Helene Moglen offers a revisionary feminist argument about the origins, cultural function, and formal structure of the English novel. While most critics and historians have associated the novel's emergence and development with the burgeoning of capitalism and the rise of the middle classes, Moglen contends that the novel princi- pally came into being in order to manage the social and psychological strains of the modern sex-gender system. Rejecting the familiar claim that realism represents the novel's dominant tradition, she shows that, from its inception in the eighteenth century, the English novel has contained both realistic and fantastic narratives, which compete for primacy within individual texts.
The Trauma of Gender A Feminist Theory of the English Novel
The Gender Politics of Narrative ModesI want to challenge two linked assumptions that most historians and critics of the English novel share. The first is that the burgeoning of capitalism and the ascension of the middle classes were mainly responsible for the development of the novel. The second is that realism represents the novel's dominant tradition. [note 1] I want to propose instead that, as surely as it marked a response to developing class relations, the novel came into being as a response to the sex-gender system that emerged in England in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. [note 2] My thesis is that from its inception, the novel has been structured not by one but by two mutually defining traditions: the fantastic and the realistic. [note 3] The constitutive coexistence of these two impulses within a single, evolving form is in no sense accidental: their dynamic interaction was precisely the means by which the novel, from the eighteenth century on, sought to manage the strains and contradictions that the sex-gender system imposed on individual subjectivities. For this reason, to recover the centrality of sex and gender as the novel's defining concern is also to recover the dynamism of its bimodal complexity. Conversely, to explore the interplay of realist and fantastic narratives within the novelistic tradition is to explore the indeterminacy of subjectivities engaged in the task of imposing and rebelling against the constraining order of gender difference.
The historical foundation of the project is the recognition that the alteration of class structure in this period was inseparable from the reconceptualization of gender differences and the reconfiguration of gender relations. Synthesizing a simple story from complex accounts, one can say that by the middle of the seventeenth century, there was a shift away from a feudal and Puritan patriarchalist order that saw cosmos, state, and family as analogically related and social position as established through inherited status. As the authority of the father and husband were distinguished from the authority of the sovereign, the family became a distinct unit of organization, with the evolving role of women more restricted than the emerging role of men. [note 4] While sexual difference had been less significant than rank in earlier forms of social organization, the modern form of patriarchy that replaced it was organized according to essentialized, biological distinctions. [note 5] So, at the same time that permeable boundaries of class were replacing inflexible differentiations of inherited position, the boundary that separated male from female was increasingly experienced as too formidable to be crossed. Qualities of masculinity and femininity, seen as natural and treated as immutable, anchored personal identity as they grounded the sociocultural order.
Socioeconomic changes that accompanied the rise of capitalism contributed significantly to the transformation of the sex-gender system. Although the recent work of feminist historians emphasizes the dependence of these changes on class status and geographical location, there is broad agreement that the situation of women in England altered radically from 1600 to 1750. In the sixteenth century, when women had been involved in production for the subsistence of their households and for market, they had participated in a range of economically significant functions. The next hundred and fifty years saw the breakdown of domestic economy, as lands were enclosed, estates consolidated, and work that had traditionally been performed at home was removed from domestic space and professionalized within a public sphere to which women were barred entry. The family ceased then to be the primary unit of production, and the interdependency of its members was replaced by a division of labor structured along gender lines. [note 6]
As middle-class men moved into an expanding public world--as political citizens, legal subjects, and aspiring economic individuals--their female counterparts were restricted to a diminished private sphere in which they performed their duties as mothers and as wives. Infantalized by her legal, social, and economic dependence on her husband, a woman was likely to be an object of ambivalence for her children, whose psychic lives she dominated. Her sons defined themselves in opposition to her maternal qualities, while her daughters read their futures in the functional limitations of her life. Both were prepared by the patterning of the nuclear family to assume the attitudes, roles, and forms of subjectivity that were required by emerging gender arrangements. In this bisected world, male interiority was identified with reason, female interiority with feeling. With masculine rationality enabling the creation and command of culture, female sensibility, while valued, required cultural embodiment and control. [note 7]
In the same way that the sex-gender system was reinforced by the division of labor, with its comprehensive discriminations between public and private spheres, it was strengthened by a shift in scientific ideology, which identified the female body as the center of the binarized new order. No longer understood to be a variant of the male's, as it had been since the work of Galen in the second century, a woman's body was perceived as fundamentally different from a man's. [note 8] Nowhere was that essentialized difference more remarked than in the redefined areas of her sexual and reproductive functioning. Although female sexuality had been thought throughout the Renaissance not only to have mirrored man's, but to have been more intense than his-more voracious and demanding-the eighteenth century thought her desire to be more subject to the self-discipline of a female character that was naturally mature and morally developed. [note 9] By the century's end, when scientists had ceased to regard female orgasm as relevant to conception, there was assumed to be much less libido for a woman to control. Her sexuality was detached conceptually from her maternity, and the ideological commitment to her sexual passivity was reinforced. [note 10] Once her normalcy was associated with her maternity rather than her sexuality, it remained for her sexuality to be displaced onto the prostitute, her abnormal counterpart, who was often represented as ambiguously gendered, even mannish, with an enlarged and ejaculating clitoris. [note 11] Further, as sexual activity in women became more suspect, so did sexual passivity in men, along with other forms of sexual anomaly. It was in this context that the passive, feminized male sodomite joined the sexually initiating whore as one whose aberrant status was crucial to the maintenance of the emergent sex-gender system. [note 12] Heterosexuality was prescribed not just as normal but as compulsory, and marriage-- ideologically based in mutual feeling rather than in property--became the romanticized site of its expression.
It would be difficult to overestimate what it meant for masculinity and femininity to be defined not just as different from one another but as mutually exclusive. Conceptions of the self were shaped by that opposition, as was the self's experience of others. Differences of class, race, and nationality were filtered through the lens of sexual alterity, and they were tinged by fears and desires that such alterity produced. With manners, linguistic expression, and morality dictated by gender as well as class affiliation, society became a more ambiguously charted territory, which men and women had to negotiate at risk. And because the sex-gender system helped to determine which aspects of the self would flourish and which would be suppressed, the psychological reverberations of differentiated social practices were profound.
