The Lady Portrait from Mirror City: A Kleinian Reading to Isabel’s Double Exposure

By Yuh-yi Tan.

Published by The Humanities Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

My study proposes to expand the scope of intertextual study on James’s The Portrait of a Lady and film adaptation in the Kleinian approach. Whereas James’s Portrait is to see Isabel through Ralph’s consciousness to stage the liberation that comes from a man’s desire, Campion’s Portrait reveals the dangers of female desire, the seduction that leads to entrapment in a loveless marriage. In this sense, Campion’s Isabel returns to a pre-Oedipal stage by following her own fetishistic desire of being with her mother’s portrait. Even with some individual variations, their makings of Isabel strike the readers/viewers with a powerful authorial originality that underlines the complexity of female psyche. Kleinian phantasy explains well Isabel’s journey of psychological investigation into the world of motherhood and female bonds. The discovery of Isabel’s journey into the pre-Oedipal phase where she could unite with the mother benefits our understanding of Campion’s featuring of Isabel’s many sequences of phantasy. At the same time, it is also understandable to note James’s Isabel is sacrificed as a bourgeois victim in the Victorian society. Klein’s phantasies, thus, offer the best thematic solution to observe different makings of Isabel through a variety of media. In addition, the discussion of mother-city metaphor constitutes the better understanding of Isabel on the process of modernization and commercialization. As a female flaneur, Isabel walks through the cities of London, Rome, Florence, and Turkey to meditate her unique threshold experience torn between the life/death drive. General speaking, at the very center of intertextual studies of James’s novel and Campion’s film, it has remained a space for broader theoretical range on phantasy of motherhood that is something worthwhile to be explored even though it is a rigor study that requires interdisciplinary training between psychology and intertextuality.

Keywords: Death Drive, Klein, Freud, Phantasy, Depressive Position, Paranoid-schizoid Position, Primal Scene, Pre-Oedipal, Motherhood

The International Journal of the Humanities, Volume 5, Issue 4, pp.141-150. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 700.579KB).

Dr. Yuh-yi Tan

Department of Foreign Languages and Literature, Huafan University, Taipei, Taiwan

I’ve just received my Ph. D. degree since 2005. My dissertation “Woman, City, Psychoanalysis: Voicing Virginia Woolf’s Visual Turn” explores the intertextual reading between the female modernist writer Virginia Woolf’s two novels Mrs. Dalloway, Orlando and their adapted films of the same names made by Marleen Gorris in 1997 and Sally Potter in 1992, along with Stephen Daldry’s film The Hours. Furthermore, to concentrate on my main analysis of the major female characters in the above-mentioned novels and films, I apply with psychoanalytic theories conveyed by Sigmund Freud, Jacques Lacan, Melanie Klein, Julia Kristeva, and Julia Butler on the subjects of gender, city, and maternality. In other words, the central concern in my study first grounds the interpretation of Woolf’s literary texts and the related cinematic versions, then traces the psychoanalytic analyses of major female characters in terms with the thoughts of chora, primary narcissism, abjection, fetishism, phantasy, and gaze. During my five-year teaching career, I have organized a serial of graduate and under-gradate courses that deal with the intertextual dialogue between the visual and the literary, such as “Love and Death in the Cinema and novel,” “The Dialogue between Novel and Film,” “Woolf’s Visual World.” Apart from this, I am also teaching “Literary Theory” course and plan to deliver the courses such as “Asian American Study,” “Modernist Novels,” and “Literature and Psychology.”


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