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Entre identification et différenciation: La mère et l’amour dans la constitution de l’identité féminine dans La fille démantelée, La plage d’Ostende et Orlanda de Jacqueline Harpman
Stockholm University, Faculty of Humanities, Department of French, Italian and Classical Languages.
2011 (French)Doctoral thesis, monograph (Other academic)Alternative title
Between identification and differentiation : The themes of mother and love in the construction of female identity in La fille démantelée, La plage d'Ostende and Orlanda by Jacqueline Harpman (English)
Abstract [en]

The aim of this dissertation is to investigate the importance of the mother figure for the definition of the female identity in three novels by the Belgian writer and psychoanalyst Jacqueline Harpman: La fille démantelée, La plage d’Ostende and Orlanda. This perspective is largely motivated by the specific character of the mother-daughter relation which is crucial to the formation of female identity. Freud already argued that it was impossible to understand the female identity without considering a woman’s preœdipal fixation to her mother. The analysis of the three novels is based on the concept of what Kristeva terms primary narcissism, which represents a delicate stage in the relationship between mother and child.

In different ways, the analyzed novels are permeated by an oscillation between identification and differentiation. On a thematic level, the female protagonist’s desire to distance herself from the mother is always countered by an awareness of an intimate bond with her, and, paradoxically, it may seem, that the differentiation from the mother opens the way for a happy reunion between mother and daughter, now two individuals who no longer form a symbiotic unit. In this process of individuation described in the novels, a third instance which Freud called father of individual prehistory is crucial.

Even though, at first sight, love appears to be the most important theme in the works of Harpman, this thesis argues that the theme of love is intimately linked to that of the mother figure and that it is necessary to read the works of Harpman through the spectrum of the mother-daughter relation in order to achieve a deeper understanding. Such a reading reveals among other things the key role of the inner dynamics of love. Love is not only the main theme of the work of Harpman, it’s also the meeting place of the two “love cures” of Harpman: literature and psychoanalysis, both situated in the field between narcissism and idealization, mechanisms that are inherent to what Freud called the subject’s eternal rebirth.

The way in which writing functions as a way for the Harpman female protagonist to become a subject corresponds to Kristeva's idea of the entering into language, or into the symbolic system as Lacan put it, as a way to ward off the emptiness of the abjection. The symbolic system gives the subject a sense of being an individual with clear boundaries in a structured and intelligible world.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: Department of French, Italian and Classical Languages, Stockholm University , 2011. , 178 p.
Forskningsrapporter / Stockholms universitet, Institutionen för franska och italienska: cahiers de la recherche, ISSN 1654-1294 ; 45
Keyword [en]
Harpman, psychoanalysis, preœdipal, primary narcissism, Kristeva, identification and differentiation, father of the individual prehistory, Freud, the subject’s eternal rebirth, narcissism and idealization, the symbolic, abjection
National Category
Languages and Literature
Research subject
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-62272ISBN: 978-91-85059-52-2OAI: diva2:440777
Public defence
2011-10-14, lecture room F11, Universitetsvägen 10 F, Stockholm, 10:00 (French)
Available from: 2011-09-22 Created: 2011-09-13 Last updated: 2012-04-19Bibliographically approved

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