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Holtzman, D. Kulish, N. (2014). Edith Wharton's Threshold Phobia and Two Worlds. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 62(4):573-601.

(2014). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 62(4):573-601

Edith Wharton's Threshold Phobia and Two Worlds

Deanna Holtzman and Nancy Kulish

The American novelist Edith Wharton suffered an unusual childhood neurotic symptom, a fear of crossing thresholds, a condition that might be called a “threshold phobia.” This symptom is identified and examined in autobiographical material, letters, diaries, and selected literary fiction and nonfiction left by Wharton to arrive at a formulation not previously drawn together. A fascinating theme—living or being trapped between “two worlds”—runs through much of the writer's life and work. The phobia is related to this theme, and both can be linked more broadly to certain sexual conflicts in women. This understanding of Wharton's phobia, it is argued, throws new light on the developmental issues and conflicts related to the female “oedipal” or triadic phase, characterized by the need to negotiate the two worlds of mother and of father.

[This is a summary excerpt from the full text of the journal article. The full text of the document is available to journal subscribers on the publisher's website here.]

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