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Repression/incitement : double-reading vita sackville-west's the edwardians through freud and foucault
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Coley, Aimee Elizabeth
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ABSTRACT: Vita Sackville-West's autobiographical novel <italic>The Edwardians</italic> lends itself to a double reading: both Freudian and Foucauldian. The Freudian conflict between desire and prohibition plays out in the unresolved Oedipus complex of its protagonist Sebastian, son of the Duchess of Chevron; repression drives Sebastian's behavior in all his relationships. The novel also depicts an upper-class Edwardian society incited to discourse in a Foucauldian sense--a society in which sexual gossip functions as a discourse of power. From a psychoanalytic perspective, this incitement is produced by repression, and functions as a symptom of it. The relationship between repression and incitement suggests the possibility of a theoretical rapprochement between Freud and Foucault.
Thesis (M.A.)--University of South Florida, 2011.
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Repression/Incitement: Double reading Vita Sackville The Edwardians through Freud and Foucault by Aimee Coley A thesis submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts Department of English Coll ege of Arts and Sciences University of South Florida Major Professor: Elizabeth Hirsh, Ph.D. Tova Cooper, Ph.D. Susan Mooney, Ph.D. Date of Approval: March 21, 2011 Keywords: discourse, power, psychoanalysis, subjectivity, unconscious Copyright 2011, Aimee Coley


i Table of Contents Abstract ii Preface : Psychoanalysis and The Edwardians 1 Part One: Repression: Reading The Edwardians through Freud 7 Part Two: Incitement: Reading The Edwardians thr ough Foucault 22 Afterword: Freud with Foucault 33 Definitions 34 Functions 35 Rapprochement 36 Bibliography 39


ii Abstract Vita Sackville The Edwardians lends itself to a double reading: both Freudian and Foucauldian. The Freudian conflict between desire and prohibition plays out in the unresolved Oedipus complex of its protagonist S ebastian, relationships. The novel also depicts an upper class Edwardian society incited to discourse in a Foucauldian sense a society in which sexual gossip functions as a di scourse of power. From a psychoanalytic perspective, this incitement is produced by repression, and functions as a symptom of it. The relationship between repression and incitement suggests the possibility of a theoretical rapprochement between Freud and F oucault.


1 P reface : Psychoanalysis and The Edwardians Critics commonly consider Vita Sackvill e in relation to Virgin ia Woolf, usually by examining the ways in which the two women profoundly ssionally 1 Yet our understanding of Woolf as a writer of searing psychological insights sometimes overshadow s the possibility that Sackville West may have contributed valuable insights as well. O ver the last decade, however, critics have become more willi ng to analyze Sackville West on her own terms, distinct from the often overpowering literary presence of her relationship with Woolf. 2 Despite this development, The Edwardians (1930) -Sackville commercially successful novel and a popular bestse ller at the time of its publication -continues to receive scant critical attention. Although The Edwardians has been analyzed briefly in the context of broader critical studies 3 only one published piece focuses solely 1 For recent examples wh ich focus primarily on the relationship between Sackville West and Woolf, see Kirstie Blair Rosi Braidotti, Louise DeSalvo, Karen Kaivola, Elizabeth Meese, Suzanne Raitt, Victoria Smith, Karen Sproles Joanne Trautmann Janine Utell, and McKenzie Zeiss. F or analyses of the relationship within the context of Sackville Nicolson, and Michael Stevens 2 See, for example, Ian Blyth, Yvonne Ivory, Georgia Johnston, and Rebecca Nagel. 3 See, for exampl e, Glendinning, Raitt, and Stevens.


2 in Vita Sackville The Edwardians 4 We may then ask why The Edwardians has not received more critical attention. More specifically, a s a novel published when both British literary modernism and psycho analysis were powerfully influential The Edwardians might be expected to attract more psychoanalytically oriented criticism. Especially because of its central concern with rendering subjectivity through repression, I read The Edwardians as a n ovel situated at the intersection of modernism and psychoanalysis. Proceeding from the assumption that Sackville West work was inevitably influenced by the cultural milieu in which she participated I propose to analyze the novel from a Freudian perspect ive Despite the absence of explicit references to psychoanalysis in Sackville psychoanalytic context that has been neglected in most critical studies of her work can offer insight into the themes and methods of her nar rative O ne reason for this critical silence might be that Sackville about psychoanalysis are difficult to gauge. There is no evidence that she read Freud, although she did own a copy of Sexual Inversion (1915), as well as Edward Carpenter The Intermediate Sex (1908), a utopian treatise on pacifism and same sex love (Glendinning 405) 5 Moreover like Freud, Ellis, and Carpenter, Sackville West in her fiction, self in terms of 4 A n early piece of brief criticism analyzes The Edwardians Told by an Idiot: The Edwardians and Told by an Idiot 5 Glendinning further describes insc Sexual Inversion On est fier quelquefois quand on se compare The Intermediate Sex Sex and Character


3 G iven her concern with the connection between subjectivity and sexuality, her silence about psychoanalysis is striking. H er (close) relationship with Woolf and (antagonistic) relation with Bloomsbury would have made her aware of psychoanalysis in a general way ambivalence toward psychoanalysis : the Hogarth Press which Woolf operated with her husband Leonard published English translations of Freud, yet it is widely believed that Virginia was openly hostile to [psychoanalysis] at least as an 128). But where Woolf eventually registered her interest in ps ychoanalysis explicitly (in Three Guineas West never did so 6 Sackville lack of overt engagement with psychoanalysis was perhaps symptomatic of her distance from literary modernism itself. Stephen Frosh observes that modernism is that each is a beast of the other . modernist perceptions of subjectivity, individuality, memory, and sociality are all deeply entwined with psychoan alytic Sackville critics and biographers s eldom detect such perceptions in her work. For example, in The Edwardians All Passion Spent and Family History Michael Stevens little trace of introspection or of hidden depths singling out The Edwardians . lacks the depth and rotundity which would have made the characters in the book come truly alive, but this, surely, is partly intenti onal the emptiness of the characters is 6 Virginia Woolf and the Fictions of Psychoanalysis


