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Psychoanalysis and the Scene of Reading$

Mary Jacobus

Print publication date: 1999

Print ISBN-13: 9780198184348

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198184348.001.0001

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A Whole World in Your Head: Rereading the Landscape of Absence

A Whole World in Your Head: Rereading the Landscape of Absence

(p.52) Two A Whole World in Your Head: Rereading the Landscape of Absence
Psychoanalysis and the Scene of Reading

Mary Jacobus

Oxford University Press

Abstract and Keywords

A. S. Byatt's reflection in her co-authored book Imagining Characters was found to be provoking even if she had not been a novelist. ‘Reflecting’ on the book may either mean thinking about a novel as if it were an image of the mind, and thinking that occurs in a novel in which the novel fosters its own mind and space. Time also has a contribution as Byatt points out a parallel between her younger reading self with Fanny Price and Austen. This reflection accounts for the double temporality of the novel and its reading, particularly in the division of consciousness not only between the reader and the book, but between the living and observing life and between the present and past. This chapter attempts to examine a mode of thought that constructs internal landscape.

Keywords:   A. S. Byatt, internal landscape, consciousness, double temporality, reflection

MY title comes from a passage in which the novelist A. S. Byatt reflects on reading in her co-authored book, Imagining Characters (1995). Byatt is responding obliquely to a comment by the psychoanalyst Ignes Sodre about the relation between landscape and memory in Jane Austen's Mansfield Park:

And about reflection, I think the other thing that happens in all novels is that because you read a novel by yourself in a room, inner space in your own mind and outer space in novels become somehow equivalent, images of each other … There's a way in which the whole landscape is inside in a novel, even if it's said to be outside, which I find peculiarly exciting. I think to myself about the world in the head. And Mansfield at some level that I can't even quite explain is a very powerful image of that experience of having a whole world in your head …l

Byatt's reflection would be thought provoking even if she were not herself a novelist—here, a novelist reflecting on reading. For one thing, ‘reflection’ itself seems to mean both thinking about a novel (as an equivalent image of the mind) and the thinking that goes on in a novel, the sense that it has a mind and space of its own. But time comes into it too. Byatt draws a parallel between her younger reading self and the heroine of Mansfield Park, Fanny Price (Very much a reading person, she reads by herself in her (p.53) room′). She also alludes to Austen as a middle-aged woman, ′sitting on the sofa and observing the life and making sense of it/2 Byatt's reflection touches on the double temporality of the novel's writing and its reading—the division of consciousness, not only between reader and book, but between present and past, between living the life and observing it, that is constitutive of ‘reflection’ itself. Freud calls it the ability of one part of the mind to stand over against the other. Complex fictional worlds and psychoanalysis both rely on this benign, non-pathological form of splitting for their construction of meaning.3 This division is also a function of memory, where the split has a temporal dimension, and (I'd argue) of reading. Reading, as Byatt implies, involves the double time of rereading and remembering.

Bearing in mind the relation between thinking about and thinking in fictional worlds, between reading and remembering, I want to explore an aspect of literary experience that is distinct both from imagining characters and from internalizing a fictional world such as Austen's. This mode of thought is partly induced in us by the way literature ‘reflects’ (and reflects on) itself—by the way it constructs what we sometimes refer to as its internal landscape. A bit arbitrarily, I want to locate such moments of reflection in specific uses of literary landscape—landscapes that seem to refer self-reflexively to the scene of reading. For Byatt, ‘the world in the head’ is associated with pleasurable readerly absorption. Landscape provides a metaphor for what goes on between the reader and the book, rather as landscape painting evokes not just the space of viewing, but also what goes on between (p.54) the viewer and the view4 We tend to think we know what landscape means, just as we often take reading for granted. But landscape in novels is a topos like any other—constructed in terms of aesthetic categories such as the sublime, the beautiful, or the picturesque, or composed of an ensemble of economic and cultural meanings (e.g. that the wealth of a nation lies in its land, or that the design of its parks and gardens bears some relation to its political arrangements).5 Needless to say, all representations of landscape come aesthetically and ideologically freighted in this way. But interior landscapes like the one invoked by Byatt also bear looking at from a psychoanalytic perspective. They often invoke not only internal space, but states of reverie, withdrawal, or, in some cases, more questionable forms of psychic retreat.6 Looking at landscape involves ideas about absence and distance, and can even imply looking away. In this sense, landscape is less what we see in the mind's eye than what we don't see—our peculiar, unconscious way of relating to an inner world and to its internal objects. This is where psychoanalysis comes up against (and goes beyond) the limits drawn by phenomenology.

