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The Living Mirror

The Representation of Doubling Identities in the British and Polish Women’s Literature (1846–1938)


Klara Naszkowska

This book identifies a corpus of British and Polish texts that share correspondences with reference to the themes of feminine doubling, the difficulty of asserting feminine subjectivity, sexual mother-figures and symbolic father-figures. It draws on the Freudo-Lacanian psychoanalysis and the French feminist uses of it known as écriture féminine – the theories of Luce Irigaray and Hélène Cixous. It also introduces the theories of the forgotten Russian-Jewish psychoanalyst, Sabina Spielrein. The first part of the book takes account of specifics of Polish culture and history that made women writers marginalised within this context. In the second part, it closely and comparatively examines the selected British and Polish texts, while giving voice to the unknown, stereotyped, or forgotten Polish works. The innovative features of the book include its comparative character and the implementation of various psychoanalytical approaches to the Polish texts.
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Chapter I: British Literature: Survey of the Main Trends


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Chapter I

British Literature: Survey of the Main Trends

The beginning of British Romanticism is symbolically set in 1785 – the publication of William Wordsworth’s and Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s Lyrical Ballads in 1798 is often held as the beginning of the epoch. The era ends with the accession of king George IV in 1820, or for some it ends in 1830. In these years its Polish counterpart is just emerging: the start of Polish Romanticism is conventionally set in 1822. The lost January Uprising from 1863 marks the end of the period and the beginning of the new era of Positivism. At the same time, Mid–Victorian England is flourishing.

The character of Romanticism varies depending on country. In Poland it is a nationalistic phenomenon, in Germany idealistic. In Britain, the beginning of the movement is connected with the start of the French Revolution (1789), and it is deeply rooted in the event. It was a reaction to the Industrial Revolution and the rationalization of culture, as well as a revolt against the norms of the Enlightenment (a characteristic popular across various countries). It was a very turbulent time for British society. During the period England transformed from an agricultural society to a modern industrial nation. A literary revolution accompanied the social and political revolution, proclaiming the revival of literature. Cultural influences included James Macpherson’s Ossian cycle published in 1762, the German Sturm und Drang movement, Goethe’s The Sorrows of Young Werther,...

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