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Original Ambivalence

Autobiography and Violence in Thomas De Quincey

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Matthew T. Schneider

Original Ambivalence explores a powerful psychic and existential dilemma running through the works upon which the reputation of Thomas De Quincey (1785-1869) as a prose artist has always rested: the dream-centered, visionary autobiographies that began in 1821 with The Confessions of an English Opium-Eater and concluded in 1849 with The English Mail-Coach. Employing the theories of and insights afforded by René Girard's «fundamental anthropology,» the study demonstrates how De Quincey's best known works both invoke and react against the Romantic assumptions of universality, originality, and authenticity which are their basis.