(p.55) Absence can be thought of in terms of its dictionary meaning—being away from a place or person, but also the duration of being away, and hence as bound up with temporality I will be arguing that the landscape of absence typically functions to deny or make bearable spacial or temporal breaks between persons, or even within ourselves. It can equally be a way to maintain connection or preserve memory—a way to think. Not being there can be as important as being there; what has gone may be as significant as what remains. All this has a bearing on internal topography. In an essay called ‘The Unconscious Phantasy of an Inner World Reflected in Examples from Literature’ (1952), Joan Riviere—one of Freud's early translators, but also a formidable literary essayist in her own right—remarks on ‘the suspicion and intolerance’ often aroused by ‘the concept of internal objects’.7 She locates the source of this intolerance in the unwelcome idea that we might have such internal objects within ourselves which are somehow felt not to be our true ‘selves’ (‘but are felt to be unknown and therefore alarming’, IW 304), and which disturb us especially when they give us trouble (whereas, by contrast, we tend to take good internal objects for granted). Like Klein, Riviere founds this primitive splitting of good and bad on the baby's ‘bodily sensations of taking in and containing’ (IW 308) the prototype for the process of internalization. Sucking, looking, perceiving, and registering all contain elements of the phantasy process. In later life, Riviere suggests, our objects need not necessarily be people, but may equally be non-human, inanimate, or abstract. By way of illustration, Riviere quotes a metaphysical poem called Absence′. Misattributed by her to Donne, now attributed to a minor metaphysical poet called John Hoskins, the poem begins: ‘Absence’, heare my protestation | Against thy strengthe | Distance and lengthe …’8

(p.56) The argument of Hoskins's Absence′ is simple: To harts that cannot vary | Absence is present/ The idea of the beloved ‘within’ means that she (or he) can always be enjoyed privately (like a poem?), ‘In some close corner of [the] braine.’ The poem ends with a metaphysical paradox: ′There I embrace and there kiss her, | And so enjoye her, and so misse her (my italics). Interestingly, and in keeping with her thesis, Riviere misquotes this closing couplet, subtly changing its meaning: ‘There I embrace and kiss her, | And so enjoy her, and none miss her’ (my italics again). Hoskins writes that to enjoy is always to miss; where the lover is concerned, the best kind of possession is absence. Riviere's misreading, by contrast, emphasizes the privacy, exclusiveness, and omnipotence of the lover's imaginative enjoyment of the beloved. This is the compensation for possessing an internal object in phantasy only. The poem's idealization of the loved one (always contained and available within the lover) banishes pain: ‘Its message consists in a denial, a “protestation” against the plain emotional fact that the absence of the loved one is painful’ (IW 310). Denial produces idealization, splitting off the fear of loss or erasing the lover's imperfections; a witty paradox distances the painful reality so that it becomes bearable. Interestingly, however, Riviere's argument is not simply that the reparative mode of the depressive position gives rise to literary creation (this would be the more orthodox Kleinian line).9 (p.57) Rather, she implies that the narcissistic component of a poem like Absence′, which defends against Tear of the loss of and craving for possession of something outside oneself … on which one's life seems to depend′ (IW 311), has a creative aspect. In psychoanalytic terms, the lost object (a missing breast) prompts reflection—Bion's first step towards thinking, Lacan's first step towards language—even if such thoughts give rise in the first instance to an evasive phantasy, or set in motion an unassuagable desire.10 Absence does not only, or always, give rise to symbolization, or to only one kind of symbolic solution. As Riviere also points out, the absence of those we love ‘can be equivalent, in our unconscious, to lack of love, hostility, hate, even malevolence, in them to us and in us to them’ (IW 323). The negative of presence is not absence, but—surprisingly—hatred. We hate those who leave us because they seem not to love us, nor we them. This is the underlying, unstated, ‘metapsychological’ paradox of Hoskins's love-poem.

For Riviere, a missed mother provides us with our earliest experience of fear and craving; hence ‘the phantasy of taking her into the self in order nevermore to be without her’ (IW 311). In her view, the unconscious phantasy subtending Absence′ is (once again) cannibalistic consumption of the loved object. Riviere finds in Hoskins's poem the overwhelming fear of loss that fuels our wish to incorporate inner objects. She links this fear not only (p.58) with Jones's ‘aphanisis’ (loss of pleasure in life, especially sexual pleasure) but with Klein s emphasis on a deeper fear, the fear of losing life itself.11 Riviere calls it ′the capacity for death in oneself ((IW 314). What one most fears, she writes, is ‘the loss of one's own identity, by the disintegration and splitting of the ego’ (IW 316). Here Freud's benign splitting of the ego tips over into the dread of disintegration and dying associated with the hidden workings of the death drive. Unexpectedly, Riviere's essay provides a return route to Byatt's reflections on rereading Mansfield Park. To Byatt, the excitement of discovering the landscape inside a novel is allied to the pleasure of finding that a novel can be (as Sodre puts it of Fanny's relation to landscape) ‘the container of … past, good experiences’ (i.e. the memory of a past, good experience of reading). What Sodre is saying about the world in the novel—its continuing meaning for Fanny—parallels what Byatt is saying about the world of the novel, which is that it continues to have meaning for her over time. For Riviere, the assumption of something ‘still present and available’ is a phantasy relating to ′acts of absorption when alone in thoughts and memories of [the] past3 (IW 320; her italics). By this, she doesn't just mean ‘the banal fact that memories are always present with us, to be called up when required’. Rather, memories exist in the continuous time present of the inner world (the unconscious knows no time). All the more tantalizing, then, that we can never either be wholly self-possessed or magically repossess the past.

