Vampires and ape men : a Lacanian reading of British fantasy fiction, 1886-1914
This thesis offers a close reading from the perspective of Lacanian psychoanalysis of a selection of literary texts published in Britain in the thirty years leading to the outbreak of the First World War in 1914. These works, belonging to different genres – science fiction, gothic and the adventure or quest – are loosely categorized as ‘fantasy’ literature as opposed to the realistic novel or short story. My contention is that it is only in conjunction with a consideration of Jacques Lacan’s ‘return to Freud’, that is, his re-examination of the texts of Sigmund Freud, and the work of contemporary theorists writing in Lacan’s wake, such as Slavoj Žižek and Mladen Dolar, that the significance of the fanciful plots and devices appearing in the texts emerges. \ud \ud My starting point is the resemblance which the plot of each of these works bears to that of Freud’s Totem and Taboo, published in 1913, which tells of the killing of a primal father. What might be labelled as the return of the primal father, a violent and obscene figure who must be killed again (whereas for Freud this was a unique event which occurred at the beginning of human time), appears in a period when ‘modern’ Britain is coming into a being, that is, an industrialized, urbanized, literate democracy. It can be seen that the re-appearance of this evil primal father figure follows the demise of traditional forms of authority of the agrarian society, that of the ‘everyday’ father, the aristocracy and the church, and concurrently, the increasing dominance of scientific discourse and technology. In this and in further ways which will be discussed in the thesis, the texts bring to light the function of apparently obsolete symbolic frameworks and the corresponding deficiency in modern paradigms of knowledge, in particular, the blind spots of science. This reading thereby diverges sharply from those typical of existing literary criticism in that as opposed to being read in terms of and pertaining to the reconstructed context of a past era, the texts are seen as unfolding common concerns in regard to the modernisation of Britain, thus rendering them still relevant today.