Crowd Psychology and the Heterotopic Imaginary in Virginia Woolf’s Mrs Dalloway

· Issue 21 (2017)
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Abstract

As nuanced as Freud’s own investigations in Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego, Mrs Dalloway shows an awareness of the oscillation in group mentality between narcissistic desire and ethical self-transcendence. Taking its cue from the parameters set up in the early scenes, one of a conformist group, the other of a creative, self-determining one, this essay examines how the novel intimates the psychoanalytic Real as ontological ground to the work of mourning, empathy and ethics. Aiming to intertwine the worlds “seen by the sane and the insane side by side,” Woolf imbues signification with a tragic identity. How suffering is sutured into the signifier can be productively investigated by conflating Foucault’s conception of heterotopia with the Lacanian mirror. As the novel’s creative apex, Mrs Dalloway’s party resembles Foucault’s “ship of the imagination,” imbricating the Symbolic with ethical tropes of the Real.

 

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