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Lecture 9

ENGB52H3 Lecture 9: WEEK 9

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Andrew Westoll

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WEEK 9: FROM REALISM TO SUBJECTIVITY MARCH 02: FREUD AND THE NEW PSYCHOLOGY – The Jolly Corner by Henry James LECTURE OUTLINE - Subjectivity and modernism - The death of realism in science - Freud’s unconscious and the uncanny - The brother James - The id, ego and superego in The Jolly Corner SUMMARY OF THE JOLLY CORNER: Spencer Brydon returns to NYC after 33 years. He has returned to look at his property, which consists of 2 buildings. One of them is a boyhood home on “the jolly corner”. The second is a larger structure no being renovated into a big apartment building. Spencer finds that he is good at directing this renovation despite never doing this work before. He believes he has this innate ability for business that was buried underneath. He then rekindles a relationship with an old friend, Alice Staverton. Both of them comment on his “real gift” for business and construction. But Spencer questions who he would have been if he had stayed in the USA. At night he goes back to the house he grew up with and tries to meet his American alter ego because he believes it lives in the house. He realizes that he might have been a businessman if he hadn’t forsaken moneymaking for a more leisure life. He discusses this possibility with Alice Staverton. Brydon believes that this alter ego is haunting the jolly corner. After a couple nights, Brydon confronts the ghost who advances on him and overpowers him with a rage of personality before which his own collapsed. Brydon awakens with his head on Alice’s lap. Apparently she came to the house because she sense he was in danger. She tells him that she pities the ghost of his alter ego, who has suffered and lost 2 fingers from his right hand, but she also accepts Byrdon as he is. FREUD “The universal narcissism of men, their self-love, has up to the present suffered three severe blows from the researches of science.” THE PSYCHOLOGICAL BLOW - Subject can experience sensations without them being aware of it o This signified a key chain - The female college student and hypnotism o Her personality changed - 3 main personalities of prince o The saint, the woman, the devil - It was the move away from realism - Began moving towards subjectivity SUBJECTVITIY - A reaction against the objective, realist perspective - Instead of a neutral view point, subjectivist writings inhabit the character’s minds - The character’s quirks, opinions, beliefs, knowledge, biases are front and center - Not unlike the new psychologists, who tried to enter their subject’s minds - Modernist writers tried entering their subjects minds in new ways MODERNISM - A response to the experience of urban life - Cities are getting bigger, faster - Increased mechanization and technology - Science has been irrevocably yoked to technology - Rapid unpredictable change - Modernist art tries to provoke and mimic these new realities - Relates to industrialization - Science can affect our every day lives DEATH OF REALISM IN SCIENCE - 18 century: the body has nothing to do with process of perception th - 19 century: scientists began to consider the role of organs in registering, processing and conveying sensation - If organs can malfunction, perception might be subjective - End of 19 century: physicists tell us their measurements are only true from their perspective - James Clerk Maxwell’s Theory of Electromagnetism: light, magnetism and electricity are all the same thing - Einstein’s 2 theories of relativity - Organs are a part of our physical selves - THE KEY: if perception is subjective then maybe science can’t tell us a single underlying truth of the universe. If perception is malleable, then maybe science has its limits “To exist is to change, to change is to mature, to mature is to go on creating oneself endlessly.”Henri Bergson (1859-1941) - He got into a massive fight with Einstein - Scientists wanted people to use their imagination - BERGESON’S KEY IDEAS o The ELAN VITAL: the creative force of the universe ▪ Humans must use imagination o Time is not possible without human consciousness ▪ Thought that time didn’t exist separate to human consciousness Einstein’s response to this in 1922: “the time of the philosophes does not exist” : lol basically a fuck you dude. “What all these psychologies… had in common were that they were all subjective. The experiences and perceptions, and the effects that these had on behaviour, were unique to each individual. They interacted with one another in ways that were hard to predict, and difficult to disentangle. Gone was the Enlightenment ideal of the rational mind, identical in every well-raised person.” - Everybody would see the exact same result, this idea of enlightenment is gone FREUD - Founded the science of psychoanalysis - Best known for the interpretation of dreams, the ego and the id - The unconscious cannot be ignored o Our minds are not vacant - The divided mind: o Id o Ego o Superego - Dreams have immense meaning and power - THE UNCANNY ID: basically the instincts inside of us, it is the primitive component of our personality. It is impulsive and responds to our desires. “[The Id] is the dark, inaccessible