It was in the novel, more than in any other expressive form, that the social and psychological meanings of gender difference were most extensively negotiated and exposed. At one level, these innovative fictions demonstrated how the ideals of masculinity and femininity were translated into social roles, and they established norms for that translation. At another level, they expressed resistance to the wrenching system of differentiation and revealed the psychic costs that it incurred. By combining social and what we would now call psychological perspectives, novels facilitated acculturation while also formulating damning cultural critiques. Through their detailing of character and situation, they enacted the feelings and desires of their authors and exposed the ambivalence that underlay the fabrication of gendered subjectivities. Through the full range of their expressivity, and their availability to fantasy and dream, they disclosed psychic excesses that were unassimilable to the coercive sexual order.
The novel imposed and resisted the sex-gender system through a bimodal narrative form that was molded by another major cultural transformation. At the same time that radical changes were occurring in socioeconomic and sex-gender systems, a significant form of self-awareness was created by the development of individualism. Like the class and gender systems, this new structure of consciousness saturated every aspect of social, psychological, and epistemological interaction. Self-aware individuals experienced themselves as preeminent in their relationships and were intensely focused on themselves. At the social level, they believed themselves to be autonomous and independent: active agents in a world available to rational comprehension and control. Stamped by the spirit and practices of capitalism, they were acquisitive, pragmatic, and competitive. When they encountered others, they treated them instrumentally, as objects. At the psychological level, the individual's obsession with its own interior life produced a division between the self that scrutinized and the self that was watched. Subject and object simultaneously, the socially self-possessed individual was psychologically riven.
The historian Norbert Elias has traced the progress of the "civilizing process" through which individuals became increasingly self-centered and aware. [note 13] Detailing changes in everyday behavior over a period of two hundred years, he shows how modern individuals differentiated themselves, socially and psychologically, from the collectivities with which they had previously identified. As self-interest was asserted against the traditional practices of the group, the management of behavior became an increasingly private matter, handled by the family on one side and by personal conscience on the other. When social prohibitions were internalized and experienced as self-control, the psychic self was deepened and divided. [note 14] Manners increasingly achieved the intensity of morality, and morality constructed desire as perversion. Pervasive feelings of guilt and shame marked the partitioning of the self into the judging and the judged, and inexpressible resistance to social interdiction signaled the existence of the unconscious mind. [note 15] In this same period, affective impulses, which should have bound individuals to one another, were incorporated into a claustral psychic economy that defined them as private and interior. Men and women shared this solipsistic structure of self-awareness, but the conscious and unconscious contents of their minds were not the same. Different social relations produced different aspirations and forms of self-control, as they also produced different fantasies, resistances, and desires.
The novel's two narrative modes reflected the outward- and inward-looking aspects of the consciousness of individualism. Realism, the more familiar of the two, was fundamentally a social form. Its narratives were shaped by the consciousness of the self in its moral, ethical, and psychological relationships with others. Representing the hegemonic order of individualism, as Ian Watt and other critics have suggested, realist narratives described a world that was appropriate to the aspirations of middle-class subjects, in terms that reflected their cultural assumptions and beliefs. They erased signs of class inequity by naturalizing social differences--which were crucial to the construction of the bourgeois subject--in order to present them as timeless and inevitable. Mediating between the power of self-interest and the need for social integration, they showed how modern self-awareness could produce an egotism threatening to society, and they delineated strategies for its containment. The formal methodologies of these narratives supported their ideological suppositions. Creating coherence from a single overarching perspective, they affirmed the possibility of psychic wholeness and structured desire in conformity with communal need. Projecting the reader into the omniscient narrator's place, they confirmed social consensus formally and rejected subversive eccentricity. Presenting truth as a function of reliable representation, they employed language as if it could be adequate to its object, projected characters that were possessed of intelligible interiorities, and shaped linear narratives that synchronized personal and collective histories.
In the same way that realistic narratives functioned to disguise signs of class inequity in the interests of the bourgeois subject, they also functioned to disguise, by naturalizing, inequities of gender. The stories that they told concerned the sons and daughters who struggled to accommodate themselves to rapidly changing social and personal relations. In the modified picaresque, the bildungsroman, and the novel of psychological realism (all genres written predominantly in the realistic mode), the son who either bears or must discover his father's name also assumes his father's place: his property, social position, capacity for economic survival in the public world, and authority as founder of a family. His is ultimately a fiction about autonomy achieved and competitions won-in material, epistemological, psychological, and vocational terms. His emotional detachment from social and spiritual communities may be noted, but the costs of his affective disengagement are not explored.
The daughter's story is recorded in the domestic novel, which assumes the female's embeddedness in family. Tracing the father's replacement by the aspiring suitor, it maps the complexities of courtship and carries the protagonist to the threshold of marriage: what follows, unspoken in the eighteenth century, is her maternity. Often it is the girl's first name that supplies the novel's title--Pamela, Cecilia, Evelina, Emma--emphasizing the extent to which her social identity is suspended as she moves from the shadow of one patronymic into the shadow of another. It is in this liminal moment, when she selects a husband, that her potentially subversive sensibility is subordinated to her socially responsive moral consciousness. The "correctness" of her choice is signaled by the improvement of her class status and, with it, the class status of her family. Once that is accomplished, her particularized narrative is appropriated for a universalized female plot. Her future happiness, which is presented as secured, rests on the foreclosure of agency prefigured by her mother's insignificance in, or absence from, the text. So while the son assumes the father's active position at the fiction's end, the daughter slips into the invisibility of the maternal role. For both, the marital union, which is romanticized as healing isolation, reinscribes the differences that contribute to isolation's cause. This is made explicit in nineteenth-century realistic novels, where the wedding is prelude rather than conclusion, and marriage focuses the strains created by the oppositional structure of gender arrangements.
