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Intersubjectivity in the Fiction of Doris Lessing

HUNG, SHU-MING (2012) Intersubjectivity in the Fiction of Doris Lessing. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.

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In this thesis, I will be examining selective works by the novelist Doris Lessing. The aim of the thesis is to examine Lessing’s oeuvre by approaching her fiction as an attempt to understand the subject as an effect of intersubjectivity. The thesis approaches the question of intersubjectivity through a broadly psychoanalytic framework, not only engaging with Lessing’s own particular interests in psychoanalysis, but also standing back and reframing her work through approaches to intersubjectivity available in work by Freud and Jung, Klein, and object relational and existential dynamic psychologies. The thesis will, throughout, endeavour to situate psychoanalytic approaches in specifically historical and political contexts, also drawing on phenomenology to examine Lessing’s depiction of a transcendental mode of experience which is reached through an ongoing evolutionary consciousness. Her dialectical positioning of the subject reveals a restless struggle towards a conciliation between self and others.

The thesis reflects a trajectory of Lessing’s work from her earlier African novels to later writing, The Fifth Child and Ben, in the World. The thesis begins by examining the structure of the family and mother-daughter relationships in the context of the historically specific political milieu of post-war apartheid in South Africa; it ends by examining the question of the availability of an ethics of care in Thatcherite Britain as reflected in the Ben novels. Melanie Klein’s work and the later object-relations theory influenced by it, are adopted to provide a frame through which to try to illuminate Lessing’s concern with the possibility of motivating positive interactions between self and others, and as an alternative to the tragic liberal view of the self as an anxious isolate proposed by Freud. In each chapter, the thesis focuses on the variety of Lessing’s formal experiments in her attempt to develop a late ethics of care built on a foundation of intersubjectivity. This emergent vision of the self opens up the possibility of reconstituting new modes of interaction between the self and the outer world: Lessing uses her fictional worlds to posit visionary possibilities in the world outside the fiction. Often employing critical modes of the Utopian and Apocalyptic, Lessing envisions the possibility of a new and fluid community that is constituted on the foundation of a revised albeit fragile ethics of care. Her fiction suggests that the power of creation and imagination necessary to realise such a vision belongs not only to the artist, but is also available for development in the psychosocial journey towards a new democratic subjectivity that might realise a new public order.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Keywords:intersubjectivity, Melanie Klein, psychoanalysis, object relations
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Arts and Humanities > English Studies, Department of
Thesis Date:2012
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:10 Dec 2012 14:32

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