part of our personality ... and most of this is of a negative character and can be described only as a contrast to the ego. We all approach the id with analogies: we call it a chaos, a cauldron full of seething excitations ... It is filled with energy reaching it from the instincts ... a striving to bring about the satisfaction of the instinctual needs subject to the observance of the pleasure principle.” (Freud, 1923) EGO: mediates the battle between the id and the real world. It is the decision making component of personality. The ego works by reason. It operates according to the reality principle, working out realistic ways of satisfying the ID’s demands by comprising or postponing satisfaction to avoid the negative consequences of society. The ego considers social realities and norms. It ego seeks pleasure and avoids pain. “The Ego is that part of the id which has been modified by the direct influence of the external world ... The ego represents what may be called reason and common sense, in contrast to the id, which contains the passions ... in its relation to the id it is like a man on horseback, who has to hold in check the superior strength of the horse.” (Freud, 1923) SUPEREGO: it is our conscious that maintains balance and order. It gives us a sense of reality and aims for perfection or idealism. It alleviates the intrusion of the id on the ego. It incorporates the values and morals of society which are learned from our parents and others. The superego is meant to control the id’s impulses. THE UNCANNY: the uncanny is something which is secretly familiar, which was undergone repression and then returned from it. Everything that is uncanny fulfills this condition. Refers to something that is strangely familiar rather than simply mysterious. It creates cognitive dissonance within the experiencing subject. This cognitive dissonance leads to a rejection of the object as one would rather reject than rationalize. JAMES BROTHERS - WILLIAM JAMES: natural history, body and mind, concept of stream of consciousness, novelist who writes about psychology - HENRY JAMES: psychologist who writes a novel **talks about how the human selves have experiences MODERNITY IN THE JOLLY CORNER “… she stood oft, in the awful modern crush, when she could, but she sallied forth and did battle when the challenge was really to “spirit”…. She made use of the street-cars when need be, the terrible things that people scrambled for as the panic-stricken at sea scramble for boats; she affronted, inscrutably, under stress, all the public concussions and ordeals; and yet, with that slim mystifying grace of her appearance… she was as exquisite for him as some pale pressed flower…” (6) - You need to know that this is a modernist approach in a time where understanding reality is a major challenge - Description of modernity VACANT MIND IN THE JOLLY CORNER “He only let her see for the present, while they walked through the great blank rooms, that absolute vacancy reigned and that, from top to bottom, there was nothing but Mrs. Muldoon’s broomstick, in a corner, to tempt the burglar.” (8) “There was little indeed to see in the great gaunt shell where the main dispositions and the general apportionment of space, the style of an age of ampler allowances, had nevertheless for its master their honest pleading message…” (8) - Idea that vacancy is being set up - Stage setting - BOLD: the great gaunt shell - This vacant mind we think we can control to have our own desires - Fore modernity o Our minds are empty houses, an objectively safe place SUBJECTIVITY IN THE JOLLY CORNER “Everyone asks me what I ‘think’ of everything… and I made answer as I can – begging or dodging the question, putting them off with any nonsense. It wouldn’t matter to any of them really… for, even were it possible to meet in that stand-and-deliver way so silly a demand on so big a subject, my ‘thoughts’ would still be almost altogether about something that concerns only myself” (3) Alice: “Well, if it were only furnished and lived in - !”Spencer: “For me it is lived in. For me it is furnished.” (12) - Furnished with memory Yet with another rare shift of the same subtlety he was already trying to measure by how much more he himself might now be in peril of fear; so rejoicing that he could, in another form, actively inspire that fear, and simultaneously quaking for the form in which he might passively know it.” (22) “He would wait for the last quarter—he wouldn’t stir till then; and he kept his watch there with his eyes on it, reflecting while he held it that this deliberate wait, a wait with an effort, which he recognized, would serve perfectly for the attestation he desired to make. It would prove his courage—unless indeed the latter might most be proved by his budging at last from his place. What he mainly felt now was that, since he hadn’t originally scuttled, he had his dignities—which had never in his life seemed so many – all to preserve and to carry aloft. This was before him in truth as a physical image, an image almost worthy of an age of greater romance. That remark indeed glimmered for him only to glow the next instant with a finer light; since what age of romance, after all, could have matched either the state of his mind or, “objectively,” as they said, the wonder of his situation?” (23) - There is a constant