In contrast to the social emphasis of the realistic mode, fantastic narratives had an intrapsychic focus. They mapped interior states produced by possessive and affective forms of individualism, and they exposed the anxious melancholy that the modern order of social differences induced. Unmasking the belief in autonomy as false, they bared its roots in the fear of psychic vulnerability. Revealing the link between materialism and desire, they exposed the libidinal investments of patriarchal capitalism. They demonstrated that obsessive self-awareness could yield to madness and that paranoia was the product of a guilty conscience. Most significantly, they uncovered the psychological dynamic that helped to structure the new sex-gender system. Focusing on the fundamentally divided nature of the self, fantastic narratives depicted a subject who knew itself predominantly as object: a subject who struggled for integration, but learned that fragmentation was its doom. [note 16] Proliferating characters who were both themselves and versions of one another, they enacted the processes through which the subject found itself reflected in others and others reflected in itself. And, finally, in the specular self's fearful but pleasurable transgression of boundaries that guarded its social identity, they suggested the awesome attraction of an indeterminacy that would undermine oppositional categories of difference.
There were elements of the fantastic in most eighteenth-century realistic texts, but it was only in the late part of the century that fictions written predominantly in the fantastic mode started to appear. The gothic, which was the first of the fantastic genres, established the subjectivist form that was elaborated later in Romantic, modernist, and postmodern genres. Its narratives rejected the values of realism, interrogating moral judgment with psychic need, reason with affectivity, and the fiction of objective truth with relative perspectives. Desiring subjects were the focus of both male- and female- centered versions of the gothic, but because the desires of men and women were conceptualized differently, their narratives assumed quite different shapes. [note 17] In coded forms, which represented indirectly what women were not allowed to speak, the female gothic unveiled the psychic costs of affective individualism and revealed the price that women paid to achieve their places in a sexually segregated social order. [note 18] Excluded from the protective family by her parents' death, the female protagonist was subject to a predatory patriarchy concerned with the material value of her sexuality. Dependent for knowledge on the sensibility by which she was defined, she moved among sexual and economic horrors that, although imagined, reflected a world that was genuinely fearsome for dependent women. Because intensity of feeling was associated with passion unacceptable in a lady, she strove for self-control, which meant the suppression of her expressivity and the denial of threatening realities. In learning to reject the evidence of her feelings, she refused her own capacity for self-awareness and gave to others the authority to mold her life. Identified with their appropriative power, she complicitously adopted a masochistic model of desire, which signaled her socialization while revealing its fundamentally disabling nature. [note 19] In the text, her fate is shadowed by the lives of women who are represented as possible versions of herself: bad women whose passion leads them to madness or to death, and good women who cannot survive the hardships of their marriages to sadistic men.20 The female protagonist can escape her tragic fate only if the fantastic narrative yields to the impulse of romance. Then she marries not the sadistic gothic hero to whom she is magnetically drawn, but the feminized hero whose passivity precludes his participation in the gothic plot. [note 21]
The character of the anti-hero, who dominates the gothic narrative, is fully elaborated in the male-centered text. [note 22] His tragic story exposes the dark side of possessive individualism as unrestrained egotism, greed, and lust, and it shows how the materialistic urge, which is fostered by capitalism, permeates sexuality. In him, the solipsistic tendencies of modern self-awareness are intensified as a toxic masculinity that femininity cannot alloy. Possessed by paranoia, he tries to resist objectification by objectifying and exploiting others. Motivated at once by misogynistic heterosexuality and homophobic homosexuality, he defines love as erotic domination, in which the domination that is practiced is always his. [note 23] Although he needs a male or female counterpart to complete himself, he is doomed to eradicate or be eradicated by the subjectivity of the other whom he desires. And because he destroys himself when he destroys that other, his story culminates in madness or in death.
Situated in a psychic past that haunts a social present, predominantly fantastic narratives suggest that desire is structured and deformed within the family. Saturated with incestuous longings, these stories expose intrafamilial relations as psychologically determining and the sexuality of parents and children as multiple, ambiguous, and complex. In these narratives, the absence of the mother is as crucial to her sons and daughters as her presence: it is a spectral reminder of the lost other, which is also a lost aspect of themselves. The female protagonist recalls the mother's nurturance and love as a powerful but now foreclosed alternative to sexual difference and erotic domination by the male. As anti-hero, the son experiences her in the perilous, interior void, which his denial of affectivity has created, and in the sexually voracious woman, who threatens him with boundary loss and psychic appropriation. As the feminized hero, he finds her reflected in the desexualized woman whom he loves and ultimately marries. For female and male protagonists alike, the father is an object of intense desire and fear. His sadistic sexuality terrifies and attracts the daughter, whom he craves, and arouses in the son virulent competitive feelings and an ambivalent homoerotic fascination. For both of them, he holds the magnetic power of the eroticized patriarchal family in which children remain mired throughout their lives.
While realism takes the individual's accommodation to society as its subject, then, the fantastic reveals the psychic costs of social deformation. While realism traces the generational displacement of parental authority, the fantastic exposes ways in which intrafamilial identifications, which are etched into the psyche, reproduce themselves in subsequent relations. While the trajectory of realism is toward an improving future, the movement of the fantastic is backward toward a regressive past. While realism poses the possibility of the self's union with another, the fantastic insists on the self's alienation from others and itself. Finally, while realistic narratives struggle for textual intelligibility, completeness, and coherence, fantastic narratives gesture toward an affectivity that lies outside of language and, therefore, outside the text. Eighteenth-century philosophers defined that intense experience of affectivity as the sublime, while Freud later calls it the uncanny, Lacan associates it with the Real, and Kristeva explores it, in its positive and negative moments, as the semiotic and abject. For all of these speculative thinkers writing in the fantastic mode, it represents a realm of indeterminacy that is rooted in the unconscious mind. Utopically a place of subversion, it is also a place potentially of madness. It is that place which fantastic narratives struggle, repeatedly, to reach.
