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Reading modernist literature through the lenses of feminist and psychoanalytic theory, Dead Fathers: The Logic of Transference in Modern Narrative examines the reproduction of passions and passionate conflicts -- in individual behavior, in literary representations of such behavior, and in the critical responses to the literature.
Through readings of four canonical modernist texts -- Heart of Darkness, The Wings of the Dove, The Sun Also Rises, and A Room of One's Own -- Nina Schwartz analyzes representations of rebellion against social forces. Arguing that modernist narratives frequently recuperate precisely those forms of authority they wish to undermine, Schwartz demonstrates that their representations of rebellion follow this pattern as well, promoting the very social forces they critique. This is an ever-widening circle, a pattern of repetition compulsion at the levels of character, textual authority, and literary criticism. The books tell stories of people locked into patterns they wish to escape, but the very depiction of entrapment reenacts the doublebind, as the oppressive forms of cultural authority are still the source of coherence in the text. The compulsion is further reproduced in the critical response to the books when readers repeat the structures, language, or concerns of the author.
It is this relation between reading and the desire for authority that Schwartz examines as an example of the psychological phenomenon of transference. Drawing on the work of Lacanian theorist Slavov Zizek to articulate a complex linkage of agency, authority, and desire in writing, this book examines how canonical modernist texts have functioned for readers as transferential objects, repositories of authoritative knowledge, and subjects that know and embody the truth of the modern.