Later, I will return to Mansfield Park to suggest how pervasively Austen makes Fanny identify with what is absent in her own internal landscape. But first I want to look at the role of landscape in Jean-Jacques Rousseau's La Nouvelle Heloise, where the lover typically struggles to sustain the phantasy that absence is really presence after all. What interests me is not so much the contrasts or resemblances between Austen and Rousseau (although they are striking). Rather, my concern is to emphasize the continuum (p.59) that links evading and modifying absence, and the differing part played by a fictional landscape when it comes to denying or mourning the loss of a loved object, or even to anticipating one's own death. These subtly differentiated literary representations of absence also bear on the relation between reading, rereading, and memory.

Looking into a Mirror

Another aspect of the inner world, its mysterious, inaccessible quality, is also commonly represented symbolically by^ir away, by looking into space, both not tangible, incapable of exploration; again, by farthest away, equivalent to nearest, one's own inside; by looking into a mirror, into one's own inside; or by the sky, heaven high above, inaccessible, unknowable and again above. (Joan Riviere, IW 321)

In an essay called ‘Places and Separation’, the psychoanalyst J.-B. Pontalis succinctly maps the psychoanalytic landscape inhabited by Rousseau.12 He points out that Rousseau's model for his own life was one of traumatic separation, and that his autobiography consists of repeated separations, dismissals, and exclusions—journeys from one place to another, in search of a place where he would belong. Apropos of Rousseau's internal exile, Pontalis has this to say: ‘The evidence of the importance of places to Rousseau lies within ourselves, since two centuries later, we perceive them as both real and fictitious places, literary and geographical places, places of the memory and places of retreat’ (FP 120). Rousseau's contemporary readers were already travelling the same route (p.60) between real and fictitious scenes when they visited the alpine settings of La Nouvelle Heloise in search of this landscape of memory and retreat. Wary of associating place with an absent mother, Pontalis prefers the term ‘local memory’ to describe the process whereby the autobiographer can say: ‘I find myself in this landscape’ (FP 121). For Rousseau, he argues, places become a figure forhimself. But they had to be places unthreatened by the intrusion of others—as we can see elsewhere, for instance, in his Reveries of the Solitary Walker (1782), where any sign of human commerce in landscape, however rustic, is experienced by him as a form of persecution.13 Paradoxically sedentary in spite of his wanderings, Rousseau, writes Pontalis, ‘seZ/-traveled’. He seems to be saying about Rousseau what Riviere has to say about the internal world—that we are disturbed by our difference from other people, especially when they seem to inhabit or divide us.

The Rousseauian landscape is a private space, equivalent to always being alone or ideally at one with oneself. Difference can only be accommodated as a minimal difference within the private space of the self:

what is dissimilar to me is myself. And let us add it must be myself so that my private space can offer (as in a well arranged landscape in which one does not know whether the effect is due to the gardener or to a natural order) enough disparity to move me and sufficient protection to ward off the savage violence of the outside, a radical otherness. The ′myself must remain. … (FP 122)

′Throughout his numerous periods of staying and fleeing Pontalis concludes, ‘Rousseau remains the same.’ Imagined intimacy (Two souls in the same body, his body′) is the other face of this minimal internal difference; compare the lover's wish for undisputed and undivided self-possession in Hoskins's Absence′. For Rousseau, according to Pontalis, only the self-referential world of La Nouvelle Heloise (1761) could produce an equivalently gratifying fiction of intimacy. In his actual life, compulsive attachments (p.61) alternated with the breaking of ties. But the cycle of loneliness and distress was at the same time one of triumphant uniqueness: ‘He had to be cast out of the social space—the space of others—to be able to delimit his own space’ (FP 124). Hence the proto-typical predicament of self-exile described by the Confessions: ′Rousseau never needed to mourn the lost object, for the objectperson was above all in his eyes [a] figural representation/ Since no one but Rousseau is ever allowed to exist, he avoids experiencing anything other than figural rejection or loss. Instead, he simply moves from one place to the next when each successive refuge gives rise, as it inevitably does, to a sense of claustrophobic confinement. But, Pontalis urges, we shouldn't persecute Rousseau—the already persecuted paranoiac—by probing him too deeply. Instead, ‘we should open ourselves to his space so as to expand our own’ (FP 125). Reading Rousseau allows us to travel this figurative terrain, even if the only ‘figure’ we find there is Rousseau, our semblable—a figure whose narcissism we can recognize as uniquely ‘literary’, in the sense of relying on the fiction that memory is preserved by and speaks in landscape.