I want to argue, therefore, that the modern form of self-awareness born of individualism was articulated through two narrative modes that represented distinct, but related, ways of knowing and of telling. These modes constituted each other through diverse genres that were shaped by changing cultural assumptions and shifting relations of desire. [note 24] Together they suggest the interpenetrability of fantasy and reality, and the mutual dependence of the unconscious and the social. Early fantastic fictions, which were rooted in a long romance tradition, revealed the price paid in the Enlightenment for the increasing rigidity of epistemological, racial, national, and, above all, sexual boundaries, which realism functioned to perpetuate. First, in the gothic novels of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, the anxieties and wishes that had been excluded from realistic fictions appeared in a supernatural--but incipiently psychological--form to belie realism's myths of distinct differences, progressive histories, and integrated texts. [note 25] Then, as realist fictions used sexual, social, and racial "others" thematically in order to reinforce hierarchical orders of difference, fantastic fictions (which had acquired an explicitly psychological focus) dissolved the distinction between self and "other" and revealed how the "other" serves instrumentally in the self's construction. With the advent of modernism, reality was filtered through a subjectivist lens and fantastic narratives tended to move, in most novels, from the periphery to the center. [note 26]
Literary historians have generally aligned themselves with the values and assumptions of one of these two narrative modes, ignoring or devaluing the other. Those who have constructed realism as the novel's dominant tradition have dismissed subjectivist fictions as popular and ahistorical, while those who have privileged fantastic texts see realism as bound to the hegemonic values of an ascending middle class. By separating social from psychological discourses, both groups have repeated the gesture that divides the internal from the external world and one aspect of modern self-awareness from another. As a result, they have tended to overlook the full interactive spectrum of ideology, subjectivity, and narrative structure. [note 27] Pursuing an alternative route, I will argue that few fictions are actually elaborated through one narrative form alone. Most are composite structures that reveal personal ambivalences and ideological contestations through interactive modes and genres. Because the male-authored, canonical novels that serve as my case studies overflow the definitional categories to which they have been assigned, they implicitly call those categories into question. For example, Robinson Crusoe, which is ordinarily read as formal realism's founding fiction, reveals in its fantastic subtext an obsessive, claustral, appropriative, and haunted subjectivity that is defined through the projections and introjections of gendered-as well as racial and class-"others." A classic study of modern psychosexuality, Clarissa has generally been read as a novel of psychological realism. In fact, its realistic narrative-which examines the encounter of sexual with socioeconomic interests-is interrogated by a fantastic fiction, which exposes psychic fragmentation and social alienation, sexual anxiety and gender confusion, and interpretive relativity and authorial uncertainty. Tristram Shandy, which has been dismissed as formally anomalous by theorists of realism and ignored altogether by theorists of the fantastic, explores the limits and possibilities of both narrative modes in their mutually constitutive dynamic. In that text, it is the repeated conflict between the need for sexual definition and the desire for indeterminacy that creates the contestation of epistemological perspectives and modal forms. And, finally, The Castle of Otranto, which is the first English novel in which the fantastic mode is dominant, shares many of the thematic concerns and formal realistic strategies that Walpole, its author, explicitly wrote against. More importantly, it unmasks the sexual obsessions that derive from intrafamilial relations and lays open the melancholic nature of the loss incurred by the cultural imposition of gender difference.
Together and separately, these canonical texts explore, from male perspectives, the relation of gender identity to social authority and unconscious impulse. Charting the cultural dynamic through which the gendered subject is constructed, they also examine the psychological processes through which it attempts to deconstruct itself. Revealing how modern subjectivity is configured by the sex-gender system, they demonstrate how it resists, and at times subverts, that patterning. They show us that from its inception, the novel placed a self that is socially armored and coerced against one that suffers from, and even at times evades, the difficulties caused by that coercion. They enable us to see that the problem of gender lies at the heart of the process of subjectification and that while the novel has functioned to produce the gendered subject, it has also revealed that subject's radically ungendered and complexly sexual nature.
To the extent that eighteenth-century novels examined the production and destabilization of gendered identities, they anticipated the psychoanalytic project that Freud initiated at the nineteenth century's end. The problems that were thematized by fantastic narratives were also problems that he and his successors tried to solve. Like the protagonists of fantastic fictions, the subjects of Freud's case studies were governed by desires they could not understand. Torn by conscious and unconscious impulses, they revealed the self to be not unitary but divided. Compelled to action by their affective inclinations, they testified to the limits of the Enlightenment's rationalist ideal. Freud set out to explore the underworld of feeling and desire that the civilizing process had produced. Considering psychic resistance to culture as inevitable, he subordinated moral to psychological imperatives. He devised interpretive and therapeutic strategies that gave him access to the unconscious and invented a language that captured the symbolic meanings of fantasy and dream. Like the novelists whom he resembles, Freud was centrally concerned with the ways in which the self is sexualized and gendered; and like those novelists, he was implicated in the elaborate system of differences that he explored. In his blind spots, as much as in his explanations, he revealed that the sexual division of labor, which contorts individuals in the process of gendering them, limits their comprehension of the effects that the gendering process has had upon them. Like the male novelists whom I examine, Freud and, after him, Lacan have been the products and producers of male-centered histories of subjectivity and sexuality. They use sexual difference to anchor psychic and linguistic meaning, and male sexuality to anchor the meanings of sexual difference. In their narratives, which--although not fictions--are still fictive, they structure the contingencies of subjectivity and sexuality as necessarily male and female. [note 28] At the same time, they reveal the inevitable failure of the socializing process by exposing the depth of psychic resistance to any absolute identity, as well as to gender roles that are culturally prescribed.