4 heavily stressed Similarly, it is widely held that as a novelist Sackville West relied on traditional narrative forms, 7 eschewing the formal ex periments favored by iconic modernist s like Woolf, James Joyce, and T. S. Eliot. However, Su zanne Rai West and Woolf advances a different view. For Raitt the characters in The Edwardians do exhibit psychological depth Noting that the names of siblings Sebastian and Viola allud e Twelfth Night Raitt (like Twelfth Night ) which subvert its overtly heterosexual narrative (104). Raitt f ocuses primarily on the queering of the relationship between Sebastian and the non aristocratic adventurer and daredevil Leonard Anquetil, arguing that Sackville more experimental and more psychological than it first seems. I suggest, in addition, that the psyc hological concerns of The Edwardians inhere in the way the novel translates personal events of Sackville The novel was published shortly after Orlando (1928) mock biography of Sackville West famously described as ngest and most charming love letter in English Nicolson 202). It is a critical commonplace that Orlando was written to compensate Sackville West for the loss of her ancestral home, Knole 8 which she as a woman was prohibited by law from inheri ting. The Edwardians responds to Orlando registering Sackville grief at 7 Virginia Woolf characterized Sackville West in her writing, Letters Sackville her a 8 See Orlando in Virginia Woolf A to Z


5 losing Knole but also the way gender shaped her destiny more broadly Karen Sproles suggests that that her sex prevented her from inheriting Knole was the foun ding trauma of Sackville and th e pain of this realization reverberates in her response to Orlando Sackville Naturally she was flattered, but more than that, t he novel identified her with Knole for ever. Virginia by her genius had prov ided Vita with a unique consolation for having been born a girl, for exclusion from her inheritance, for her was not simply a brilliant masque or pageant. It was a memorial mass. (208) Just as writing The Edwardians may be seen as Sackville attempt at self recovery so in the novel we see characters w orking through their experience as subjects irrevocably shaped by t he conflict between desire and prohibition The plot upper class Edwardian society, which sets forth that they may have as many illicit affairs as they desire, as lves to become the c enter of scandal, thereby highlighting the tension between the search for sexual fulfillment (desire) and the fear of public humiliation (prohibition). While this conflict is evident in the lives of many of the rimary focus is on Sebastian, a young duke in the last years of the Edwardian era. The conflict between desire and prohibition is apparent in his relationships with his many lovers, most especially with two married women, Sylvia and Teresa. From a psychoan alytic perspective, this conflict also carries over into


6 relationships with his mother and with t he mysterious Leonard Anquetil. Each of these characters participate s in the family romance, where the interconnection between self and sexuality b egins, and where the conflict between desire and prohibition is most urgently felt. I propose that for Sebastian, th is conflict, entrenched through repression becomes the underlying motivation for his sexual behavior. Admittedly, if The Edwardians is to some degree a psychoanalytic novel, it is ambivalentl y so, because it is not only concerned with individual repression; it is also concerned with broader strategies of power, which circulate through an incitement to discourse, specifically in the form of gossip about sexual affairs. By drawing o n Michel influential critical reading of and of psychoa nalytic conceptions of power and the self in the first volume of The History of Sexuality I will also read The Edwardian s a s a novel that anticipates interrogation s of the repressive hypothesis and sets that questioning against the psychoanalytic vision of the self. My aim in this study, therefore, is twofold: e nlisting both Freud and Foucault in my project I first pro duce two readings of the novel that are divergent and complementary and I then attempt to effect a rapprochement between the two theorists by p lacing their respective insights into dialogue.


7 Part One : Repression: Reading The Edwardians through Freud of the subject during the late teens and twenties is inseparable from the function of repression, which he first theorized years earlier distin guishes between primal repression (the constitutive splitting of the subject into essence lies simply in the function of rejecting and keeping something out of Freud later systematized his thinking about the interface of desire to el iminate his father in order to enjoy sole po ssession of his mother, which he consequent internalization of the law of the father embodied (Freud believed) in the universal taboo against incest Both the originary Oedipal formation and its subsequent derivatives exert enormous power precisely because they fall under repression and remain unconscious, making themselves known only obliquely, through their symb olic substitutes, to the discerning gaze of the psychoanalyst Freud subverts the popular notion that the law prohibiting i ncest arises from disgust; rather, he protests, we would not need such an emphatic law if the desire were not so strong that its


8 enactment could only be prevented by stringent social control. inexorable prohibition of [incest] in law and custom would not be needed if there were any reliable natural barriers against the temptation, he argues ( Introductory 416). From the beg inning, then, Freud views desire as fundamentally in conflict with socially sanctioned behavior As he puts it . to be a product of the interaction between two urges, the urge towards happiness, which we usuall Civilization 105). In this sense repression emerges from the Oedipal conflict between individual desire and the demands of society. Freud insists that come into play, following the direction of the Oedipus complex or reacting against it, processes which, however, since their premises have become intolerable, must to a large Introd uctory 418). The conflict between desire and social demands, then, provokes emotional responses which are so distressing that their premises can only be described as intolerable; as such, they must be relegated to the unconscious. I n The Edwardians Sackv ille Sebastian seems to be in the throes of a classically unresolved Oedipus complex. numerous sexual affairs, which are never fully satisfying to him, apparently because his O edipal neurosis m anifests in hi s choice of lover a phenomenon described by Freud in selection: the first he calls the woman must already [ 40 ] ) ; second, (40 41); third, highest value upon women of this character as their


