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Gordon, W.A. (1974-75). Submission and Autonomy: Identity Patterns in Joyce's Portrait. Psychoanal. Rev., 61(4):535-555.

(1974-75). Psychoanalytic Review, 61(4):535-555

Submission and Autonomy: Identity Patterns in Joyce's Portrait

William A. Gordon

At the end of the nineteenth century acknowledging one's private individual desires was no small task for even the most liberated of men. The overwhelming effect of a century of reticence was to reinforce the tendency of Western man to seek justification for his actions and his thoughts in social forms. The movement toward freedom at the end of the century created new crises of confrontation with feeling, so that much of the significant poetry of the age was a recognition of and an agonizing over the reality of the unknown self. As Freud identified the lost continent of the repressed wish with the seething cauldron of the id, Conrad found the dark heart of desire in the abominable rites of the African jungle. Yeats struggled to find a form in which eroticism and idealism could be equally valid and found it in the foul rag-and-bone shop of the heart, in the transforming power of the poetic imagination. Joyce, confronting the even more rigid culture of Catholic Ireland, found in fictional autobiography a means of expressing the conflict between aesthetic idealism and biological life. Faced with the cultural requirement of excluding from experience the whole of his biological experience, Joyce charted the way toward reconciliation of those opposites in the artist's imagination.

Fictional autobiography and autobiographical fiction are two of our most difficult literary forms to analyze. Making a claim for the autonomy of artistic form, they are too readily reduced to an extension of the artist's own life. Furthermore, the two forms create special problems for us even in identifying what is actually personal life history and what is distorted or bent to fit a different pattern.

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