Journal of Romance Studies

Mourning and the ethics of form in Sartre’s La Nausée and Woolf ’s To the Lighthouse

Journal of Romance Studies (2006), 6, (1-2), 209–220.

Abstract

This article analyses the relationship between Jean-Paul Sartre’s La Nausée (1938) and Virginia Woolf ’s To the Lighthouse (1927), which share many textual details and a concern with the representation of traumatic loss. In both texts, there is an encounter with contingency and a quest for an ethical form that might symbolize suffering. Roquentin’s melancholic quest for an aesthetic vision to render loss constructs a false dichotomy of history versus art, in which the relation with the Other is abjected. Unable to find a form for his suffering – as he terms it, ‘souffrir en mesure’ [‘to suffer in time’] like the jazz tune which relieves his existential nausea – Roquentin ultimately retreats into narcissistic abstraction. In To the Lighthouse, Lily Briscoe’s post-Impressionist quest to represent her spiritual love for Mrs Ramsay in portraiture is more successful: in its eschewal of narcissistic signature and its hospitality to difference, Lily’s vision becomes an aesthetic space of encounter with the (m)Other, removed from the melancholic, narcissistic project of novel-writing that Roquentin envisages at the end of La Nausée.

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Bollas, Christopher (1992) Being a Character, Psychoanalysis and Self Experience (London and New York: Routledge). Being a Character, Psychoanalysis and Self Experience Google Scholar

Brée, Germaine and Margaret Guiton (1957) ‘Jean-Paul Sartre: The Search for Identity’, in An Age of Fiction (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press), 203–18. Jean-Paul Sartre: The Search for Identity An Age of Fiction 203 18 Google Scholar

Céline, Louis-Ferdinand (1933) L’Église (Paris: Gallimard). L’Église Google Scholar

Clewell, Tammy (2004) ‘Consolation refused: Virginia Woolf, the Great War, and Modernist mourning’, Modern Fiction Studies 50.1, 197–223. Consolation refused: Virginia Woolf, the Great War, and Modernist mourning Modern Fiction Studies 50.1 197 223 Google Scholar

Cohen-Solal, Annie (1988) Sartre: A Life (London: Heinemann). Sartre: A Life Google Scholar

Conradi, Peter (2004) Going Buddhist (London: Short Books). Going Buddhist Google Scholar

Freud, Sigmund (1957) [1915] ‘Mourning and Melancholia’, in Standard Edition of the Complete Works of Sigmund Freud, vol. XIV, trans. and ed. James Strachey (London: Hogarth Press), 237–58. Mourning and Melancholia Standard Edition of the Complete Works of Sigmund Freud 237 58 Google Scholar

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Goldthorpe, Rhiannon (1991) La Nausée (London: HarperCollins). La Nausée Google Scholar

Hewitt, Nicholas (1982) ‘“Looking for Anny”: Sartre’s La Nausée and the inter-war years’, Journal of European Studies 12, 96–112. “Looking for Anny”: Sartre’s La Nausée and the inter-war years Journal of European Studies 12 96 112 Google Scholar

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Irigaray, Luce (1977) Ce sexe qui n’en est pas un (Paris: Minuit). Ce sexe qui n’en est pas un Google Scholar

Jameson, Fredric (1984) ‘The Nature of Events’, in Sartre: The Origins of a Style (New York: Columbia University Press), 19–39. The Nature of Events Sartre: The Origins of a Style 19 39 Google Scholar

Lifton, Robert Jay (1995) ‘Interview’, in Trauma: Explorations in Memory, ed. Cathy Caruth (Baltimore MD: Johns Hopkins University Press), 134–44. Interview Trauma: Explorations in Memory 134 44 Google Scholar

Murdoch, Iris (1999) Sartre, Romantic Rationalist (London: Vintage). Sartre, Romantic Rationalist Google Scholar

Newman-Gordon, Pauline (1979) ‘Sartre lecteur de Proust ou le paradoxe de La Nausée’, Bulletin de la Société des Amis de Marcel Proust et des Amis de Combray 29, 103–14. Sartre lecteur de Proust ou le paradoxe de La Nausée Bulletin de la Société des Amis de Marcel Proust et des Amis de Combray 29 103 14 Google Scholar

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Ricœur, Paul (1985) Temps et récit III: le temps raconté (Paris, Seuil). Temps et récit III: le temps raconté Google Scholar

Sartre, Jean-Paul (1940) L’Imaginaire (Paris: Gallimard). L’Imaginaire Google Scholar

Sartre, Jean-Paul (1968) [1938] La Nausée (Paris: Gallimard). La Nausée Google Scholar

Sartre, Jean-Paul (1975a) [1939] ‘À propos de Le Bruit et la fureur: la temporalité chez Faulkner’, in Situations I, Critiques littéraires (Paris: Gallimard, Collection Idées), 70–81. À propos de Le Bruit et la fureur: la temporalité chez Faulkner Situations I, Critiques littéraires 70 81 Google Scholar

Sartre, Jean-Paul (1975b) [1939] ‘Une idée fondamentale de la phénoménologie de Husserl: l’intentionnalité’, in Situations I, Critiques littéraires (Paris: Gallimard, Collection Idées), 38–42. Une idée fondamentale de la phénoménologie de Husserl: l’intentionnalité Situations I, Critiques littéraires 38 42 Google Scholar

Sartre, Jean-Paul (1976) ‘Autoportrait à soixante-dix ans’ in Situations X (Paris: Gallimard), 133–226. Autoportrait à soixante-dix ans Situations X 133 226 Google Scholar

Sartre, Jean-Paul (1981) Œuvres romanesques (Paris: Gallimard, Bibliothèque de la Pléiade). Œuvres romanesques Google Scholar

Sartre, Jean-Paul (1983a) Lettres au Castor et à quelques autres, I, 1926–1939 (Paris: Gallimard). Lettres au Castor et à quelques autres, I, 1926–1939 Google Scholar

Sartre, Jean-Paul (1983b) Les Carnets de la drôle de guerre (Paris: Gallimard). Les Carnets de la drôle de guerre Google Scholar

Sartre, Jean-Paul (1988) [1936] La Transcendance de l’Ego (Paris: Vrin). La Transcendance de l’Ego Google Scholar

Sartre, Jean-Paul (1993) [1948] Qu’est-ce que la littérature? (Paris: Gallimard Folio). Qu’est-ce que la littérature? Google Scholar

Teroni Menzella, Sandra (1983) ‘Sartre lecteur de Proust: sensation et mémoire dans La Nausée’, Studi Francesi 27, 44–52. Sartre lecteur de Proust: sensation et mémoire dans La Nausée Studi Francesi 27 44 52 Google Scholar

Tidd, Ursula (1999) Simone de Beauvoir, Gender and Testimony (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press). Simone de Beauvoir, Gender and Testimony Google Scholar

White, Hayden (1999) Figural Realism, Studies in the Mimesis Effect (Baltimore MD and London: Johns Hopkins University Press). Figural Realism, Studies in the Mimesis Effect Google Scholar

Whitworth, Michael (2005) Virginia Woolf (Oxford: Oxford University Press). Virginia Woolf Google Scholar

Woolf, Virginia (1976) Moments of Being (New York: Harcourt). Moments of Being Google Scholar

Woolf, Virginia (1980) The Diary of Virginia Woolf, vol. III, ed. Anne Olivier Bell (New York: Harcourt). The Diary of Virginia Woolf Google Scholar

Woolf, Virginia (2000) [1927] To the Lighthouse (London: Penguin Books). To the Lighthouse Google Scholar

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Tidd, Ursula