Empire on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown

BookEmpire on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown

Empire on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown

Contemporary Hispanic and Lusophone Cultures, 2


May 1st, 2009

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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.

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

Author Information

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).

Table of Contents

Table of Contents
Section TitlePagePrice
Title Page4
Copyright Page5
Chapter 1. Verging On10
Chapter 2. The End13
Chapter 3. The Stain of Spain in Some of Stein19
Chapter 4. Lesbian Hymen-mending by Celestina and Wittig25
Chapter 5. Wandering Wounds38
Chapter 6. Language Butcher Dupes Dupin47
Entremes: “Nobody Expects the Spanish Inquisition”53
Chapter 7. “My Hispanism Was Only a Symptom”57
Chapter 8. Freud’s Spain66
Chapter 9. You’ll See Your Castles in Spain Back in Your Own Backyard75
Chapter 10. The Route of Writing80