Narcissus from rubble [electronic resource] : competing models of character in contemporary British and American fiction / Julius Rowan Raper.

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Narcissus from rubble [electronic resource] : competing models of character in contemporary British and American fiction / Julius Rowan Raper.

Personal Author
Raper, Julius Rowan, 1938- author

Publication Date


Bibliography Note
Includes bibliographical references (pages 155-160) and index.

Introduction. The pull of Proteus -- The limits of change : Saul Bellow's Seize the day and Henderson the rain king -- Between Sartre and Freud : Thomas Pynchon's V. -- Reclaiming the core : John Fowles's The magnus -- The chameleon and the narcissists : Jerry Kosinski's Being there -- Men and women under the myth : John Barth's Chimera -- The new philosopher's stone : Lawrence Durrell's The Avignon Quintet -- Conclusion. Narcissus ascending.

By the mid-1950s, when Saul Bellow published Seize the Day, French existentialism and the phenomenological view of humankind that underlies it had become popular enough in the United States and England for leading novelists to begin dealing critically with its fundamental assumptions. Taking as its starting point the critique of existentialism's phenomenological background derived from Edmund Husserl and elaborated by Martin Heidegger and Jean-Paul Sartre, Julius Rowan Raper's Narcissus from Rubble delves into the intellectual assumptions that lie behind eleven of the most influential and challenging novels created by Bellow, Thomas Pynchon, John Fowles, Jerzy Kosinski, John Barth, and Lawrence Durrell. Raper sees the central conflict of twentieth-century humanistic inquiry as the modern opposition between psychology and philosophy. He dramatizes the competition in the novels between the phenomenological model of human behavior and a variety of models associated with psychoanalysis, especially those created by Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung, and Heinz Kohut. He argues that despite numerous efforts to fuse phenomenology and psychoanalysis, the two conceptions of personality have been fundamentally opposed to each other since Husserl's original description of phenomenology. The book underscores the irony that while much contemporary literary criticism continues to draw on a phenomenologically based view of character derived in part from the essays of Jacques Lacan, our leading novelists for a quarter century have been warning us in major novels such as Henderson the Rain King, V., and The Magus of the rage, compulsiveness, emptiness, pointlessness, fragmentation, and associated dangers to which taking a phenomenological stance may contribute. Raper finds that all six novelists worked through the intellectual maze that Freud called narcissism, as well as through the hazards of self-transcendence, to a new understanding of narcissism that is less judgmental and more perceptive than Freud's earlier formulation. It is this struggle--first to comprehend the dangers of the self-transcending tendencies of our culture, and then to become completely true to ourselves beyond the roles imposed on us by life--that creates the drama Raper detects as the common component in the works studied in this book. Raper's approach offers exciting insights into some fascinating and difficult literary texts. By revealing the common concern on which they rest, he provides the reader with an illuminating way to approach other contemporary works of literature.

Content Type

Carrier Type
online resource

Electronic books.


American fiction -- 20th century -- History and criticism.
English fiction -- 20th century -- History and criticism.
Characters and characteristics in literature.
Narcissism in literature.
Self in literature.
Electronic books.

LibraryCall NumberMaterial TypeItem Notes
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