Empire on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown

Mary Gossy

£75.00
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ISBN: 9781846311826

Publication: May 1, 2009

Series: Contemporary Hispanic and Lusophone Cultures 2

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Literature gives access to the “verge,” to the place where the full terror of falling is felt, and yet both feet are still on the ground. Empire on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown offers pleasurable instruction to readers who want to know and feel their ways through and beyond disciplinary conventions towards new and clearer understandings of how empires and texts shiver and fall, and why. Literature makes a difference to the ways that these questions are asked and explored. A cavalcade of writers—among them Edward Gibbon, Edgar Allan Poe, James Joyce, Sigmund Freud, the Wolf-Man, Gertrude Stein, Monique Wittig, Jeanette Winterson, Monty Python and even Miguel de Cervantes and A. Conan Doyle-- have written about empire, femininity, Spain, pain, wounds, war and love. Symptoms of imperial panic abound in their pages, very frequently manifesting directly or indirectly in allusions to Spain and things Spanish. Here female or feminized bodies often bear the brunt of any acting-out. In these highly original and highly engaging essays the reader confronts verges of cliffs, madness, window ledges, rooftops; verges of virgins and whores, slippery slopes and razor’s edges. Gossy argues that masculinity and femininity are always on the verge of slipping away from what they are supposed to be, and of dragging fantasies of imperial domination over the edge with them. The Spain of lost empire accompanies these acute symptoms of anxiety, even in texts and authors where—as in Monty Python’s version of the Spanish Inquisition—no one expects it.

Mary Gossy has a PhD from Harvard University and is Associate Professor of Women’s and Gender Studies and Spanish and Comparative Literatures, Rutgers University and the author of Freudian Slips: Woman, Writing, the Foreign Tongue (University of Michigan Press, 1995) and The Untold Story: Women and Theory in Golden Age Texts (University of Michigan Press, 1990).

1. Verging On (Introduction) 2. The End (Joyce, Gibbon, Molly Bloom and Empire) 3. The Stain of Spain in Stein (war, love and the impossible dream of peace realized) 4. Wandering Wounds (Disabled Veterans Cervantes and Dr. Watson, war, woundedness, and new masculinities) 5. Language Butcher Dupes Dupin (violent reactions to the idea of “foreign” languages, especially Spanish, in Poe’s “Murders in the Rue Morgue”) 6. “My Hispanism Was Only a Symptom” (Freud’s patient, the Wolf-Man, textualizes his symptoms around uncontrollable femininity and ethnicity in the historical context of the Anschluss) 7. Freud’s Spain (the trauma of exile elucidated by Freud with reference to Cervantes, Boabdil, and others) 8. “You’ll See Your Castles in Spain Back in Your Own Backyard” (Billie Holiday’s version of Al Jolson’s popular song alludes to medieval themes and to nostalgia’s relationship to conquest) 9. The Route of Writing (Don Quijote and primary school and other early lessons in reading and writing may help find another way of making history)

Engaging, theoretically sophisticated, lucid and convincing. This is outstandingly original.
Paul Julian Smith  
University of Cambridge

Format: Hardback

Size: 239 x 163 mm

192 Pages

Copyright: © 2009

ISBN: 9781846311826

Publication: May 1, 2009

Series: Contemporary Hispanic and Lusophone Cultures 2

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