Eye to eye with myself, I lay in bliss: The phenomenology of narcissism in Kate Grenville’s Dark Places

· Issue 22 (2018)
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Abstract

Kate Grenville’s 1994 novel Dark Places is a study in Australian colonial misogyny and the phenomenology of narcissism. Its narrator, the odious Albion Singer, offers an extended account of his obsession with the look of the other. This article explores Singer’s relationship with himself and others through Sartrean psychoanalysis. Singer attempts to hide his ‘real self’ – an absence, or lack – from the look of the other by constructing an elaborate shell through conscious performativity, while simultaneously owning the other’s freedom. When this fails, he seeks to destroy the subjectivity of the other in order to escape the shame he experiences at their look and to reject his objectness to them. This exercise must fail, though, for Singer has internalised the look, and he finally sees himself, and his nothingness, and he disintegrates to death.

Keywords: Sartrean psychoanalysis; the look; misogyny; Australian literature

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