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A steady flameless light: the phenomenology of realness in Dorothy Canfield Fisher's The brimming cup, Her son's wife and Rough-hewn
Stockholm University, Faculty of Humanities, Department of English.
2002 (English)Doctoral thesis, monograph (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

This study investigates the way in which experience comes to givenness in three novels by the early twentieth century American writer Dorothy Canfield Fisher (1879-1958). By utilizing a model of affectivity set up by the French phenomenologist Michel Henry, the investigation uncovers unthematized strata in The Brimming Cup (1921), Rough-Hewn (1922), and Her Son’s Wife (1926) in which subjectivity is phenomenalized as auto-affective and immanent. These strata are phenomenologically distinguished from those in which subjectivity comes to givenness as conditioned by transcendent, hyper-presentational presence. The investigation shows that in these novels, objectified presence is predominantly favored as real. Michel Henry’s distinction between affectivity and sensibility helps delineate the asymmetrical way in which affectivity as the primary, pre-self-conscious phenomenalization of subjectivity can be understood in relation to sensibility as the self-reflective, horizon-oriented phenomenalization of subjectivity. Methodologically, the study remains faithful to Edmund Husserl’s phenomenological reduction which excludes transcendent considerations of the texts.

Michel Henry’s model of affectivity refutes Martin Heidegger’s understanding of subjectivity as always already thrown into a transcendent world. Nevertheless, Heidegger’s distinction between zuhanden and vorhanden is utilized in the study to clarify the integrity of a presence that cannot be posited in front of a presentational gaze. Canfieldian subjectivity is troubled by an inability to disentangle itself from this objective gaze and by its disbelief in the possibility of nonobjectified, yet real, experience. Instead subjectivity comes to validate realness as presentational vitality. Paradoxically, however, relief from suffering occurs primarily in instants that are free from phenomenalizations of life as vitalism. In such moments, subjectivity is phenomenalized as presentationally empty, existing in a nonpresentational space untouched by presentational meaning.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: Almqvist & Wiksell International , 2002. , vi, 169 p.
Stockholm studies in English, ISSN 0346-6272 ; 96
Keyword [en]
Dorothy Canfield Fisher
National Category
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-10652ISBN: 912201960XOAI: diva2:177171
Public defence
2002-05-22, Sal G, Arrheniuslaboratorierna, Stockholm, 14:00 (English)
Available from: 2008-01-05 Created: 2008-01-05 Last updated: 2012-10-02Bibliographically approved

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