Fluctuation between Sanity and Insanity: A Psychoanalytic Reading of Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway and Other Writings
In light of Woolf’s theory of self and psychoanalytic theories, this thesis delves into psyche of the characters especially Septimus as well as the dual design and the social critique in Mrs. Dalloway, both of which are characteristic of Woolf’s modernist aesthetics. I believe that Septimus’s loathing of the doctors who enforces on him inhumane treatment doesn’t infer his simple negation or rejection of the symbolic. Along with the author Woolf, what Septimus (who embodies the author’s own idea) attempts is, while maintaining some hold on the symbolic network, to upset or even to expand the symbolic realm to contain “the insane truth” he perceives. Septimus is constantly attracted by the inassimilable real, which appears to Septimus “unimaginable beauty;” yet meanwhile he is vigilant against it. He aspires to communicate the truth about this unthinkable, yet the unthinkable itself is the real that resists any symbolization and hence render the communication impossible. Not to mention Septimus himself is gradually losing his already tenuous hold on the signifying networks. Septimus in the actualpathological position is situated between the somatic preverbal and the verbal. He can only directly confront the real of the drive and manage traumatic and automatic anxiety without recourse to representation or mediating measure. Septimus tries to use his “phenomena” (the meaningless non-symptom in actualpathology) as the foundation for developing psychoneurotic symptom. Yet his psychiatrists Holmes and Bradshaw fail to understand the purpose of Septimus’s illness, let alone help him construct a relation in which he can bring his problems into psychic elaboration. In Septimus’s conflicts with the psychiatrists, Woolf presents her bitter critique of the psychiatric professionalism which colludes with the imperialist and capitalist authority to convert people into their civilizing convictions. Eventually Septimus ends his fluctuation between the two forces with his suicide as his passage to the act. That is, he takes a flight from the scene where the Other is located and turns himself into the objet petit a.
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