NABOKV-L post 0018595, Wed, 23 Sep 2009 13:57:56 -0300

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Re: [Query] [THOUGHT] E.Wilson, Freud, Nabokov
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Off-List, James Twiggs observed, qua E.Wilson's "The Ambiguity of Henry James" ("The Triple Thinkers", Penguin, 1962) in relation to JM's
query: [I always felt that Nabokov's rejection of Freud was too repeated, emotional and emphatic, but I was unable to place his off-key mood...Nabokov might have been acquainted with "Wilson's Freud", beside his own reading experience.This might explain the special "strain" in VN's mockery and rejection of the Viennese...?] that:
"Although--as I think you'll agree--it contains the elements of Freudianism that VN objected to, the essay contains much else besides. It's a very rich piece of work, in my opinion, and one that has justly provoked much high-level discussion over the course of the last 70 or so years. Here's a link to a full-blown treatment of the essay and some of its critics: http://turnofthescrew.com/ch3.htm "

JM: After reading Wilson's essay, and Edward J. Parkinson's criticism, I realized the need to modulate my query concerning "Wilson's Freud" and Nabokov, without actually rejecting my initial questioning. I was disappointed, at first, when I realized that Wilson's approach was not original, since his assertion that "the young governess who tells the story is a neurotic case of sex repression, and the ghosts are not real ghosts at all but merely the governess's hallucinations," derived from duly acknowledged Edna Quenton's non-appartionist arguments, published ten years earlier. E.J.Parkinson argues, though, that Wilson's article "begins a new chapter in the history of the criticism of The Turn of the Screw...because of Wilson's overwhelming stature as a literary scholar and critic."
Later, when Wilson expanded his sociological perspective I began to understand the importance of his article in a more ample way.

We find in it, at first, two interesting points to relate to VN ( I'm keeping Pale Fire in mind in particular):
(a)departing from James's ambiguity in his short-story, through Wilson, we reach an "apparitionist/non-apparitionist debate" and
(b) we meet the use of a psychoanalytic perspective to argue against the "appartionist" hypothesis.
There are also discrete hints at pedophilia (on the part of the valet towards Miles and on the part of the new governess toward her little charge)

E.J.Parkinson, on Wilson's essay , notes that its "most outstanding features...lie in his masterful relation of this novella to the rest of the Jamesian canon -- a discussion in which The Turn of the Screw as interpreted by Wilson sheds considerable light on other Jamesian fiction and is itself elucidated by Wilson's insightful analyses of other works in the canon -- and his brilliant relation of other biographical material to the chronology of James's literary productions via a deeper understanding of the creative and other psychlogical processes of the man who wrote them. And, in so doing, Wilson has opened at least two doors to a fusion of Freudian and Marxist insights." Wilson, following EJP, considers the "connections between her (the governess's) personal problems and the structure of the society in which she finds herself." and in this way he has "opened a door to a greater awareness of sociological considerations when evaluating reader responses."

Although it is possible that a critic will "lose sight of literary values or becomes a mere sociological or psychlogical reporoter of what some people like and why," E.J.Parkinson concludes that these were not Wilson's failings, for he is "an excelllent example of the first type of psychoanalytic criticism ( the one which primarily seeks to understand the author) ...he is always concerned with the author as author of the literary works under discussion --i.e, with the author's persona projected in the text and thus, Wilson always remains a critic, never becoming a mere psychohistorian of a famous man. The psychological processes of James are important to Wilson because they are reflected in the psychology of his fictional characters and thus help us to understand the literary works and their effects on the readers." Wilson also opened the way for regular psychoanalytic hypotheses, such as M.Katan's, Goddard's or Cole's. A rich assortment of other evaluations can be acessed through the link J.Twiggs provided, which also demonstrate his conclusion about Wilson's essay when he wrote that, although "it contains the elements of Freudianism that VN objected to, the essay contains much else besides."

Considering VN's emphasis about the distance bt. his own views or personal traits and those in his characters (ousted from his literary cathedral, like spouting gargoyles), his cultivated privacy and isolation, his vision of art (almost fitting into "ars gratia artis"), along with his rejection of Freudian theories or sociological extensions into art, VN's friend's article may indicate specific points of tension which might have made themselves felt in his works, such as in PF: real apparitions versus hallucinations, caused by repressed impulses in Hazel? Kinbote's effervescent putti and homosexual affairs versus Shade's marital love too explicit eulogies? My lack of experience with Russian and with the American way of life and language doesn't allow me to consistently probe further.

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