9 love 42); and finally, from a fate in whic W hile the plot of The Edwardians is overtly concerned with the affairs themselves, a Freudian reading repression E ssentially, Sebastian moves from woman to woman, never finding what he is looking for, because if the love objects chosen by [this] type are above everything mother surrogates, t h comp the pressing desire in the unconscious for some irreplaceable thing often resolves itself into an endless series in actuality endless for the very reason that the satisfaction longed for is in spite of all never found in any surrogate pecial Type of Object 43 44 ) With in this framework, I will first consider relationship with his mother, before considering how it influences his sexual affairs. Early in the novel Sebastian asse rts father had put it into his head, ye ineteen at the beginning of the nov el, and he was fourteen at the time of his father (210) In fact, his father is conspic uously absent in a novel where his mother looms large. Perhaps the loss of his father provokes the classical Freudian seduction between mother and son; perhaps S the result of his own prohibited desire to dispense with him


10 T he first extended interaction between Sebastian and his mother Lucy occurs when she summons him to her room while she is dress ing for d inner with her guests a process both elaborate and intimate. While Lucy dresses, she carries on an extended flirtation with Sebastian asking him a think he had never t minute details for the dinner she tells Sebastian to send for Miss Wace, one of the servants, but instructs him to H er desire to be watched extends only to Sebastian; she views her daughter, Viola, as an interloper in th e scene which ends as Lucy sensually drapes herself in jewels and co vers herself in powder, You must choose a wife who will do credit to the jewels, Sebastian, because, of course the day will come when your mother has to give up everything to her daughter in [s] her handkerchief a but Sylvia Roehampton says you are even more attractive when you sulk than when you this scene are erotically charged, and pr esumably this scene is merely one among many similarly seductive encounters not immediately forthcoming. Only during the next scene, at the dinner party, does Seba Oedipal attachment to his mother, as we are privy to his reflection herself, whom he had so lately seen as a mask within her mirror, looked young and love ly


11 now, so far away down the table; for a curious instant, he imagined her no longer his More implicit evidence follows when this musing is his sexual rival); immediately afterward, we fin d now and disgusted for he suffer His depression and disgust are provoked both by the unconscious desire for his mother, which has momentarily broken into consciousness and by tion and subsequent rejection of him. intensity was may therefore be seen as symptom atic of his unresolved Oedipus complex t limited to his emotional response; his behavior after dinner provides further support. Having endur ed a condescending lecture from the Italian ambassador about how interest in women humour; he was stung, disturbed; he was asha rather than resolving to find a woman hi s own age beautiful best friend, who is both married and twenty two years olde r than h e Perhaps he attractive, he does not fear rejection from her. But too she is an attractive substitute for his first object choice his mother. As the relationship between Sebastian and Sylvia progresses over the course of the next year, Lucy participates in it by virtue of her approval, which is tempered by the most estimable thin g about her, inevitably carried with it a certain


12 (98). Later we him b that Sylvia is merely a transitory substitute In fact, Sylvia basically meet s the four criteria set forth by Freud in T here ex ists an injured third party: husband, George. Second, she, like the rest of the fast aristocratic set, has had numerous discreet affairs; her sexual virtue i s questionable at best Third, Sebastian set s a high value on her, though it is unlikely he truly loves her. 9 And finally as we see when George discovers their affair, Sebas 10 Because Freud uses these four criteria to situate the unfaithful mother as precursor to Oedipal attachment to his mother is what motivates him to pursue Sylvia. t of many affairs, a point ay of the Oedipus complex will pursue a series of mother surro gates in a fruitless search for the original love object. After his relationship with Sylvia ends, Sebastian pursu es Teresa, the wife of a middle class doctor. Because m arried, Teresa meets the first criterion Sh e also 9 Sebastian is troubled by the loss of Sylvia, which su Sylvia, but he was made unhappy, uneasy; what worried him most was the knowledge that Sylvia was somewhe 10 l bury attempts to rescue her from George.


13 meets the second but just barely; the text makes clear husband John should not be doubted. 11 However, Freud argues that something as enough to arouse doubts of sexual fidelity for a man like Sebastian. Sebastian perceives Teresa as a woman who is willing to be unfaithful to her husband ; he feels disbelief when perplexed. Had he not spent all his life among women who had made light of such infidelities? Besides, had he not seen (299). correspond to the actual nature of her character, but from a Freudian perspective, perception of Teresa provides insigh t into his character by demonstrating his unconscious desire to fit his lovers into his mother imago. I t is more difficult but still possible, to see how Teresa fits last two criteria It does not seem that Sebastian set s er ; rather, h e regards her as merely an entertaining diversion, a sexual experiment: But he was bored; he had known too many different kinds of women and could appraise them all women of fashion, prostitutes, dubious aspirants to social heights, fortune hunters, sharks, toadies, and the light mannered ladies of the stage none of them held any more interest for him than the A.B.C.; but this pretty, silly little Teresa, who gazed at him with such puzzled admiring eyes, and who was evidently so ashamed of 11 304). She asserts that she will not be unfaithful to John both because she loves him and because she does not want to be socially ostracized as a result of breaking her marriage vows.


14 her nice vulgar sister in law, might amuse him for a week, and at all events she would be a new experience, a type he had never learned before (230) attractive but inconsequential, a woman undeserving of his respect, and a woman upon whom he c ould to a woman whom Sebastian feels it will be easy to exploit, both o n account of her lack of intelligence and her attraction to him. While the relationship actually lasts longer than a week, stretching through to change or deepen. She them (275). However, he begins understanding, perhaps even the possibility of genuine affection. The narrator claims that something ambiguous remains in the description of their relationshi p; after all, the narrator later remarks that it took shape, and that, out of the welter, four experiments emerged. (The crowd of other women counted for nothing; they had been merely incidents; inevitable, nauseating, in retrospect, and, above all, tedious.) Only four women had made any mar (316). Sebastian regards all the women that have been most important to him as