In La Nouvelle Heloise separation is the precondition for the letters exchanged between Rousseau's two lovers, Saint-Preux (a bourgeois) and his pupil, Julie, or ‘Eloisa’ (the daughter of an aristocrat).14 Rousseau ostensibly turns the pre-Enlightenment plot of seduction and castration—the story of Eloisa and Abelard—into an Enlightenment allegory of civilization and its discontents; passion is the sacrifice demanded by civilization, and the violence of sexuality must be tamed within the conjugal family in the interests of morality, transparency, and order. Or so it would seem, since, in reality, Rousseau tells a story of reason thwarted (p.62) by transgressive and recalcitrant passions. The novel's pervasive equation between landscape and an inner world makes the lover's narcissistic experience of solitude and longing paradigmatic of the fictional space itself. We are equally in the landscape and inside the lover's head. In this imaginary space, separation can be overcome and losses made good in the lover's phantasy—but only up to a point. As a repository for lost objects, Rousseauian landscape is almost always eroticized or melancholy, seductive or potentially fatal. Ultimately, however, it is inhabited by death. Rousseau's Saint-Preux is a time-traveller, forever seeking the traces of past emotions which haunt the landscape of absence, savouring a form of affective and aesthetic experience that involves tantalizing distance rather than nearness. Landscape can function to rniriimize anxieties about loss and neutralize troubling contact with others, constituting a sort of no-go area or ‘psychic retreat’—‘an area of the mind where … phantasy and omnipotence can exist unchecked’.15 Letter XXIII from Part I of La Nouvelle Heloise, written by Saint-Preux during a walking tour, delineates just such a retreat where phantasy can flourish unchecked.16 In the aftermath of their first passionate encounter, Eloisa—ever the educator—sends Saint-Preux to cool off in the mountains. He describes himself as setting out on his journey ‘suspended in a state of languor that is not disagreeable to true sensibility’ (E i. 117). His account of his travels is aesthetically coded to suggest passions contained and transcended (‘stupendous rocks’, ‘drizzling cloud’, thundering cascades, yawning abysses, but also hanging woods and flowery plains). This harmonious intermingling of the sublime and the beautiful—ensuring that external and internal differences are abolished—subsumes conflict into the peaceful coexistence of opposites that Rousseau calls ‘serenity of … mind’ (E i. 118). Serenity is associated not only with mountain solitude, but with rising above the warring passions that define the lover.

(p.63) Riviere's aesthetics of the inner world uses the language of the sublime to evoke what is internal, inaccessible, and unknown; or, as Saint-Preux tells Julie, ‘Having walked awhile in the clouds, I came to a place of greater serenity’ (E i. 119)—a place where he no longer knows his own feelings. In this cloudy landscape, feelings and desires are evoked only to be idealized and disavowed (‘Upon the tops of mountains, … our minds [are] more serene, our pleasures less ardent, and our passions much more moderate’, E i. 119). Longing and looking—‘the pleasure of gazing’—give wayto ‘gazing at an entire new scene’, a ‘new world’ that Rousseau equates with unbreached self-possession and self-forgetfulness:

Imagine to yourself all these united impressions: the amazing variety, magnitude, and beauty, of a thousand stupendous objects; the pleasure of gazing at an entire new scene … another nature, and a new world … In short, there is a kind of supernatural beauty in these mountainous prospects which charms both the senses and the mind into a forgetfulness of one's self and of everything in the world. (E i. 120–1)

Saint-Preux's new-found serenity renders him immune to the painful realities of his situation (not just his distance from Eloisa, but his social and economic inferiority, and the seemingly immutable class hierarchy which separates them). We begin to see how the absence of others makes possible what Riviere calls ‘the special compensatory connection between external loss and internal acquisition’ (IW 322). If, as Saint-Preux claims, everything is ‘connected with the idea of Eloisa’, separation is just another form of togetherness; they need never be apart. The same tree shades the lovers, they recline on the same bank, gaze at the same landscape:

Is it possible for me to be one moment of my life alone, who exist only through her? O no! Our souls are inseparable … I did not take one step without you, nor admire a single prospect without eagerly pointing out its beauties to Eloisa. The same tree spread its shadow over us both, and we constantly reclined against the same flowery bank. Sometimes as we sat, I gazed with you at the wonderful scene before us, and sometimes on my knees turned with raptures to an object more worthy the contemplation of human sensibility. If I came to a difficult pass, I saw you skip over it with the activity of a bounding doe. When a torrent (p.64) happened to cross our path, I presumed to press you in my arms, walked slowly through the water, and was always sorry when I reached the opposite bank. Everything in that peaceful solitude brought you to my imagination … every object that gave pleasure to the eye or to the heart, seemed inseparably connected with the idea of Eloisa. (E i. 127–8)

You're never alone in the mountains. In such a state of mind, nothing is missing, so nothing is missed; objects that give pleasure to the eye and the object of love are interchangeable. Obstacles magically dissolve, and crossing a torrent simply provides an opportunity for imaginary closeness.