I make use of Freud's interpretive method to bring fantastic narratives to the surface of realistic texts and to locate the deep layers of meaning that fantastic narratives contain. Just as the juxtaposition of text and subtext forces revisionary readings, so too does the conjunction of revisionary readings with appropriate psychoanalytic theories. [note 29] For example, Heinz Kohut's theory of narcissism illuminates Defoe's conception of character, at the same time that Defoe's early modern fictions provocatively interrogate the ideological assumptions of Kohut's bourgeois self-psychology. Read together, the narratives of Kohut and the narratives of Defoe expose the palimpsestic formation of modern self-awareness and the collaborative psychological and social shaping of subjectivity. In a similar way, Tristram Shandy is uncanny in its Lacanian presumptions. It reveals how the male body is castrated by the cultural mind and suggests the nature of the compensations that men seek for their deprivation. Lacan's formulations elucidate Sterne's view that the restrictions of language reflect and reproduce all other lacks. At the same time, Sterne's comic vision provides a critique of Lacan's misogynistic assumptions: assumptions which-to some extent-Sterne also shares. The work of the feminist object-relations theorist Jessica Benjamin strengthens and is reinforced by a reading of Clarissa as a developmental story that shows how the individual's struggle for autonomy and recognition yields relations of erotic domination, which are gender coded and culturally specific. And, finally, Walpole's two gothic texts, The Castle of Otranto and The Mysterious Mother, exemplify and extend Nicolas Abraham and Maria Torok's speculations about the relation of desire to personal and cultural loss.
Whether fictive or psychoanalytic, all of the texts that I consider in these chapters are shaped by conscious and unconscious loss: psychic losses inflicted by social accommodation, intrapsychic losses that have taken social form, cultural losses that testify to the haunting presence of the past. Hostage to memory and dependent upon fantasy for substance, these ghostly exclusions stamp the novel, as they fashion personality and culture. Experienced symptomatically, they are never completely recognized and are therefore never mourned. Their product is melancholia, which is represented as personal in the fantastic text and as a cultural effect in the realistic narrative. Like psychoanalytic theory, the novel charts the development of gendered subjectivities in the face of traumatic deprivation. Because deprivations imposed on men are different from those that women must endure, male- and female-authored fictions are structured by divergent fantasies of desire and employ distinct strategies of expression, resistance, and containment.
In the chapters that follow, I initiate a theory of the gender politics of narrative modes, examining developmental stories about men and women that have been conceptualized by men. [note 30] All are authoritative texts, popular in their own time and canonical in ours. It is their familiarity that recommends them for my purposes. Because they have been accepted as characteristic of either realistic or fantastic traditions, and middle-class and masculinist ideologies, they can usefully be read against the grain. In my interpretations, their fantastic and realistic narratives interact to form composite texts that function to manage gender relations even as they reveal the precariousness of selfhood and identity. Although these novels are male-centered, and can even be called misogynistic, they powerfully represent the ambivalent yearning that lies at the heart of misogyny: a yearning that originates not in hatred, but in love and loss. It is the unacknowledged nature of that loss that is inscribed, as melancholia, in the texts.
This book's implicit claim is that fantastic narratives unman these master texts with their persistent urge for indeterminacy. That urge expresses itself in the text's struggle for the experience of sublimity: an experience that, associated with the earliest stages of subjectification, survives in memory as a reminder that gender differences are disguises that the self assumes but that it wishes also to discard. The fantastic narrative answers to that urge when, in its shaping of characters and its development of themes, it demonstrates that to establish a radical distance from the biological other is to deny that kind of otherness in the self: to reject it altogether is to undergo a form of psychic mutilation. The entombment of fantastic narratives within realistic texts and the burial of the subtexts of fantastic narratives are both symptom and cause of the social intransigence that blocks the personal and cultural work of mourning. To make those invisible narratives visible is to facilitate mourning's productive, recuperative work. That is the primary project of this book.
Notes to the Introduction1. Of course, it is Ian Watt who, in The Rise of the Novel, provided the most influential and provocative form of the argument that links the formal specificities of early fictions to middle-class values of individualism, rationalism, and empiricism. Naming Defoe, Richardson, and Fielding as representatives of the governing tradition, Watt also established the core of an eighteenth-century canon that represented the novel as a single categorical genre. (In "The Importance of Ian Watt's The Rise of the Novel," Daniel R. Schwartz describes the reception of Watt's book.) While more recent books about the development of the English novel have had different emphases, they have not challenged Watt's fundamental thesis. I note specifically John Bender, Imagining the Penitentiary; Lennard J. Davis, Factual Fictions and Resisting Novels; and Michael McKeon, The Origins of the English Novel, 1600-1740.
2. Obviously, many critics have come to recognize the importance of the sex-gender system as it is reflected in the novel's themes and treatment of character, and many feminists have participated in the recuperation and examination of women's fictions. (Ros Ballaster, Catherine Gallagher, Jane Spencer, and Janet Todd have been most important in reassessing the status of eighteenth-century romances and their female authors. Ballaster's book Seductive Forms: Amatory Fiction from 1684-1740 is particularly notable; it complicates the structure of women's romances and attempts to bring female and male traditions of the novel into conversation.) Only Nancy Armstrong has defined her project in terms similar to mine, however. In Desire and Domestic Fiction: A Political History of the Novel, Armstrong indicates her intention to provide a feminist analysis of the ways in which the English novel managed the relations of gender as well as class. She defines the novel as a modern discourse of gendered subjectivity that makes its appearance in seventeenth-century conduct books and then shapes and is shaped by what she categorizes as domestic fiction: the genre begins with Pamela and includes all novels with female protagonists and an emphasis on sexuality and the marriage plot. In fact, Armstrong's concerns are neither predominantly feminist nor psychological, as her emphasis on subjectivity would lead us initially to believe. She wishes to demonstrate that the novel sought to disentangle sexual relations from the language of political power in order to mask socioeconomic interests by representing them as psychological and by iden- tifying that psychological discourse with women. Hypothesizing the textual restructuring by men of women's sexuality and subjectivity, she subjects sexual to class relations, as do McKeon and Watt, and a textualized female subjectivity to a male materiality conceptualized in oppositional and hierarchized terms. Despite her allegiance to Foucault, she reads the history of the novel positioned, albeit uneasily, with the formal realists: positioned, that is, within the masculinist and materialist discourse that she wishes to interrogate. I examine Armstrong's argument at greater length in an essay, "The Anxieties of Indeterminacy: Towards a Feminist Theory of the Novel."