15 that Se bastian values Teresa much more highly than he knows; if so, then we may assume that she meets the third criteria as well. rescue her not from a person, but from a situati on: society, and he had tried the middle class, and in both his plunging spirit had got stuck in the glue of convention and hypocrisy. The conventions differed Sylvia had not hesitated to give herself to him but the hypoc Sebastian wants to rescue Teresa from the constraints of convention and hypocrisy; unfortunately for him, Teresa rejects Sebastian and his desire to rescue her, just as Sylvia rejected him previously. We know much less about the last two of the four affairs which influence Sebastian so deeply, so it is difficult to trace how they correspond to criteria of neurotic object choice relat ionships with Sylvia and Teresa we can trace his choices back to a common source described by Freud : they are derived from a fixation of the infantile fe elings of tenderness for the mother and represent one of the forms in which this f ixation libido has dwelt so long in its attachment to t he moth er, even after puberty, that the maternal characteristics remain stamped on the love objects chosen later so long that they all become easily recognizable mother surrogates. ( ) Unfortunately for Sebastian, of all his rela tionships, Yet there is one that holds promise : his relationship with


16 Leonard Anquetil. This relationship d iffer s from the ones he pursues with female love r s, and can be analyzed in a differen t psychoanalytic context. Suzanne Raitt convincingly argues that the relationship between Sebastian and Anquetil should be interpreted in light of Sackville which circulated among her friends and acquaintances at the time she was writing The Edwardians to mean homosexual. If there is a homosexual attraction between Sebastian and the Frenchman how should we understand it from a psychoanalytic perspective? Because Freud himself gave different accounts of homosexual attracti on, there are several mother; next I will examine the more likely possibili ty that Anquetil represents for Sebastian a father surrogate. homoerotic attraction to Anquetil, like his attraction to his female lovers, might be seen as derived from his Oedipal attachment to his mother resulting from a Freudian perspective this interpretation is The typical process, already established in innumerabl e cases, is that a few years after the termination of puberty the young man, who until th is time has been strongly fixated to his mother, turns in his cour se, and looks about for love objects in whom he can rediscover himself, and whom he wishes to love as his mother loved him. The characteristic mark of this process is that usually f or


17 t he male object shall be of the same age as he himself was when the change took pl ac 158) 12 B ecause Anquetil, like Sylvia, is more than twenty years older than Sebastian, he does Still, a Essays 12n). Perhaps object rather than a maternal one a search for a mother surrogate, then hi s a ttraction to Anquetil may be seen a s a search for a father surrogate This interpretation becomes more poignant in light of the fact that : a desire to recover the absent father in the form of Anquetil would the n be particularly understandable. In fact, only by shifting his attraction from a maternal object to a paternal object is Sebastian able to resolve his Oedipus complex. also mixed with a certain amount of fear an d frustration; Anquetil signifies the possibility of liberation, but Sebastian is both drawn to and frightened by that possibility. 13 I will first consider this dynamic in the context of Sebastian and Anquetil conversation on the roof of Chevron. 12 Sexual Dissiden ce: Augustine to Wilde, Freud to Foucault The Psychoanalytic Theory of Male Homosexuality ; and Homosexuality and Psychoanalysis edited by Tim Dean and Christopher Lane. 13 ( Civilization rooted in an inherent bis exuality. This perspective accounts for the shift in attraction due to gender; father with liberation.


18 Th is d i scussion occurs early in the novel, and it is marked by sexual tension 14 : the establishes erotic associations: d moment, there is something vagu ely threatening, something Anquetil tentatively char his to go away with him, on the grounds that he had fallen in love with Sylvia just twenty four hours before In this scene although Sebastian is attracted to Anquet il as father surrogate his attraction to the mother surrogate is stronger because it provides a welcome relief to the threat that Anquetil represents However, b romantic life has become so dissatisfying that he is des perate to escape. After his many doomed affairs with women, his reaction to Anquetil has changed, and he is finally able to embrace the liberation that 14


19 Anquetil offers him, a s we see during their conversation in the coach. The coach itself is suggestively described : The closed in atmosphere induced a retrospection of his more recent years. The past, both distant and immediate, became oppressive. He noticed that there was no handle on the inside of the door. So he could not get out, even if he wi shed! He leant forward to lower the window. It stuck. The family coach itself had entered into the conspiracy to i mprison him and to deny him air. (335 36) T his description associat es the oppressiveness of the coach and th at of womb in itself a discrete physical signifier of the broader family drama: Sebastian is imprisoned by the coach, just as he is metaphorically imprisoned by his inability to escape from the Oedipal influence of his mother. Another description underscores this meani ng of the coach : he was leaning forward, examining the fittings, trying the window blinds to see if they would pull but the silk was rotten; his finger went through it sniffing the camphor, touching the old seats, opening the flap of t he pocket s, turning this way and that to look out at the familiar streets slowl y passing the window. He had often climbed into the coach as a little boy, enjoying the musty smell, jumping up and down to make the coach rock upon its exagger ated springs; ha d often been reproved by his nurse for so doing come along at dawdling in that nasty old carriage


20 Here we find that as a child Sebastian was chastised for the simple sensual pl easure he de rived from playing in the coach. The sense of smell is particularly salient in this l also evokes the increased repression of sexual desire ( Civilization antile and unconscious attraction to the forbidden body of the mother, and attraction that began in childhood and has remained with him until adulthood. Yet the sensory pleasure of smell gives way to likewise cannot return. n; her judgment points to the carriage not just as a symbol of the womb, but as a signifier of the family drama more generally T should be understood as a source or sign in the coach of h is childhood have given way to an adult contemplation which no longer delights in the coach but is repulsed and seeks escape from it This reversal of affect is the mark of Oedipal repression. Only after riding in the coach doe s Sebastian become fully awar e of his entrapment, and only then does he perceive Anquetil as a source of liberation rather than a threat. In this sense Anquetil When he enter s into the coach with Sebastian he symbolically enters into the Oedipal


21 drama, and in doing so, transforms it. If t he influence of the overwhelming mother had grown to unbearable proportions the n the father is symbolically restored through and subsequently by fused roles as sexual object and paternal object, Anquetil effectively alleviates unresolved Oedipal complex; the last sentence of the n drama, Anquetil has defused it; by agreeing to go away with Anquetil, Sebastian has also defused it. is destroyed it stops, and Sebastian is finally able to leave Chevron in search of freedom and authenticity In this Freudian reading of The Edwardians repression functions in service to his Oedipus complex. This repre ssion is, in turn, the motivating force behind his many affairs with women, as well as his attraction to Anquetil. In the next section, I will explore how this repression also functions as the source of an incitement to discourse, and I will suggest that a Foucauldian approach may be used t o enhance, rather than displace a psychoanalytic interpretation of the novel.