But the post is about to leave: ‘Why was I roused from my reverie? I was happy at least in idea.’ The materiality of the letter—the fictional form of Rousseau's novel—intrudes on this prospect of unbroken self-possession as an insistent reminder of separation in time and space. Reality is allegorized as a rocky landscape, hostile, unyielding, and wintry. Just a few letters later, Rousseau shows us the phantasy breaking down (Letter XXVIII). Saint-Preux spends his days in ‘a solitary cleft’ from which he views, through a telescope, the house by the lake that contains the distant Eloisa. Although he believes that ‘in spite of every obstacle, [he] can penetrate into [her] very chamber’, he is forced to recognize that it is ‘all a dream, the idle phantom of a projecting mind’ (E i. 142). He imagines her reading the letters he writes on his rocky desk and melting into tears. Soon he is hurrying from rock to rock, contemplating a watery suicide (‘The rock is craggy—the water deep—and I am in despair!’, E i. 147). In this novel of self-seduction, the lover risks drowning in his own reflection. Ten years later, Saint-Preux revisits his rocky retreat in the company of Eloisa—now virtuously married to her middle-aged husband and mentor, Wolmar, who has taught her how to civilize passion by fencing it out or sequestering it within. Eloisa's crowning achievement as an Enlightenment gardener is her creation of a seemingly natural wilderness whose confines have been disguised by artful cultivation (Pontalis's ‘well arranged landscape in which one does not know whether the effect is due to the gardener or to a natural order’). Here Saint-Preux learns that Eloisa inhabits marriage as a willing guest, and receives his own key from Wolmar (p.65) so that he too can come and go freely. But when they venture outside, the lovers re-encounter the seductive, deathward drift of their former passion. During a boating expedition, a storm blows them across the lake, and they arrive at the same rocky cleft where Saint-Preux had once taken refuge with his telescope (‘that lovely retreat, which served me as an asylum in the midst of ice’, E iii. 215). Now this once-bleak retreat seems ‘designed as an asylum for two lovers’. Calling it ‘a spot which is full of [her]’, Saint-Preux leads Eloisa ‘toward the rock, and shewed her where her cypher was engraved in a thousand places, with several verses in Petrarch and Tasso, relative to the state [he] was in when [he] engraved them’ (E iii. 216–17). But these multiple inscriptions of Eloisa's name have a devastating effect on the lover.

Rereading this lovely landscape, inscribed as it is with his memories of previous absence, reactivates the ‘gloomy and greedy eye’ of Saint-Preux's earlier suicidal melancholy:

Here is the stone where I used to sit, to reflect on your happy abode at a distance; on this I penned that letter which moved your heart; these sharp flints served me as a graving tool to cut your name; here I crossed that frozen torrent to regain one of your letters which the wind had carried off; there I came to review, and give a thousand kisses to the last you ever wrote to me; this is the brink, where, with a gloomy and greedy eye, I measured the depth of this abyss … (E iii. 218)

