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Title: Haunting Modernisms: Appropriations of the Ghostly in Eliot, Woolf, Bowen and Lawrence
Author(s): Foley, Matt
Supervisor(s): Townshend, Dale
Keywords: haunting
Issue Date: 2012
Publisher: University of Stirling
Abstract: This thesis is an extended reading of the topos of the ghostly as it is staged in the modernist writings of T.S. Eliot, Virginia Woolf, Elizabeth Bowen and D.H. Lawrence. As I argue, their distinct appropriations of haunting are innately tied to their individual theories of the aesthetic; there are also a number of recurring motifs throughout their respective oeuvres, which time and again evoke a ghostly register. Consistently appearing in the texts I read here, most of which were published between the years 1919 and 1935, are figurations of the ghostly as a symptom of ‘ontological uncertainty’, as well as renderings of purgatorial subjectivity, and aporias of mourning. I locate my reading in response to the scholarly fields of haunting studies, mourning modernisms and Gothic modernisms. In a move common to contemporary theoretical studies of haunting, I draw also from the latter work of Jacques Derrida, a theoretical lens that facilitates my reading of a complex modernist ethics of mourning and alterity, one that often courts the ghostly, but resists what Derrida terms ‘hauntological’ work. The Derridean figure of the ethical apparition, in its status as the Absolute Other, is consistently complicated or rejected in these texts. This resistance mirrors a purgatorial mode of subjectivity that recurs in a range of guises in the modernisms I read here. In uncovering the economies that lie beneath these haunted subjectivities Jacques Lacan’s metapsychology of the subject helps also to conceptualise Bowen and Lawrence’s handling of the spectral. Bowen’s is a distinctly visual imagination, and her staging of a haunted subjectivity is elucidated by calling upon Lacan’s formulation of the gaze. Lawrence, whose work is consistently concerned with a-symbolic bodily registers, bypasses a number of the purgatorial aporias staged in the writings of Woolf, Eliot and Bowen. Viewing his appropriation of haunting through a Lacanian understanding of feminine jouissance suggests Lawrence’s welcoming of a radical ghostly other that may transcend the aporias of subjectivity, ethics and mourning that characterise these haunting modernisms.
Type: Thesis or Dissertation
Affiliation: School of Arts and Humanities
Literature and Languages

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