22 Part Two : Incitement: Reading The Edwardians through Foucault In The Edwardians subjectivity is constituted not just through repressi on, but through discourses of power which m anifest primarily in gossip. Sebastian does not participate in gossip, but is inevitably produced by the discourses of sexual duty and sexual pleasure that inform the gossip, particularly because gossip functions as a strategy for ensuring the normativity of the family drama, a strategy aligned with a Freudian interpretation. By demonstrating how discourses of sexuality function in the novel, I hope to show first how characters are produced in and through them, and second how repression underlies the production of discourse. In this formulation, a Foucauldian incitement to discourse can be envisioned as working alongside Freudian repression, produced by and ultimately symptomatic of it, rather than displacing it alt ogether. I will how the incitement to discourse functions in the novel, and finally by reframing Where for Freud subj ectivity emerges only through repression and the splitting of consciousness and the unconscious, for Foucault modern subjectivity is an historical effect produced only in and through discourse including, among others, the discourse of psychoanalysis. Repre ssion and the Oedipus complex are nothing more nor less than


23 doing, psychoanalysis also functions to discipline the subject it helps to produce. he contends, psychoanalysis took over from the pastoral work of the Catholic Church. Because the incitement to discourse is easily recognized, Foucault wonders Why do we say, with so much passion and so muc h resentment, against our most recent past, against our present, and against ourselves, that we are repressed? By what spiral did we come to affirm that sex is negated? What led us to show, ostentatiously, that sex is something we hid to say it is something we silence? (9) For Foucault, through the incitement to discourse the psychoanalytic subject is perpetually solicited to talk about and so rediscover the supposedly hidden secret of his sexuality, just as the subject of pastoral c are had once been enjoined to confess his secrets in the confessional. The History of Sexuality thus recontextualizes Freudian theory as but one (very prominent) example of how the production and circulation of knowledges -legal, medical, religious, and so on constitute the distinctly decentralized form in which power operates in the modern world. Foucault does not privilege a discourse of sexuality over other discourses; he ries of of sexuality merits special consideration because through it institutions like religion, psychoanalysis, and medicine produce and exercise power through th e incitement to discourse, that is, the


24 nearly infinite task of telling telling oneself and an other, as often as possible, everything that might concern the interplay of innume rable pleasures, sensations, and thoughts which, through the body and t h e soul, had some affinity with o nly will you confess to acts contravening the law, but you will seek to trans form your desire, your every desire into discourse. (20 21) In The Edwardians a Foucauldian incit ement to discourse is played out chiefly in the form of gossip about sexual affairs ; however, this incitement functions as a symptom repression rather than a displacement Like a microcosm of Foucauldian disciplinary society, the characters in The Edwardi ans speak of sex all the time while simultaneously making it the secret. Gossip is the form the discourse of sexuality takes in the novel, especially gossip about the affair gossiping about the affair but to what purpose? According to the narrator, gossip is functions to include the privileged and mark the unprivileged; in doing so, it becomes a strategy for producing power. This power, in turn, circulates differently according to the knowledges with which it is associated; within the world of The Edwardians the production of power knowledge is overtly tied to the class identity of the characters.


25 Different strategies, with different effects, inform the discourses of the aristocracy and the servants. For the aristocracy, gossip functions as a closed but intense circuit of specialized communication rigorously governed by an unspoken the closed circle of their own set, anybody might do as they pleased, but no scandal must leak out to the uninitiated. Appearances must be respected, though morals might be the individual pursuit of pleasure is of high value, the avoidance of public humiliation is of even higher value. Power circulates among those who know about the affair; of equal importance is the ability to gossip about the affair discreetly. For example, Lucy and Sylvia discuss the sexual relationship made between the friends as outsider. He discovers the affair only after receiving a packet of love letters written by Sebastian to Sylvia, which were delivered to him anonymously. He then decides that He must first accustom himself to several truths: t hat Sylvia was unfaithful to him; that she had probably been unfaith ful to hi m before; that at least one person the sender of the letters knew it. (It w as not until the middle of the night that it dawned upon him that prob ably everybody knew it, had always known it, except himself. He remembered a joke to that effect, in a Flers et Caillavet play in Paris; the audie nce had


26 laughed, and Romola Cheyne, who was with them, seeing him look puzzled, for his French was limited, has translated it for him; kind of her to b other, he had thought at the time; but now he wondered. (153 54 ) The most difficult part for George is not that Sylvia was unfaithful to him, but that the discourse surrounding the affair, because it forc es him to recognize himself as the nave outsider. This same effect is observed as a result of the Caillavet play which him in on the joke, in reality she was hinting abo once again, he must acknowledge his exclusion. The power between the pursuit of sexual pleasure and the avoidance of public humiliation. A different set of concer consideration of the matter two entire but conflicting systems of opinion, the one learnt in youth in a home decently regardful of the moral virtues, the other acquired through years of exp erience in an atmosphere where self servants see their role as one of discreet collusion in these indulgences, but they have c might look forward to a wedding in the chapel and eventually though Mrs. Wickenden was far too much refined to say so serv ants share her sentiments:


27 lts were constant factors at the back of the minds of all the feminine populatio n of Chevron. Miss Wace, Mrs. Wickenden, the housemaids, the scullery maids, th e st ill room maid, the launderesses, and the wives of the men servants all looked forward secretly and lasciviously to the day when his ent should be announced. The essential secretiveness of their anticipation did not deter them f rom o pen discussion. (202) The gossip of the Chevron servants i s overtly focused on marriage and procreation, a normative discourse of sexual duty, rather than sexual pleasure. However, pleasure is also found in gossip which breaks from the discourse of sexual duty, and suggests a violation of social codes, as when Mrs. Wickenden and her sister in law delight in disc he pleasure of this moment arises Miss Wace are superior to the other servants because they know about the sexual liaison nden, certainly, were better advised, and derived a dangerous but agreeable titillation from their knowledge of were into the goings P ower in the world of the Chevron servants, therefore, is produced through knowledge, specificall y knowledge of sexual affairs. Therefore, u tmost care must necessarily be taken when choosing an appropriate gossip partner. In the case of Mrs. Wickenden, she


