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Unsubstantial Territories: Nomadic Subjectivity as Criticism of Psychoanalysis in Virginia Woolf's The Waves
Stockholm University, Faculty of Humanities, Department of English.
2019 (English)Independent thesis Basic level (degree of Bachelor), 10 credits / 15 HE creditsStudent thesis
Abstract [en]

This essay looks at subjectivity in Virginia Woolf’s The Waves employing a psychoanalytic approach and using the theories of Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari. Woolf’s relation to the theories of her contemporary Sigmund Freud was unclear. Psychoanalytic scholarship on Woolf’s writings, nevertheless, established itself in 1980’s as a dominant scholarly topic and has been growing since. However, the rigidity and medicalizing discourse of psychoanalysis make it poorly compatible with Woolf’s feminist, anti-individualist writing. This essay is a reading of The Waves, in which psychoanalytic theory is infused with a Deleuzo-Guattarian approach. The theories of psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan, and especially his concept of the Other, together with Rosi Braidotti’s concept of nomadic subjectivity, are used as relevant tools for thinking about subjectivity in the context of The Waves. The resultant reading is a criticism of psychoanalysis. In this reading, two characters are looked at in detail: Percival and Bernard. Percival emerges as the Lacanian Other, who, situated at the central nexus of power, symbolises the tyrannies of individuality and masculinity. Simultaneously, Percival is detached from the metaphysical world of the novel. His death marks a shift from oppressive individuality towards nomadic subjectivity. For Bernard, nomadic subjectivity is a flight from the dead and stagnating centre towards periphery, where new ethics can be negotiated. The essay concludes with the implications of such reading: the affirmation of nomadic subjectivity makes the Deleuzo-Guattarian approach more relevant in the context of Woolf, whereas psychoanalytic striving towards structure, dualism, and focus on pathology are rejected as incompatible with her texts.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2019. , p. 22
Keywords [en]
Virginia Woolf, The Waves, Jacques Lacan, Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, Rosi Braidotti, psychoanalysis, subjectivity, nomadic subjectivity
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URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-165313OAI: oai:DiVA.org:su-165313DiVA, id: diva2:1282078
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Available from: 2019-03-04 Created: 2019-01-24 Last updated: 2019-03-04Bibliographically approved

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CiteExportLink to record
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Citation style
  • apa
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  • Other locale
More languages
Output format
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