility. This article reads these typically feminine manifestations of sensibility in terms of the discontents of eighteenth-century female psycho-sexual existence and self-expression. It argues that these often pathological manifestations—sometimes called the vocabulary of sensibility—figure limitations on the possibilities of feminine utterance, as these psychosomatic symptoms are rooted in a complex network of affective, social and sexual factors. The essay mainly, but not exclusively, focuses on moments of loss of consciousness, speech and sensation—perhaps the least understood and most neglected symptoms of sensibility. Many eighteenth-century novels use this repertoire to reflect covertly on the pathology of social repression by exposing sensibility itself, in the form of the woman of feeling as its symptom. The essay analyses literary depictions of the female psyche in moments of excitement and usually of sexual intensity, and it approaches psychologically induced states of consciousness and unconsciousness by means of a theoretical framework that connects eighteenth-century medical explanations with psychoanalytic ideas of negativity.

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Matt ffytche , "Psychology in Search of Psyches: Friedrich Schelling, Gotthilf Schubert and the Obscurities of the Romantic Soul."

ffytche explores the intellectual dialogue between the philosopher Friedrich Schelling and the psychologist and anthropologist G.H. Schubert in the early part of the nineteenth century as they search for an appropriate description of the psyche. In this German context, he argues that the psyche is a forum not just for constructing new languages of mind, but also new justifications of individuality: the psyche is considered to be the inner seat of selfhood. Schelling and Schubert move between various different paradigms in their desire to give the psyche an appropriate descriptive and theoretical articulation. These include models of will, inner fire, archetypes and polar conflict, all of which aim to supplant the language of determinism and formulate a more inscrutable inner law of the self. This need to surround the principle of the self with obscurity will ultimately root itself in the structural possibilities offered by a theory of the unconscious. The article concludes by suggesting a distinction might be made between empirical psychology and an idealised philosophy of the psyche, which have here become tacitly entangled. However, ffytche also argues that the desire to use the psyche as a domain within which to formulate an idealised view of the self, has been a persistent one in modernity.

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Mary Jacobus, "The Ordinary Sky: Wordsworth, Blanchot, and the Writing of Disaster"

Taking as its point of departure Wollheim’s autobiographical observation about a particular sight—the glinting of sun on a wet road—that stirred him to melancholy, this essay explores a series of passages in Wordsworth’s poetry that attest to his fixation on the sight of a road, or piece of glass, glinting in the moonlight. These passages represent work towards The Ruined Cottage known as ‘The Baker’s Cart Lines’ and ’Incipient Madness’. The everyday psychopathology of displaced affect links the pangs of hunger to more obscure pangs of (psychic) suffering. The pathologies of seeing also form the subject of Lacan’s interest in the glint of sun on a reflective surface, in a famous episode in his seminars on the Gaze involving a sardine can. Other poems by Wordsworth—‘A Night Piece’ and ‘The Discharged Soldier’—interrogate road-side sights that open transcendental or deathly vistas. Apropos of what he calls ‘autothanatography’ (the writing of death), Derrida takes as his example of the inseparability of fiction and autobiography Blanchot’s brief record of a near-death experience. In The Writing of the Disaster, Blanchot testifies to his childhood experience of a premature ‘death’ that emptied the sky of significance. Drawing on Winnicott, the essay suggests the unrecognized trauma attached to ‘ordinary’ sights, and—by extension—the problem of autobiography; ‘screen memory’ means that affect will always be in the wrong place.

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Julie Carlson, "Attached to Reading: Mary Shelley's Psychical Reality."

This essay considers the writings of Mary Shelley as important precursors to Sigmund Freud's concept of psychical reality. Given her unique position as romantic insider and outsider, Shelley's writings live on the border of the literary world and accentuate the prominence of literature in structuring both phantasy and reality. That is, literature is often employed in her fiction as a substitute for unconscious knowledge at the same time that her and her characters' experiences of reality are informed and evaluated by the world of books. Shelley's perception of this world, and the extimacy inherent to it, is hardly the space of consolation or possibility that idealizations of literature by many of her contemporaries posit. Nor is it as useful as Freud deems it for resolving the conflicts that stem from childhood phantasies. Reading Shelley's psychical reality against Freud's underscores the extent to which her creative writings appeal to a less coherent ego and explore the dark side of fiction's effects on the ego. Such a view is epitomised in Shelley's 1831 reissue of her hideous progeny that is itself an exploration and mobilization of psychical reality.

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Tilottama Rajan, "'The Abyss of the Past': Psychoanalysis in Schelling's Ages of the World (1815)."

Focusing on the differences between the three versions of Schelling's Ages of the World, this paper takes up the invention of psychoanalysis in the third (1815) version. The third version, unlike the more idealistic first and second vesions, intoroduces terms such as the unconscious, inhibition, and crisis, contains a crucial section on mesmerism, and is structured around the trauma of onto- and phylogenesis. The paper also explores the larger epistemic consequences of looking for a return and retreat of the origin of psychoanalysis before its institutional emergence.

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Ross Woodman , "Romanticism, Alchemy, and Psychology."

Ross Woodman reads the emergence of Romantic psychoanlaysis forward to Jung's interest in alchemy as an analogy for how consciousness gives birth to itself and to the world. Whereas Freud treated psychoanalysis as a natural science, Jung entertains its rather more occult side, its ambivalent or alchemical position between the literal and the metaphorical. Understanding the importance of alchemy to Jung's analytical psychology allows us more clearly to understand Romanticism's own early interest in neuroscience, imagination, and the work of what Keats calls soul-making, a crucial element of contemporary analytical psychology.

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