28 105). Rather, Mrs. Wickenden must only gossip with someone who possesses similarly privileged knowledge: her sister in gh not now of the house, she had once been of it, and had its workings at her fi nger tips; moreover, she was allied through marriage and followed every event, lar ge and small with a faithful an d passionate interest; finally, her discretion in th e outside world was assured. She just allowed it to be known that no secret of C hevron was hid from her; but she never went further than that. (105) In choosing gossip partners, the servants of Chevron tend to gravitate toward someone similar in position and similar in knowledge, to themselves: Mrs. Wickenden to her sister in law, and the lower servants to each other. However, the discourses of the servants and the aristocracy are not divided b y a strict boundary. Instead, they circulate alongside each other, a process signified in this e. W hen Lucy gossips with her, she point edly mock s Miss Wace about her perspective on marriage and procreatio n: I know you like that sort of thing. The procreation of children and all that. A wedding is nothing but an excuse for indulging in indecency under respectable know perfectly well that you would like to see a nursery at Chevron full of ren. You know that


29 wedding in the chapel, you will be thinking of the nursery all the time. (201) In this mocking, the normative discourse of sexual duty is sub sumed into the discourse of marriage and procreation. The circulation of discourses among the aristocracy and the servants illustrates erywhere; not because it embraces everything, but from the aristocratic masters to the servants, but is rather produced through discourse that circulates among the two grou ps. Chevron is a feudal estate that depends, for its continued existence, on the birth of a male heir; therefore, the preoccupation with normative sexual behavior (in the form of marriage and procreation), as well as with transgressive sexual behavior (in the form of illicit sexual affairs) is both everpresent and crucially important, for masters and servants alike. In the world of The Edwardians the incitement to discourse takes the form of a constant circulation of gossip, producing power through access to privileged sexual knowledge, separating t he initiated from the unitiated, and ensuring the normativity of the family drama. Although these circulating discourses serve to reinforce both sexual duty and sexual pleasure, the emergence of an opposite str ategy represented by Anquetil, is also present in The Edw ardians To Sebastian, h e signifies a discourse of freedom from marriage, procreation, and tradition; more importantly, signifies the possibility of his freedom from al liances with women generally. As Foucault observes


30 We must make allowance for the complex an d unstable process whereby discourse can be both an instrument and an effect of power, but also a hindrance, a stumbling block, a point of resistance and a st arting point for an opposing strategy. Discourse transmits and produces power; it reinfo rces it, but also undermines and exposes it, renders it fragile and mak es it possible to thwart it. (101) As discussed previously, the homoerotic tension b etween Sebastian and Anquetil is evident in the narrative; from a Foucauldian perspective it offers a counter strategy against heteronormativity Yet Sebastian initially rejects the sexual knowledge Anquetil offers him, choosing instead to pursue his burg eoning affair with Sylvia. Anquetil respond s to this rejection antagonistically the ghastly sameness which attends all Sebastian is laden with disdain for his conventional choices. By the end of the novel, Sebastian, weary from the dissatisfaction of his sexual affairs, has almost succumbed to the discourse of sexual duty. H e resolves to marry satisfy Society, his mother, and the ghosts of his ancestors who had stood where he was Immediately after deciding to ask Alice to marry him, however, he sees Anquetil ; this


31 of heteronormativity, has been, in the words of Foucault, undermined, exposed, rendered fragile. ncitement to discourse and corollary counter strategies provoke a reading of the novel that is consistent with a decentral ized form of power production: c haracters in The Edwardians talk about sex all the time, and this rampant talk can legitimately be see n as part of the discourse of power knowledge. However, in a Freudian reinterpretation of Foucault, th is incitement to discourse may be seen as working alongside, not instead of, repression it coexists with and is reinforced by the effects of repression. A of sexuality does not negate its production, but that the former crucially contributes to the interpretati on would argue that the incitement to discourse is not just a sign, but a symptom, of repression. Take, for example, the servants gossiping about their hopes of a wedding for Sebastian: The housemaids, scullery maids, and launderesses chattered amongs t themselves, unaware that each one of them projected herself into the her own; stood before the chapel alter and the while lilies in the great golden pots; imagined her self in a first class carriage alone with Sebastian, en route for Spain or Egypt; lived through the intoxicating strangeness of the first night in the Paris Ritz. Any one of the housemaids, scullery maids, or launderesses would have been sincerel y and properly shocked by any suggestion of the kind. Their visions were all of a


32 young lady, fair, innocent, and well bred, who, shyly yielding to his consequences of her 203) marriage and procreation. Yet they unconsciously project themselves into the role of er, because the locus of Their gossip erupts as the manifest content of unconscious phantasy. In this sense, t he discourse of marriage is merely overlaid upon unconscious sexual desire; the presence of discourse does not signal the absence of repression, but functions as a symptom of it. This explanation holds true for Sebastian as well. By demon strating in this section how discourses of sexuality circulate around Sebastian, I am suggesting that he is produced in and through them. Furthermore, may be accounted for as an effect of the incitement to di scourse. Yet it is also possible to reframe this Foucauldian approach by asking what produces the incitement? From a Freudian perspective, repression produces the incitement. But not only is incitement produced by repression; it also functions symptomatica lly, in that th e sexual discourses, as well as the sexual affairs, in The Edwardians are compulsivel y and repetitively carried out. This formulation depends upon a reconsideration of F ill explore in the next section.


