Masculine and feminine structures of tragedy: Sexuation and plot in George Eliot, Thomas Hardy and psychoanalytic theory
Maritime, Aranya Elizabeth
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This study seeks to establish structural criteria by which to locate two different tragic plots, masculine and feminine, based on the Lacanian concept of sexuation. It is grounded on Peter Brooks' Reading for the Plot , which posits a masculine model for the interpretation of plot based primarily on Freud's Beyond the Pleasure Principle . Throughout Beyond the Pleasure Principle Freud struggles to identify a life drive and a death drive, yet they continue to collapse into one another. Lacan initially has the same difficulty as Freud, seeing all drives as death drives; but he introduces the concept of an Other jouissance in Encore , postulating that while there is only one drive, there are two distinct approaches to the drive: phallic and Other jouissance. Lacan designates phallic joussance as masculine and Other jouissance as feminine. Lacan begins to consider this other approach to the drive as early as The Ethics of Psychoanalysis through his reading of Antigone as a radically different tragic model not based on the dissolution of mastery. The idea of two approaches to the drive may be applied to demonstrate a different way of reading tragic plots as either masculine or feminine. Despite being based on an interpretation of Antigone , George Eliot's Mill on the Floss may be read as a masculine tragedy because it is concerned with mastery of the drive. Hardy's Jude the Obscure and Tess of the d'Urbervilles are parallel novels structurally, yet Jude slips into obscurity quietly in his bed while Tess's death is a climactic tour de force. Jude illustrates precisely what is at stake in masculine tragedies in which characters seek to succeed in a phallic structure that constantly overwrites the drive. Tess provides an example of the different tragedy produced with an Other approach to the drive.