Fort/da … The ‘here’ and ‘there’ of an absence mastered, in thiscase, through letters recalls the repetitive strategies of Freud's little grandson in Beyond the Pleasure Principle (where a mirror also plays its part in the game of disappearance and return).17 When Saint-Preux unexpectedly finds himself ‘draw[ing] near the brink’ again, the lovers leave in a hurry. As their melancholy increases on the return boat journey, Saint-Preux phantasizes a double suicide by water. Why the sudden brinkmanship and death-driven thoughts? What seems to intrude at this moment of rereading is not just the repetition of painful experience, but an intolerable sense of loneliness and fragmentation. Klein's (p.66) posthumously published essay ‘On the Sense of Loneliness’ (1963) calls it ‘the feeling that one is not in full possession of one's self, that one does not fully belong to oneself or, therefore, to anybody else. The lost parts too, are felt to be lonely.’18 To Petrarch and Tasso—devoted and maddened lover-poets respectively—add Saint-Preux, measuring the abyss with his self-destructive eye. Death by drowning appears the only means to reunite these lost parts that have been projected into others. But it is Eloisa rather than Saint-Preux who dies at the end of the novel, ostensibly from plunging into the lake to save her young son. On some level, she dies because only her death can heal the split in Saint-Preux (while making it finally possible for Eloisa herself to acknowledge her unextinguished passion for him). On the last page, we hear her plaintive voice calling, Echo-like, from ‘the hollow tomb’ in the certainty that ‘she has not yet forsaken those haunts which she used to make so delightful’ (E iv. 284–5). The landscape of absence becomes her speaking epitaph; the past returns, not as a textual fragment or a cypher written on the rocks, but as a ghosdy presence—a voice. This trope of the speaking epitaph could be thought of as sustaining the entire novel. In order to read letters, after all, we have to imagine them as a form of prosopopoeia, spoken by a disembodied voice. Saint-Preux's phantasy about landscape—that absence is really presence—turns out to be the informing phantasy of Rousseau's epistolary novel. La Nouvelle Heloise retells the story of a modern Narcissus seduced by hisown reflection in terms of the haunting of landscape by echo.19 Riviere's poetic phantasy of something ‘still present and available’ allows Rousseauian reading to be redefined as the recovery of the past in the present (‘acts of absorption when alone in thoughts and memories of [the] past’, JW320). You're never alone in a book, especially when the landscape of narcissistic reflection—the classically derived tropology that underlies La Nouvelle Heloise—speaks with the voice of echo.

(p.67) The Inequalities of Memory

If any one faculty of our nature may be called more wonderful than the rest, I do think it is memory. There seems something more speakingly incomprehensible in the powers, the failures, the inequalities of memory, than in any other of our intelligences. The memory is sometimes so retentive, so serviceable, so obedient—at others, so bewildered and so weak—and at others again, so tyrannic, so beyond control!—We are to be sure a miracle every way—but our powers of recollecting and forgetting, do seem peculiarly past finding out. (Jane Austen, Mansfield Park)20

Fanny Price's rhapsody on memory in Mansfield Park is as thought-provoking as Byatt's reflection on reading, which—genetically speaking—belongs to the same line of descent. Austen s heroine is addicted not only to reading in her own room, but to retreating into an imaginary landscape (with or without a book).21 The most Romantic as well as the most Evangelical of all Austen s heroines, Fanny turns to landscape for tranquillity, uplift, and a much-needed sense of continuity. Her attachment to place (p.68) preserves and overlays the memory of an earlier separation. Like Rousseau, she is a displaced person, uprooted from her crowded and chaotic family of origin in naval Portsmouth and transplanted to the spacious country house of a surrogate family. At once protected and excluded by her wealthy adoptive family, the landed and titled Bertrams, she lives alone among others—whether socially inferior or simply overlooked; there is no person, group, or place to which she really belongs. Her closest relationship, with her kind, serious cousin, Edmund Bertram (the younger son), replicates her enduringly affectionate childhood bond with her seagoing brother, Tom. But, for much of the novel, the privileged locus of her attachment is Mansfield Park itself. Despite her awareness of its subtle cruelties and manifest imperfections, Fanny comes to love the tranquillity and spaciousness of Mansfield and suffers from the noise when she revisits her cramped Portsmouth home. She alone, in fact, is loyal to the principles of her unbending uncle, Sir Thomas Bertram (whose deficiencies as a parent emerge during the course of the novel), while attending uncomplainingly to the needs of her inert and sofa-bound aunt, Lady Bertram. But it is Fanny herself—voicing Austen s own abolitionist sympathies—whose discreetly placed question brings into focus the fact that Mansfield Park is sustained less by the management of an old-fashioned agrarian economy than by the falling profits of West Indian sugar plantations, and hence by slave labour.22 The occluded (p.69) margins of the novel are occupied by this unthinkable form of colonial cultivation, the slave-run plantation visited by Sir Thomas and his older son. But the only background we are actually allowed to see is taken up with the cultivation and ‘improvement’ of the traditional English landscape—a landscape, however, that depends in turn on an earlier form of domestic appropriation, the enclosure of common land to form the extensive parks and pleasure grounds required by the landed gentry.23 If form itself is ideology, it is (p.70) tempting to conclude that the landscape of memory in Mansfield Park is the conservative form of an ideological attachment to thepast which has forgotten its implication in the displacement, not just of one poor relation, but of entire populations.24