33 Afterword : Freud w ith Foucault By arguing that the incitement to discourse is not only compatible with, but necessarily reliant upon repression, I am attempting to develop a rapprochement between Freud and Foucau ostensibly a treatise on the deployment of sexuality, The History of Sexuality also functions as an assault on the theory of repression. Because Freud identified repression as stone on which the whole structure of psycho analysis ( History 16) However, Foucault rarely addresses either Freud or psychoanalysis explicitly; his study proceeds more as an implicit (but powerful) undermining, rather than an overt argument. 15 When he does overtly address either Freud or psychoanalysis, his comments reflect a certain ambivalence. normalizing the perversion heredity t or overt references to psychoanalysis The History of Sexuality proceeds as a fierce critique if not an outright attack 15 Here I echo Joel Whitebook, who observes tha repressive hypothesis is clearly Freud, psychoanalytic texts are rarely discussed and Freud is hardly ).


34 Although pointedly focuses his critique on the d iscipline of psychoanalysis, there are two distinctions to be made between Freud and Foucault employed the term in significa ntly different ways in the context of these two categories. Definitions Foucault equates repression with non productivity, silence, and censorship (17). e to disappear, but also as an injunction to silence, an affirmation of nonexi stence, and, by implication, an admission that there was nothing to say about such the term w ith silence, what he calls repression would be more accurately labeled societal impositions or restrictions, or more simply, censorship (exercised through both social psych oanalytic definition, in that repression is only superficially aligned with silence Freud uses the term to refer to the psychic function of relegating unacceptable desires to the unconscious, but those desires are not silenced so much as disguised: they resurface, though transformed, in the images of dreams, the production of sublimation, and the symptomology of neurosis. 16 productive repression By drawing on this conceptualization, repres sion may be reg arded as an u nconscious source of incitement or to reverse this formulation: incitement is a 16 Introductory Lectures on Psycho Analysis


35 symptom of repression. This claim necessitates an elucidation of the different functions that Foucault and Freud ascribe to repression. Functions the notion that power functions in an oppressive, top/down manner: we are not silenced or censored (repressed, in his usage) from above; rather, we are incited and solicited by circulating discourses. We must acknowledge, he says, that in regard to sex, we are not th Central to this approach is the understanding that Foucault does not ask us to deny the existence of repression (censorship) altogether; rather, we are meant to regard i t as simply an effect of discourse (27) Alternatively, for Freud, repression functions as th e foundation of subjectivity It is precisely this function which Foucault seeks to undermine in his assertion that we truth of that truth about ourselves, which we that is accessible only through an excavation of unconscious sexual desire. He asse rts that stated theme, that sex is outside of discourse and that only the removing of an obstacle, the breaking of a secret, can clear the against the possi bility of a hidden truth outside discourse; he overtly ties this discussion


36 to the Christian pastoral (35) but the discipline of psychoanalysis is clearly indicted as well. Rapprochement d as compatible with, rather than adversarial to, psychoanalysis. 17 The logic behind his protest is indisputable: in the midst of a ceaseless incitement to discourse, how could we ever believe that we are censored? convincing argument against the model of a society characterized by a centralized production of power However, this insight does not necessarily preclude the experience of repression as formulated by psychoanalysis. I am not, therefore, calling into ques tion overall project, which is to explore the relationship between power and the deployment of and to subsequently argue that we cannot be repressed if we are constantly incited to participate in the discourse of sexuality, is to blur the theoretical boundaries between the concepts of repression and censorship, which should remain distinct. Even Fo ucault acknowledges that his equation sometimes spoke, as though I were dealing with equivalent notions, of repression and sometimes of law of prohibition and censorship Through stubbornness or neglect, I Foucault justifies his strategy by arguing that repression and censorship both rely on a 17 Other critics have noted this potential compatibility as well. See, for example, Mauro Basaure, Teresa de Lauretis, Daniel Dervin, Suzanne Gearheart and Joel Whitebook


37 commo wh ile allowing that there are distinctions b etween them, he claims that their similarity is of more importance. Conversely, I would argue that the distinctions are mor e important than the similarity. Desire is repressed through the internalized representati ve of authority (the super ego), and this process is carried out unconsciously. Censorship, however, does not denote an unconscious process, and it also functions as an externalized, not an internalized, force. Although Freudian repression is not overtly a ddressed in The History of Sexuality its existence, from a Foucauldian perspective, is necessarily an impossibility: if there is no subject, except as constituted through discourse, then how could there exist a repression which functions as the site of su project, therefore, proceeds from the fundamental denial of the core principle underlying Foucault points to the incitement to discourse as eviden ce for the nonexistence of Freudian repression. I want to reframe his characterization by asking what produces the incitement? What is its source? This approach is clearly anti Foucauldian, falling in line as it does with a Freudian assumption of a subject with a uncovered. From this perspective, the incitement to discourse is the manifest content: it is The source of incitement, then, is repress the form of an incitement to discourse, is a compulsive, repetitive behavior which functions (albeit counter intuitively) as a symptom of repressed sexuality. erent concepts,


38 regarding subjectivity. A Freudian interpretation must necessarily insist on the reality of repressed sexuality as the locus of subjectivity; however, onc e constituted as such, the subject may be plausibly construed as continually elabor ated through the circulation of discourses of power This approach is, in fact, exactly how I read Sebastian in The Edwardians : a subject forged at the site of repressed sex uality, but simultaneously incited through circulating power discourses that, in turn, ensure the normativity of the family drama which, in itself, is the source of repression. This circular formulation represents one way of understanding the seemingly con tradictory, but potentially complementary theoretical paradigms developed by Freud and Foucault Moreover, b y showing how the incitement to discourse functions as a symptom of repression in Vita Sackville The Edwardians I have tried to suggest a w ay of reading both the novel and modern culture more generally


39 Bibliography Abel, Elizabeth. Virginia Woolf and the Fictions of Psychoanalysis Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1989. Print. Oedipus Movement Psychoanalysis as Disciplinary Power 20.3 (2009): 340 59. Academic Search Premier Web. 19 June 2010. West, Violet Trefusis, and Virginia Twentieth Century L iterature 50.2 (2004): 141 66. EBSCO Web. 8 Dec. 2010. ce in Vita Sackville The Edwardians Critical Survey 19.1 (2007): 73 83. Gale Cengage Literature Resource Center Web. 22 April 2010. The Land Modern Language Studies 45.1 (2009) : 19 31. Oxford Journals Online Web. 22 Jan. 2011. Angelaki 13.2 (2 008): 45 57. EBSCO Web. 8 Jan. 2011. Dean, Tim, and Christopher Lane, eds. Homosexuality and Psychoanalysis Chicago: U of Chicago P, 2001. Print.