3. The reader will note that I have used the term "fantastic" instead of the terms "romance" and "gothic," which have also been employed to characterize eighteenth-century texts in this tradition. My choice of terms derives from my conceptualization of narrative modes and literary genres. As I theorize it, a narrative mode defines and connects texts across historical periods through its articulation of linked epistemological, ideological, and psychological perspectives, and through its employment of specific formal strategies. A narrative mode is elaborated through historically specific genres, which are themselves governed by particular formal and thematic conventions. In the modern period, the mentality of capitalism found direct expression in realist genres, while the fantastic (which that same mentality produced) interrogated the normative concepts and psychological constraints that realism represented. So, although the novel was shaped by the contestation of realism's bourgeois values with the earlier aristocratic values of romance, the fantastic absorbed and altered romance impulses that survived capitalism's social transformations. The eighteenth-century novel charted this modal evolution, as my analysis of Robinson Crusoe will suggest. In early modern fictions, romance often coexists with realism (this is true of Tom Jones and Joseph Andrews, for example) and both are sometimes accompanied by incipient strains of the fantastic (Elizabeth Inchbald's A Simple Story provides a late-eighteenth-century example of such a trimodal collaboration). In the gothic novel, which is the first of the fully formed fantastic genres, romance elements are given a psychological as well as a supernatural reference. It is precisely this psychological emphasis that defines nineteenth-and twentieth-century fantastic genres, as it also distinguishes more fragmentary fantastic narratives found in eighteenth-century fictions.
4. Sir Robert Filmer's Patriarcha is generally cited as the representative statement about patriarchalism. Written in the 1630s or '40s, it was published in 1680 and refuted by Locke in his Two Treatises of Government, published in 1690. Significantly, Filmer was a committed royalist who wanted to refute the claims of popular rights and popular sovereignty that were made by parliamentarians against the king in the 1640s. He argued on behalf of the king's unlimited power to rule England by insisting that all government derives not from consent but from a father's natural and unlimited authority over his family. Because a father's power was unlimited, Filmer concludes, the power of kings must be acknowledged to be unlimited. Locke argued against Filmer that the customary interactions of the family were quite different from the contractual relations of the state. By defining women in terms of their roles as wives and mothers, Locke restricted the rights and responsibilities of contractual relations to men.
5. In an important essay that traces the shift from patriarchalism to modern patriarchy, Michael McKeon argues that class and gender reverse their functions in the eighteenth century, with each appearing to undertake the work that had previously been performed by the other. Gender is associated with biological essence, he points out, while class is seen as socially variable and historically contingent ("Historicizing Patriarchy: The Emergence of Gender Difference in England, 1660-1760," 303). McKeon also argues that "the emergence of modern patriarchy is coextensive with the emergence of gender difference, which is therefore historically specific to the modern era" (300).
6. In her classic book Working Life of Women in the Seventeenth Century, Alice Clark observes that while wives of emergent capitalists became idle, wives of skilled laborers lost their economic independence and became unpaid domestic servants, and wives of wage earners were driven into sweatshops. The lives of poorer women became lives of ceaseless labor, exploited as they were at work, paid lower wages than men, and responsible for domestic work at home. More recent books qualify and moderate Clark's more general claims, emphasizing the different kinds and rates of change that took place in England at this time, depending upon class status and geographical location. Still, while the historical details of the account have been modified and nuanced, its basic outline remains intact. For example, see Susan Amussen, An Ordered Society: Gender and Class in Early Modern England; Susan Cahn, Industry of Devotion: The Transformation of Women's Work in England, 1500-1660; Bridget Hill, Women, Work, and Sexual Politics in Eighteenth-Century England; and Amanda Vickery, The Gentleman's Daughter: Women's Lives in Georgian England.
7. In The Culture of Sensibility: Sex and Society in Eighteenth-Century Britain, G. J. Barker-Benfield maps the debate that took place around the gendering of sensibility in eighteenth-century England. On one side, the subordination of women was rationalized on the basis of women's finer sensibility, which was thought to derive from a more delicate nervous system and which was associated with moral and imaginative power, and physical and mental fragility. Alternatively, sensibility was seen as fundamental to the reformation of men's manners: a process intended to bridge the growing gap between male and female, making men similar to women in those qualities upon which moral behavior and affective relationships were thought to depend. At the heart of the reform movement, however, was the contradiction between masculinity and sensibility: the fear that "sensible" men were also effeminate. In the nineteenth century, essentialism ultimately triumphed over reform and sensibility became a largely feminine attribute.
8. In Making Sex: Body and Gender from the Greeks to Freud, Thomas Laqueur argues that "sex as we know it was invented in the eighteenth century." In his view, the rethinking of the body was intrinsic to and not the result of evangelical religion, Enlightenment political theory, and the invention of new public spaces (149). Laqueur's influential argument runs counter to Edmund Leites's earlier contention that changes in attitudes about the strength and nature of women's sexuality followed changes in attitudes concerning women's stronger moral character: attitudes that, in his judgment, "freed men from the demand for moral constancy and the threat of moral failure" (Leites, The Puritan Conscience and Modern Sexuality, 121).
9. See Mary Poovey, The Proper Lady and the Woman Writer: Ideology as Style in the Works of Mary Wollstonecraft, Mary Shelley, and Jane Austen.
10. See Thomas Laqueur, Making Sex: Body and Gender from the Greeks to Freud.
11. See Felicity Nussbaum, Torrid Zones: Maternity, Sexuality, and Empire in Eighteenth-Century English Narratives.
12. See Randolph Trumbach, "Sex, Gender, and Social Identity in Modern Culture: Male Sodomy and Female Prostitution in Enlightenment London."