In the psychic economy of Mansfield Park, the best form of improvement is judicious conservation; memory embodies an element of disavowal—indeed, outright appropriation. Respect for tradition, embodied by Sir Thomas Bertram, goes hand in hand with the contradictions implicit in the idea of enlightened plantocracy. Change is registered as an attack on the landscape, or else as a destabilizing intrusion in the form of disruptive people and ideas. In the face of this assault on the values enshrined in an imaginary past, memory offers a saving fantasy of continuity.25 But it also offers an avenue to the internal world of the novel, and to understanding the peculiar nature of Fanny's conservative attachment to place—what Edmund later calls ‘all the holds upon things animate and inanimate, which so many years' growth have confirmed’ (MP 344). In The Unconscious Phantasy of an Inner World′, Riviere writes that ‘the nearest a normal person, at any rate in the Western culture, comes to conscious realization of his own inner world is through the processes of memory’ (IW 318–19). Fanny's rhapsody on memory, prompted by a recently created shrubbery, represents such a moment of near-conscious realization. The conversion of a rough hedgerow into a sheltered walk, in a brief recapitulation of the history of enclosure, occasions her reflections on the subtle improvements brought by time and growth. Austen makes her argue for the inseparability of (p.71) recollecting and forgetting, and for the inextricability of knowledge from what is past [i.e. beyond] finding out′. Forgetting carries within it an unexpected potential for destruction—a tyrannical amnesia, or trial ďarchive, within the public and private spaces of memory.26 The present overgrows and obliterates the past; we create our natural environment by ruthlessly re-creating it. In this sense, memory is always prosthetic, always an improvement on a prior state of things. In her conversation with A. S. Byatt, Ignes Sodre links Fanny's rhapsody on memory to the theme of constancy in the novel as a whole. But she suggests, shrewdly, that Fanny only wants to remember the good experiences associated with Mansfield; Portsmouth, her home of origin, becomes a convenient repository for bad experiences such as feeling out of place or unwanted—all split-off features of her actual life at Mansfield.27 For Byatt, as we have seen, the shrubbery is an image of what grows organically, over time, in the reader's head (while paradoxically obscuring the past as it does so). Constancy and inconstancy are inextricably entwined in Austen's organicist trope of memory.

Continuing in what she calls ‘this sort of wondering strain’, Fanny enthuses about evergreens as a sign of nature's astonishing variety: ‘one cannot fix one's eye on the commonest natural production without finding food for a rambling fancy’ (MP 223). Everything she sees in nature nourishes a literary imagination. Fanny's rambling mind colonizes her environment, constituting a kind of mental ‘enclosure’; where fields and hedgerows were, there ornamental shrubberies shall be. Austen is pointing to the cultural uses of an unproductive landscape for the production of an educated sensibility such as Fanny comes to represent in the novel. Here, for instance, she reproduces the aestheticized reflections of a late eighteenth-century sufferer from seasonal affective (p.72) disorder (known to modern fellow sufferers by the melancoly acronym, SAD). Rambling—a leisure pursuit recently adopted by the upper classes—involves the same unpurposive activity, the same potential for reflective melancholy. The enclosed landscape ‘feeds’ a rambling fancy rather than growing crops. Given Sir Thomas Bertram's absentee ownership of colonial estates abroad, the cash-crop that matters is in any case sugar rather than corn. Plantations of evergreens allow Fanny to think pensive thoughts, while overcoming and naturalizing the reality of change as seasonal continuity. Her internal landscape is this landscape of unchanging evergreen absence. Fanny is a heroine who never manages to be ‘there’ (wherever it is), however much she longs to be. Typically, she thinks about being there when she is somewhere else. In a way, she never moves beyond the shrubbery, just as her aunt seems never to leave the sofa. This is surprising in a novel that ostensibly focuses attention on the idea of gaining access to landscape (on foot or horse, or in the mind's eye) for the purpose of deriving aesthetic pleasure from it. I want to focus on a single, well-known episode from Mansfield Park (spead out over chapters 9 and 10 of Volume I) in order to explore in more detail the function of Austen's landscape of absence—the way external space is used to map the inner boundaries and divisions of the novel's characters, who take on the aspect of intrusive internal objects within the mind of Fanny herself.

The subject of improvement comes up most insistently in connection with Sotherton, the neighbouring estate belonging to Mr Rushworth (the suitable but none-too-bright young man to whom Maria, the older and more headstrong of the two Bertram sisters, is unenthusiastically engaged). Lady Bertram, who almost never goes out, opines complacently: ‘One likes to get out into a shrubbery in fine weather’ (MP 86). Her remark prompts Mr Rushworth to enlarge on his plans for drastic improvements to his park, in the hope of impressing his listeners and capturing his indifferent fiancee's attention:

There have been two of three fine old trees cut down that grew too near the house, and it opens the prospect amazingly, which makes me (p.73) think that Repton, or any body of that sort, would certainly have the avenue at Sotherton down; the avenue that leads from the west front to the top of the hill you know,’ turning to Miss Bertram particularly as he spoke. But Miss Bertram thought it most becoming to reply:

‘The avenue! Oh! I do not recollect it. I really know very little of Sotherton’ (MP 87)

