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Milberg-Kaye, R. (1986). Multiple Personality and the Disintegration of Literary Character: From Oliver Goldsmith to Sylvia Plath. Jeremy Hawthorn. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1983, x + 146 pp.. Psychoanal. Rev., 73C(3):390-393.
    

(1986). Psychoanalytic Review, 73C(3):390-393

Multiple Personality and the Disintegration of Literary Character: From Oliver Goldsmith to Sylvia Plath. Jeremy Hawthorn. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1983, x + 146 pp.

Review by:
Ruth Milberg-Kaye

As its title suggests, Multiple Personality and the Disintegration of Literary Character is an attempt to demonstrate the relation of cases of multiple personality disorders to literary portrayals of personality disintegration. Such a study, Hawthorn suggests, “might also point towards explanations for both the literary and the clinical fragmentation of personality, in larger changes in the social life of the modern period” (p. ix). The author's argument is resoundingly sociological: multiple personality is “related to the attempts individuals make internally to reconcile the conflicting demands of contradictory value-systems” (dust jacket). The double in literature and the disintegrating literary figure reveal how social divisions can create internally divided characters. Although the author is careful in his second chapter, “Personality, History and Society,” to acknowledge possible genetic, organic, and familial factors in the formation of divided characters, he sees multiple personality invariably not as the result of psychological, but of cultural, sociological, and historical forces. The individual reflects the “conflicts, tensions, and contradictions” (p. 36) of the outside world and absorbs them into his or her individual consciousness. After reviewing some of the published cases and theoretical material on multiple personality, Hawthorn considers the implications of his theories in an examination of the double and of disintegrating characters in discussions of literary works of different countries, periods, and genres from Oliver Goldsmith's She Stoops to Conquer to Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar

Multiple Personality and the Disintegration of Literary Character should be read by students of literature who are interested specifically in the theme of the double in fiction and generally in sociological studies of literature.

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