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Elegiac Fictions

The Motif of the Unlived Life

By (author) Edward Engelberg
Format: Hardback
Publisher: Pennsylvania State University Press, Pennsylvania, United States
Published: 1st Oct 1990
Dimensions: w 152mm h 229mm d 21mm
Weight: 658g
ISBN-10: 0271006579
ISBN-13: 9780271006574
Barcode No: 9780271006574
In dealing with the motif of the "unlived life," Edward Engelberg explores an important and hitherto neglected chapter in the history of modern thought. He analyzes literary works chiefly from the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries novels, short stories, and some plays - within the context of a number of psychological and philosophical concepts to sustain his argument.Engelberg's premise is that in this period we begin to see what he calls the "elegizing of the self" that is, mourning over one's shortcomings, failures, disappointments in short, the "unlived life," the perception that the hero or heroine has missed the opportunities of living, that it is now "too late" to achieve what has become known today as "self-actualization." Engelberg also analyzes how the motif was acted out and what "symptoms" accompanied its expression. To this end he makes use of Freud's essays "Mourning and Melancholia" and "On Narcissism," as well as the idea of "narcissistic rage" advanced by Heinz Kohut. In addition, he draws upon Schopenhauer's "pessimism," Nietzsche's conception of "history," and Max Scheler's theory of "ressentiment."This study, then, identifies a special state of mind: the "elegiac" cries of despair that emanate from a wide variety of fictional personae. There are no simple answers as to why these feelings were expressed so frequently and passionately from the Romantics onward, but one cause is surely the double-edged effect of the emergence of the "autonomous self." With "autonomy" came anxiety, fear, and a feeling of impotence. And these states in turn generated a variety of reactions: self-images of "superfluousness," expressions of "narcissistic rage," and states of "mourning and melancholia."The book will interest a variety of constituencies beyond the literary establishment: psychologists, intellectual historians, philosophers in short, all who are interested in cultural phenomena and their literary expression."

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