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Restuccia, F.L. (1994). A Black Morning: Kristevan Melancholia in Jane Austen's Emma. Am. Imago, 51(4):447-469.

(1994). American Imago, 51(4):447-469

A Black Morning: Kristevan Melancholia in Jane Austen's Emma

Frances L. Restuccia

[L]anguage starts with a negation (Verneinung) of loss…. “I have lost an essential object that happens to be, in the final analysis, my mother,” is what the speaking being seems to be saying…. Depressed persons… disavow the negation: they cancel it out, suspend it, and nostalgically fall back on the real object (the Thing) of their loss, which is just what they do not manage to lose, to which they remain painfully riveted.

Black Sun, Julia Kristeva

Where the wound had been given, there must the cure be found, if anywhere.

“What two letters!—express perfection!… M. and A.—Em—ma.—Do you understand?”

Emma, Jane Austen

In Narrative and Its Discontents, D. A. Miller perceives a clash in Austen's Emma (1816) between the narratable—“various incitements to narrative, as well as the dynamic ensuing from such incitements”—and the nonnarratable—the “state of quiescence assumed by a novel before the beginning and supposedly recovered by it at the end” (Miller 1981, ix). Miller's Austen unleashes drifting signs and wandering desire on which her official values in the end clamp down, so that it might be said (and here I extrapolate) that her writing is in sadomasochistic conflict with itself. To Miller, Austen's writing arises out of “disequilibrium, suspense, and general insufficiency” only to be whipped into a “state of absolute propriety”—that is, only to be suppressed, beaten into social shape (Miller 1981, ix-x). At times it seems that the abuse—of the novel's production by the ideology of representation (requiring closure), or of the polyvalent by the univocal—is a purely technical matter, as if narrative exigencies alone were at war.

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