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By Carolyn Dever

Victorian tradition is legendary for its idealization of moms and households, but the preferred novels of this era usually characteristic moms who're useless or in a different way absent. via an research of the paintings of Dickens, Collins, Eliot, Darwin and Woolf, Carolyn Dever discusses this obvious paradox. She indicates how the idealized useless mom is prime to the Victorians' concept of origins, and later turns into the valuable determine of Freudian psychoanalysis. Dever demonstrates that Victorian literature and psychoanalysis have a lot to coach us approximately one another.

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Extra info for Death and the mother from Dickens to Freud: Victorian fiction and the anxiety of origins

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Freud and the Loss of the Mother In his 1926 essay Inhibitions, Symptoms, and Anxiety, Freud argues that the etiology of all anxiety is traceable to the loss of the original object, the mother: Only a few manifestations of anxiety in children are comprehensible to us, and we must confine our attention to them. They occur, for instance, when a child is alone, or in the dark, or when it finds itself with an unknown person instead of one to whom it is used such as its mother. These three instances can be reduced to a single condition namely, that of missing someone who is loved and longed for.

Emblematized in Sterne's A Sentimental Journey (1768), and drawing a political and philosophical vocabulary from Locke and Shaftesbury, Hume and Rousseau, novels of sensibility codify an extremity of emotional response both within and to the novel. Patterning themselves after the conspicuous display of emotion that follows Clarissa Harlowe's death, such texts construct moral virtue as a by-product of deep feeling, an ethic that will be translated in the mid-nineteenth century into the rhetorical conflation of death, virtue, and emotion.

The distance between this Mrs. Marjoribanks and her predecessor is measured in the fact that Lucilla's mother lay on the sofa for years prior to her expiration; the daughter's first act is to reupholster that sofa in a flattering shade of green. The representational issues surrounding maternity in the nineteenth century are at once complicated and paradoxical; the extremes of public and private, chaste and erotic, ideal and embodied meet in a single figure, while there remains an enormous investment in keeping them separate.

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