Femininity, Narrative and Psychoanalysis

Juliet Mitchell, in her essay, “Femininity, Narrative and Psychoanalysis”, describes the progression of women as writers and analyzes the use of femininity within narrative.  First she explains the role of psychoanalysis on narrative through a feminist reading; and also describes what impact this type of analysis has on a literary text.  She brings up the idea of the analyst “changing” or retelling histories, and the history she is dealing with most in her essay is: “that preeminent form of literary narrative, the novel.”  More importantly, however, she is dealing with novels by woman — and in her essay, mainly with Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights.  But she leaves her comment on this literary work until after establishing the history of the woman novelist in that time.  She says that the novel is one of the ways “women started to create themselves as social subjects under bourgeois capitalism — create themselves as a category: women.”  She says that the woman’s discourse is that of the hysteric, which she says is, “the woman’s simultaneous acceptance and refusal of the organisation of sexuality under patriarchal capitalism.”  She goes on to say, “It’s both simultaneously the woman novelist’s refusal of the woman’s world — she is, after all, a novelist — and her construction from within a masculine world of that woman’s world.  It touches on both.  It touches, therefore, on the importance of bisexuality.”  This is one of the key points in her essay, this idea of the novel — written by women — being simultaneously feminine and masculine:  the strive for the female author to relate to the patriarchal society and yet still keep a feminine sexuality.  Mitchell then explores the idea of “bisexuality”, taken in this instance metaphorically, within Wuthering Heights.

The question that I have about this idea of the female’s strive to disconnect herself from the feminine but also being permanently tied to it is weather or not this “hysteric” discourse is is used as much in, what we would consider, modern literature.  I would argue the flip side of this coin that modern male authors are declining the masculine role in narrative and picking up a feminist role.  There are more examples of an Oedipus complex in modern male literature than there were in, say, the seventeenth century — an era where women were trying to adhere to the patriarchal society and men  were ruling the narrative.  But in recent years, one could say that a shit has been made:  Women writers are taking back their sexuality within literature and men are also doing the same.


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