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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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1. Outline of the Book

The present book closely and comparatively examines Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre, Daphne Du Maurier’s Rebecca, Narcyza Żmichowska’s The Heathen, Maria Konopnicka’s “Miss Florentine”, Maria Komornicka’s “On Father and his Daughter” and Zofia Nałkowska’s “Green Shore” in the context of psychoanalysis. At the heart of this interrogation is the problem of feminine doubling, which has not yet been taken into academic consideration in this way.

It might reasonably be asked why I have selected these six texts, since there are other works penned by women and dealing with the subject of doubling. The main reason for choosing Jane Eyre and Rebecca was that these well–known and widely interpreted texts constitute a referable case study for the Polish works allowing the introduction of the works to an English–speaking reader. In selecting Polish texts for inclusion in this book, I took into account their previous reception. I selected unconventional works, which were forgotten, omitted by critics and readers throughout the years, typecast as uninteresting and conventional, or misinterpreted and included in the canon. It was my intention to provide a much–needed modern rereading of Polish women’s texts discussed in this book, so that they may be afforded their appropriate position within British and Polish criticism. Although The Heathen belongs to the literary canon, the subversive and original qualities of the novel were overlooked. The readers and the critics have forgotten “Miss Florentine” and “Green Shore”, although Konopnicka...

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