40 Critical Inquiry 24.4 (1998): 851 77. JSTOR Web. 22 April 2010. Enactments: American Modes of Psychohistorical Models Cranbury, NJ : Fai rleigh Dickinson UP, 1996. 213 22. Print. ing the Ca ve: The Relationship b etween Vita Sackville West and Signs 8.2 (1982): 195 214. JSTOR Web. 21 Jan. 2011. Dollimore, Jonathan. Sexual Dissidence: Augustine to Wilde, Freud to Foucault New York: Oxford UP, 1991. Print. Foucault, Michel The History of Sexuality. Vol. 1. Trans. Robert Hurley. New York : Pantheon, 1978. Print. Paranoia and (1922). Sexuality and the Psychology of Love Ed. Philip R ieff. Trans. Joa n Riviere. New York: Touchstone, 1997. Print. --. Civilization and Its Discontents. 1930. Trans. and Ed. James Strachey. New York: W.W. Norton, 1961. Print. --. Introductory Lectures on Psycho Analysis. 1917. Trans. and Ed. James Strachey. New York : W.W. Norton, 1966. Print. --. On the History of the Psycho analytic Movement 1916. Ed. James Strachey. Trans Joan Riviere. New York: W.W. Norton, 1967. Print. --General Psychological Theory Ed. Phillip Rieff. Trans. Cecil M. B aines. New York: Touchstone, 1997. Print.


41 --S exuality and the Psychology of Love Ed. Philip Rieff. Trans. Joan Riviere. New York: Touchstone, 1997. Print. --. Three Essays on the Theory of Sexua lity 1905. Ed. and Trans. James Strachey. New York : Basic Books, 2000. Print. A Concise Companion to Modernism Ed. David Bradshaw. Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2003. 116 37. Prin t. masochi sm and the Aestheticization of Style 29.3 (1995): 389 442. Literature Online Web. 22 April 2010. Glendinning, Victoria. VITA: The Life of V. Sackville West New York: Knopf, 1983. Print. Hussey, Mark. Virginia Woolf A to Z: A Comprehensive Reference for Students, Teachers, and Common Readers to Her Life, Work, and Critical Reception New York: Facts on File, 1995. Print. The Edwardians and Told by an Idiot Modern Fiction Studies 2:2 (1956): 63 67. Chadwyck PAO Web. 23 Jan. 2011. The Homosexual Revival of Renaissance Style, 1850 1930 Basingstoke, England : Palgrave Macmillan, 2009. Google Books Web. 21 Jan. 2011. Journal of Modern Literature 28.1 (2004): 124 37. EBSCO Web. 21 Jan. 2011.


42 olf, Vita Sackville West, and the Question of Sexual Woolf Studies Annual 2 (1996): 18 40. Print. Lewes, Kenneth. The Psychoanalytic Theory of Male Homosexuality New York: Simon and Schuster, 1988. Print. oked at Vita, What Did She See; Or, Lesbian: Feminist: Woman Feminist Studies 18.1 (1992): 99 117. EBSCO Web. 21 Jan. 2011. Georgics Classical and Modern Lit erature 24.1 (2004): 1 22. Wilson Omnifile FullText Mega Edition Web. 22 Jan. 2011. Nicolson, Nigel. Portrait of a Marriage New York: Atheneum, 1973. Print. Raitt, Suzanne. Vita and Virginia: The Work and Friendship of V. Sackville West and Virginia Woolf. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1993. Print. Sackville West, Vita. The Edwardians 1930. London: Virago, 2008. Print. --. The Letters of Vita Sackville West to Virginia Woolf Eds. Louise DeSalvo and Mitchell A. Leaska. New York: Morrow, 1985. Print. Smith, V Orlando Journal of Modern Literature 29.4 (2006): 57 75. EBSCO Web. 21 Jan. 2011. Sproles, Karen Z. Desiring Women: The Partnership of Virginia Woolf and Vita Sack ville West Toronto: U of Toronto P, 2006. Print. Stevens, Michael. V. Sackville West: A Critical Biography New York : Charles Sons, 1974. Print.


43 Trautmann, Joanne. The Jessamy Brides: The Friendship of Virginia Woolf and V. Sackville West. U niversity Park: Pennsylvania State UP 1973. Print. Saint Joan of Arc and Three Guineas Virginia Woolf Miscellany 69 (2006): 7 8. Web. 25 Jan. 2011. Philosophy and Social Criticism 25.6 (1999): 29 66. Academic Search Premier Web. 22 April 2010. National Identity in Virginia Woo lf and Vita Sackville Woolf in the Real World: Selected Papers from the Thirteenth International Conference on Virginia Woolf E d. Karen V. Kukil. Clemson: Clemson University Digital Press, 100 104. Print.



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ABSTRACT: Vita Sackville-West's autobiographical novel The Edwardians lends itself to a double reading: both Freudian and Foucauldian. The Freudian conflict between desire and prohibition plays out in the unresolved Oedipus complex of its protagonist Sebastian, son of the Duchess of Chevron; repression drives Sebastian's behavior in all his relationships. The novel also depicts an upper-class Edwardian society incited to discourse in a Foucauldian sense--a society in which sexual gossip functions as a discourse of power. From a psychoanalytic perspective, this incitement is produced by repression, and functions as a symptom of it. The relationship between repression and incitement suggests the possibility of a theoretical rapprochement between Freud and Foucault.
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