13. In The Civilizing Process, Norbert Elias analyzes changes in attitudes and manners that begin to be perceived in the sixteenth century. He maps the social and psychological transformations that accompanied "the civilizing process" through which the lives of human beings were increasingly divided between intimate and public spheres, between permissible and prohibited behaviors. Examining the ways in which increasing social prohibitions come to be internalized as self-control, he also explores the construction, in this period, of a self divided against itself-the self that Freud would ultimately study.
14. In "The Unconscious," Freud writes, "By the medium of consciousness each one of us becomes aware only of his own states of mind: that another man possesses consciousness is a conclusion drawn by analogy from the utterances and actions we perceive him to make, and it is drawn in order that this behavior of his may become intelligible to us" (101-2). In the same essay, he describes the unconscious as a "second consciousness"-"a consciousness of which its own possessor knows nothing" (103).
15. In The Unconscious before Freud, Lancelot Law Whyte argues that in the seventeenth century, the individual's experience of "self-consciousness" was isolated for the first time and treated not as a moment of "self-elimination, but as a primary concept or value." He contends that by 1700, when the incipient movements of individualism, liberalism, democracy, rationalism, and scientific skepticism take self-consciousness for granted, the existence of the unconscious begins to be inferred from immediate conscious experience. Elias also attributes this perception of interior fragmentation to the civilizing process:
The pronounced division of the "ego" or consciousness characteristic of man in our phase of civilization, which finds expression in such terms as "superego" and "unconscious," corresponds to the specific split in the behavior which civilized society demands of its members. It matches the degree of regulation and restraint imposed upon the expression of drives and impulses. Tendencies in this direction may develop in any form of human society, even in those which we call "primitive." But the strength attained in societies such as ours by this differentiation and the form in which it appears are reflections of a particular historical development, the results of a civilizing process. (Civilizing Process, 190-91)16. This specular self is theorized by Jacques Lacan in "The Mirror Stage as Formative of the I." I will be arguing throughout the following chapters that this experience of specularity is at the heart of the fantastic tradition.
17. Although I focus on male writers in this book, it does seem important to note here that eighteenth- and early-nineteenth-century realistic and fantastic fictions that are female-authored generally have female protagonists (Mary Shelley's Frankenstein is, of course, a notable exception). While male-authored realistic fictions also commonly have female protagonists, male-authored fantastic narratives ordinarily center on male characters. I would speculate that in the case of realistic narratives, the gendered division of labor made it difficult, as well as unseemly, for women to describe the psychological lives of men, while female subjectivity provided male writers, who were less constrained, with the opportunity to explore a wider affective range in their fiction. In the case of predominantly fantastic fictions, it would have been all the more inappropriate for female writers to represent male desire (one recalls the opprobrium directed at Emily and Charlotte Brontë for their inventions of Heathcliff and Rochester, for example). While male writers obviously felt no such prohibition about depicting female desire (with which they were acknowledged to be familiar), the form of the fantastic authorized a more quasi-autobiographical form of writing (as I discuss at some length in my chapter on Walpole), which made male authors more likely to center male protagonists.
18. Ann Radcliffe's novels The Mysteries of Udolpho and The Italian are the classic female gothic fictions. It is particularly interesting to compare The Italian with Matthew Lewis's The Monk, which it attempts to rewrite. The comparison makes clear the extent to which Radcliffe felt it necessary to represent obliquely the male and female desires that Lewis is able to openly explore.
19. In her book In the Name of Love: Women, Masochism, and the Gothic, Michelle A. Masse traces the construction of female masochism in the female gothic and in psychoanalytic theory. It is her view that these texts show the ways in which women in Western culture act as both victims and accomplices who incorporate social expectations and ultimately hurt others as they have been hurt (5).
20. In an essay that ingeniously unravels the complexities of The Mysteries of Udolpho, Claudia L. Johnson points out that in the novel, "every household conceals the dead body of its mistress" ("The Sex of Suffering: The Mysteries of Udolpho," 112).
21. It is interesting to compare Ann Radcliffe's fictions The Mysteries of Udolpho and The Italian with Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre and Villette. While Radcliffe's complexly ambivalent novels are stamped by the wish fulfillment of the romance tradition, to which I allude here, Brontë provides a critique of romantic resolutions of female gothic in Rochester's maiming and in M. Paul's death. M. Paul is a compelling mixture of the feminized gothic hero and the sadistic anti-hero: a nurturant feminized male and a forbidding father figure.
22. The anti-hero is analyzed at some length in my study of The Castle of Otranto in chapter 4.
23. In Between Men: English Literature and Male Homosocial Desire, Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick argues, "The Gothic novel crystallized for English audiences the terms of a dialectic between male homosexuality and homophobia, in which homophobia appeared thematically in paranoid plots" (92). Her specific reference is to a late-eighteenth- and early-nineteenth-century subgroup of the gothic novel, which includes William Godwin's Caleb Williams, Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, James Hogg's Confessions of a Justified Sinner, and Charles Maturin's Melmouth the Wanderer.
24. In his book The Fantastic: A Structural Approach to a Literary Genre, Tzvetan Todorov defines the fantastic as a genre and analyzes it in terms of the hesitation experienced by a person who is familiar with the laws of nature when he or she encounters a supernatural event. The feeling of hesitation that is experienced can be resolved at the level of the uncanny (the supernatural explained) or the marvelous (the supernatural accepted), but in the case of the pure fantastic-as in Henry James's "The Turn of the Screw"-it is not resolved at all. Texts that induce this last form of hesitation are, for Todorov, genuinely subversive because they offer a sense of the transgression of boundaries, a shocking experience of limits. I follow Rosemary Jackson, rather than Todorov, in defining the fantastic not as a genre but, like realism, as a literary mode productive of a range of genres that themselves produce, regulate, and structure desire. With Jackson, I explore the psychoanalytic implications of the fantastic; but unlike her, I read fantastic and realistic genres of fiction and theory reciprocally in order to explore the processes through which gendered subjectivities are both constructed and deconstructed. None of those who have written on the fantastic-in addition to Todorov and Jackson, I would cite David Punter, William Patrick Day, Franco Moretti, and, most recently, Eugenia DeLaMotte, Michelle Masse, and Anne Williams-have studied the interactions of these two modes with their respective genres. In her chapter "Fantastic Realism" in Fantasy: The Literature of Subversion, Jackson moves in this direction, examining fantastic elements in nineteenth-century realistic novels.
