Persephone's Paradox: The Author's Descent into the Underworld
Author: Ruth Skilbeck
Publication type: Conference proceedings
Persephone's Paradox: The Author's Journey into the Underworld
Title: Persephone’s Paradox: The Author’s Journey into the Underworld
Author: Ruth Skilbeck
Publication: Women in Research conference 2002, conference proceedings, University of Central Queensland.
In the most fundamental of Freud’s discoveries, it has been argued, there exists a large part of the psyche which is not under the direct conscious control of the individual. In referring to this as ‘the unconscious’, Freud generated a paradox: how can we know of the existence of the unknowable?(Fowler 1981: 193).This un/knowable unconscious underpins the fugal narrative in its many variations. Varied perhaps, but structural similarities also unite narratives such as these. ‘Underworld narratives’ rely on a fugal descent into the underworld, including the underworld of the unconscious, which forms the structure of these narratives in terms of both their ongoing framework and signified content. The underworld into which the protagonist descends may be of a personal, social or cultural nature, or any combination of these. This paper examines two novels which emphatically represent this type of narrative structure. Most saliently, Thomas Mann’s Death in Venice, first published in 1911, and also Susanna Moore’s contemporary novel, In the Cut (1995), which offers a similar theme of fatality and surrender. Both of these novels have as their main character an author whose self-repression leads to a fugal, self-destructive projection of their desire onto a ‘ perfect’ object for the narrator’s unconscious purposes. As Deleuze argued in his work on Proust, a work of art is analogous to a machine, because it is essentially productive of certain truths (Deleuze 2000: 146). Mann’s and Moore’s murderous fugal narratives explore analogous truths about the psychological state of writing and ‘being’ a writer, both of which involve a necessary level of repression which can be represented analogously as a form of ‘death’.
Keywords: Fugue authorship Persephone narrative underworld return