The narrative push

Sara Haslam

in Fragmenting Modernism

Published by Manchester University Press

Published in print October 2009 | ISBN: 9780719060557
Published online July 2012 | e-ISBN: 9781781700099 | DOI:
The narrative push

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This chapter explores the relationship between fragmentation, repression and writing, focusing on some of the less-obvious contributing factors for Ford Madox Ford's first volume of autobiography, Ancient Lights. It describes Sigmund Freud as ‘at least emblematic’ of modernism, and pursues the idea of a relationship between psychoanalysis and modernist literary subject matter and techniques. The attempt to recognise gaps between parts of the self is powerfully resonant in the early modernist era: ‘For both Henry James and Fyodor Dostoevsky, reality lay in human consciousness and the fathomless workings of the mind’. We know from James's ‘Chamber of Consciousness’, in which suspends the spider-web of experience ‘catching every air-borne particle’, that consciousness alone manifests multiple and distinct strands. Psychoanalysis emerged as simply ‘a psychology that emphasised the unconscious mind’, rather than its conscious counterpart. Freud writes on the experience of the closeness of death in war as a unification of the civilised man with the primitive urge to kill – now he can, and with impunity.

Keywords: Ford Madox Ford; autobiography; Ancient Lights; fragmentation; repression; writing; Sigmund Freud; psychoanalysis; psychology; war

Chapter.  9229 words. 

Subjects: Literary Studies (20th Century onwards)

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