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Holland - the Passion of Curiosity Essay

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The Passion of Curiosity Bienvenue sur le site d'ORACLE 1. Observatoire Réunionnais des Arts, des Civilisations et des Lettres dans leur Environnement 1.4. Revue ALIZES 1.4.13. Alizés n°23 The Passion of Curiosity

This essay will attempt to stage an encounter between literature and psychoanalysis; the ground of this encounter will be Henry James’s story, “The Jolly Corner” and Sigmund Freud’s discussion of a particular mode of negation—“disavowal”—which results in what he calls a “splitting of the ego.” Spencer Brydon, the exile who has returned to his home, experiences one aspect of James’s concern with the “global.” Motivated by a “passion of… curiosity” concerning what he would have become had he remained in the United States, he searches for his alter ego in his family’s home, the “jolly corner;” their encounter, however, does not at all reveal to him what he had expected (724). The profoundly enigmatic character of Brydon’s relation with the alter ego can show how the mechanism of disavowal creates within consciousness a series of logical contradictions, each of which will be embodied in an aspect of the fantasmatic scenario of castration enacted within the text. When “The Jolly Corner” is approached within the context of psycho−analysis, one of its puzzling aspects is precisely its presentation of the alter ego. This alter ego, this presence that Brydon is to encounter, would seem to be an instance of what has been called “the double.” A classic early consideration of the role of the double in literary texts can be found in Sigmund Freud’s essay, “The ‘Uncanny’.” Freud argues here that the double embodies “the old surmounted narcissism of earliest times,” the archaic wishes that are no longer acceptable to the ego (236). To use different terms, in paradigmatic stories of doubling, something of the subject’s desire can be made present and articulated, but on condition that it be negated. I can say something of what I want if I claim not to want it. This...

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