paradox being in that house FREUD IN THE JOLLY CORNER Alice on Spencer’s alter ego, the man he might have become “Well, I’ve seen him.” “You--?” “I’ve seen him in a dream.” “Oh a ‘dream’--!” It let him down. “But twice over,” she continued. “I saw him as I see you now.” “You’ve dreamed the same dream--?” “Twice over,” she repeated. “The very same.” (15) - Dreams are all here “People enough, first and last, had been in terror of apparitions, but who had ever before so turned the tables and become himself, in the apparitional world, an incalculable terror?” (19) “It made him feel, this acquired faculty, like some monstrous stealthy cat; he wondered if he would have glared at these moments with large shining yellow eyes, and what it mightn’t verily be, for the poor hard- pressed alter ego, to be confronted with such a type.” (19) - Figurative language associating our minds to a beast lurking within - Spencer realizes he isn’t hunting the beast, the beast is stalking him “This was the case more specifically with a phenomenon at last quite frequent for him in the upper rooms, the recognition – absolutely unmistakable… of his being definitely followed, tracked at a distance carefully taken and to the express end that he should the less confidently, less arrogantly, appear to himself merely to pursue. It worried, it finally quite broke him up, for it proved, of all the conceivable impressions, the one least suited to his book. He was kept in sight while remaining himself—as regards the essence of his position—sightless, and his only recourse then was in abrupt turns, rapid recoveries of ground.” (20) - Paradoxical language - Suggests transitions between observer and the one being observed “He’s there, at the top, and waiting—not, as in general, falling back for disappearance. He’s holding his ground, and it’s the first time—which is a proof, isn’t it? that something has happened for him.” So Brydon argued with his hand on the banister and his foot on the lowest stair; in which position he felt as never before the air chilled by his logic. He himself turned cold in it, for he seemed of a sudden to know what now was involved. “Harder pressed?—yes, he takes it in, with its thus making clear to him that I’ve come, as they say, ‘to stay.’ He finally doesn’t like and can’t bear it, in the sense, I mean, that his wrath, his menaced interest, now balances with his dread. I’ve hunted him till he has ‘turned’; that, up there, is what has happened — he’s the fanged or the antlered animal brought at last to bay.” (21) - The dark beast within us - The beast might have needs and wants “The apprehension of knowing it must after a little have grown in him, and the strangest moment of his adventure perhaps, the most memorable or really most interesting, afterwards, of his crisis, was the lapse of certain instants of concentrated conscious combat, the sense of a need to hold on to something, even after the manner of a man slipping and slipping on some awful incline; the vivid impulse, above all, to move, to act, to charge, some- how and upon something—to show himself, in a word, that he wasn’t afraid.” (22) - Instance of concentrated combat - Warring figurative language - Idea of battle - Heart of what freud is saying - Heart of spencers experience in the house - The different selves we hold are always in constant battle “… the last room of the four, the room without other approach or egress, had it not, to his intimate conviction, been closed since his former visitation, the matter probably of a quarter of an hour before. He stared with all his eyes at the wonder of the fact, arrested again where he stood and again holding his breath while he sounded his sense. Surely it had been subsequently closed—that is, it had been on his previous passage indubitably open! (24) - The ghost does exist - Furthers the drama - Spencer see the horror within the horror - The face he expects see is his own The moment of horror: - “The face, that face, Spencer Brydon’s? - he searched it still, but looking away from it in dismay and denial, falling straight from his height of sublimity. It was unknown, inconceivable, awful, disconnected from any possibility!— He had been “sold,” he inwardly moaned, stalking such game as this: the presence before him was a presence, the horror within him a horror, but the waste of his nights had been only grotesque and the success of his adventure an irony. Such an identity fitted his at no point, made its alternative monstrous. A thousand times yes, as it came upon him nearer now, the face was the face of a stranger. It came upon him nearer now, quite as one of those expanding fantastic images projected by the magic lantern of childhood; for the stranger, whoever he might be, evil, odious, blatant, vulgar, had advanced as for aggression, and he knew himself give ground.” (32) “There’s somebody—an awful beast; whom I brought, too horribly, to bay. But it’s not me.” At this she bent over him again, and her eyes were in his eyes. “No—it’s not you.” And it was as if, while her face hovered, he might have made out in it, hadn’t it been so near, some particular meaning blurred by a smile. “No, thank heaven,” she repeated, “it’s not you! Of course it wasn’t to have been.” “Ah but it was,” he gently insisted. And he
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