25. Peter Stallybrass and Allon White observe that "whilst the 'free' democratic individual appeared to be contentless, a point of judgment and rational evaluation which was purely formal and perspectival, in fact it was constituted through and by the clamour of particular voices to which it tried to be universally superior. It is on this account that the very blandness and transparency of bourgeois reason is in fact nothing other than the critical negation of a social 'colourfulness' of a heterogeneous diversity of specific contents, upon which it is, nonetheless, completely dependent" (The Politics and Poetics of Transgression, 199). Stallybrass and White extend and link Bakhtin's analysis of the carnivalesque and Elias's account of the civilizing process.
26. I would include in a list of early gothic texts, for example, Horace Walpole's Castle of Otranto (discussed at length in chapter 4), Matthew Lewis's The Monk, William Godwin's Caleb Williams, and Ann Radcliffe's Mysteries of Udolpho and The Italian. Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, Sheridan Lefanu's Carmilla, Robert Louis Stevenson's Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Bram Stoker's Dracula, and Oscar Wilde's Picture of Dorian Gray would all represent the more psychologically developed, predominantly fantastic fiction of the later nineteenth century. Emily Brontë's Wuthering Heights, Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre and Villette, and many novels by Charles Dickens and Wilkie Collins would stand as examples of fantastic realism, a form in which neither mode is primary. Finally, to see the shift in the work of specific authors from Victorian realism to modernist subjectivism, one has only to compare D. H. Lawrence's early Sons and Lovers with Women in Love, Thomas Hardy's Return of the Native with Jude the Obscure, and Virginia Woolf's Voyage Out with The Waves.
27. One can see how this opposition functions, for example, in Desire and Domestic Fiction, where Armstrong, perceiving interiority to be a mere "strategy" of social discourse, appropriates the novel of female interiority for one that is shaped by socioeconomic interests. In this way, she erases the psychological determinants of subjectivity and sociality.
28. In the introductory chapter to Literature and Psychoanalysis, Shoshana Felman, the collection's editor, argues for the interdependent relation of the literary critic and the psychoanalyst, and of the literary text and the analysand. "In much the same way as literature falls within the realm of psychoanalysis (with its competence and its knowledge), psychoanalysis itself falls in the realm of literature, and its specific logic and rhetoric" (27). As the critic interprets and establishes a transferential relation with literary texts, the analyst establishes an interpretive and transferential relation with the analysand. Summarizing the privileged relation that literature and psychoanalysis share, Felman argues that "[f]rom the very beginning, literature has been for psychoanalysis not only a contiguous field of external verification in which to test its hypotheses and to confirm its findings, but also the constitutive texture of its conceptual framework, of its theoretical body. . . . Since literature and psychoanalysis are different from each other, but at the same time, they are also 'enfolded within' each other, since they are, as it were, at the same time outside and inside each other, we might say that they compromise, each in its turn, the interiority of the other" (9). I share Felman's view of the relation between literature and psychoanalysis, and that view guides my critical strategy.
29. I do not attempt to use psychoanalytic theory symmetrically in the chapters that follow, although all of my readings are psychoanalytically informed. The nature of my theoretical interventions varies from chapter to chapter, as I try to respond to the interpretive requirements of the texts. Like Felman, I consider the boundary between fiction and psychoanalysis to be permeable, and I readily cross it, in the interpretive interests of both discourses.
30. While the narrative schema I propose is applicable to women's narratives, the historical development of modes and genres is different in female-authored texts, as are the specificities of their interaction. I plan to continue this project by studying eighteenth-century novels written by women, as well as male- and female-authored novels of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Essays that I have already published on the novels of Dickens and on Toni Morrison's Beloved can be seen as part of this larger effort. Of course, I also hope that others will be interested in pursuing lines of inquiry similar to those that I set out in the following chapters.
About the Book
“. . . the novel’s development down into two separate traditions: the fantastic and the realistic. The two ideas are interrelated by their expression of rising individualism.”—Eighteenth Century: A Current Bibliography"The Trauma of Gender is a wonderfully crafted text, provocative, insightful, and imaginative. Moglen not only shows us how to read the intrapsychic processes at work in fiction, but offers a careful consideration of the social form that loss, mourning, and desire take in the fictions she considers. Along the way, she develops a nuanced account of the origin of the novel, showing her readers in subtle ways how the beginnings of fiction and the beginnings of fantasy are interwoven. Her text exemplifies psychoanalytic literary criticism at its best, offering a fine and probing study of the social and psychic dimensions of literary works."—Judith Butler, author of Gender Trouble
"These extremely powerful and authoritative new readings of important canonical texts will set a new standard for discussions of the novel as a genre. Moglen's work as an interpreter of literary texts and of psychoanalytic theories is superior, and her muscular writing style is well-suited to the pleasurably pessimistic bent of her critical mind."—Lisa L. Moore, author of Dangerous Intimacies: Toward a Sapphic History of the British Novel
"In this lucid and perceptive study, Helene Moglen looks steadily at the shadow side of canonical eighteenth-century fiction and sees the psychic costs of waxing individualism. The book is an excellent corrective to the view that the novel is a triumphant expression of bourgeois values."—Catherine Gallagher, author of Nobody's Story: The Vanishing Acts of Women Writers in the Marketplace, 1670-1820
Table of Contents
Introduction: The Gender Politics of Narrative Modes
1. Daniel Defoe and the Gendered Subject of Individualism
2. Clarissa and the Pornographic Imagination
3. (W)holes and Noses: The Indeterminacies of Tristram Shandy
4. Horace Walpole and the Nightmare of History
Conclusion: The Relation of Fiction and Theory