In the politico-aesthetic wars of the picturesque, Repton claimed that his own system of improvement resembled the same happy medium between liberty and despotic restraint as the British constitution.28 Mr Rushworth is hardly a revolutionary. But his plan to cut down an avenue of oak trees (‘It is oak entirely’, MP 111) in order to improve the view goes against both Burkean tradition and reverence for the patriotic oak associated with the British constitution. Although representative of the fashion for landscape make-over, Repton himself was also responsible for massive tree-planting programmes—not to mention the burgeoning of innumerable shrubberies. If we turn to Repton s Enquiry into the Changes of Taste in Landscape Gardening (1806), we find himpraising the aesthetics of ‘continuity’ in the form of ‘the delight expressed in a long avenue’.29 Apropos of cutting down avenues, (p.74) he concludes: ′the change of fashion in Gardening destroys the work of ages, when lofty avenues are cut down for no other reason but because they were planted in straight rows, according to the fashion of former times/30 Austen is laughing at Mr Rushworth (‘an inferior young man, as ignorant in business as in books’, MP 214) for having misunderstood Repton so thoroughly But his misunderstanding leads to an attack which the novel implicitly codes as the symbolic destruction of a vital link with the past: a link of which Fanny's solitary consciousness becomes the principle bearer in the novel.

Both Austen and Fanny—Reptonians in their appreciation of natural variety and in their respect for the fashion of former times—appear to mourn the passing of the traditional landscape represented by Sotherton. Fanny (who will find the chapel at Sotherton insufficiently historical) wistfully expresses her wish to see the avenue ‘before it is cut down, to see the place as it is now, in its old state, but I do not suppose I shall’ (MP 87).31 But her immediate response is a form of literary memory. She turns to Edmund, saying ‘in a low voice, “Cut down an avenue! What a pity! Does not it make you think of Cowper? ‘Ye fallen avenues, once more I mourn your fate unmerited.’”’ (MP 87)32 Fanny's quotation comes from the first book of Cowper's protracted, reflective nature-poem, The Task (1785). Cowper—who was also the best-known anti-slavery poet of the late eighteenth century—undertook The Task as a therapeutic exercise, urged on by a lady who proposed a poem on a mock-epic subject of her own (p.75) choosing: the sofa. Hailed as the culmination of the progress of eighteenth-century leisure, the sofa provided Cowper with an unusual vantage-point for writing poetry, at once indoors and outdoors. ‘Having much leisure’, he explains disarmingly he ′connected another subject with it; and pursued the train of thought to which his situation and turn of mind led him/33 Unlike Lady Bertram, he gets off the sofa for a literary ramble—a ramble, however, that takes place in his and the reader's head. Klein's ‘On the Sense of Loneliness’ refers to a claustrophobic patient whose flight into nature was not only prompted by ‘anxiety of imprisonment’ in the maternal body, or the feeling of being ‘hemmed in by resentful internal objects’, but by the underlying conviction that nature was a good object able to repair itself and withstand his destructive assaults.34 The rambling, free-associative mode of The Task allows Cowper to link past and present selves, while reaffirming his connection with landscape as unbroken and reparative in the face of mental anguish and breakdown: ‘scenes that sooth’ ed | Or charm'd me young, no longer young, I find | Still soothing (T i. 141–3). This sounds surprisingly like Byatt's reflection on rereading Mansfield Park. Soothed by books, the re-reader asserts the continuity of past and present selves, defended against ideas of loss or change.

Cowper deploys the familiar topography of the eighteenth-century landscape poem to anchor his wandering thoughts—directing our eyes to a clump of elms here, a river there; here a village, there a horizon, where ‘the sloping land recedes into the clouds’ (T i. 171). Riviere's aesthetic topography of nearness and distance should alert us to the representation of an inner world. Sure enough, we move from a catalogue of sights to sounds (‘heard in scenes where peace for ever reigns’, T i. 208) to the unheard (p.76) sound—silence—that Cowper equates with poetry (‘the poet's treasure, silence’, Ti. 235). Cowper invokes the special form of protection offered by the avenues of poetic tradition. Our ancestors, he writes, ‘knew the value of a screen | From sultry suns’, of ‘shaded walks | And long-protracted bowers’ (T i. 255–7). The rambling chiaroscuro of The Task (half-serious, half-playful) allows Cowper to refer semi-facetiously to an avenue of chestnut-trees, ‘ranged in corresponding lines’, in terms of ‘The obsolete prolixity of shade’ (T i. 263–5). The Task's obsolete Miltonic prolixities—its ‘corresponding lines’—remind us that the temporarily reprieved avenue is a figure for the refuge provided by poetry and tradition alike. Cowper's fallen avenues are a monument to survival—a natural ruin, open to the sky, suffused with the religious feeling Fanny had missed in Sotherton's chapel (‘nothing awful here, nothing melancholy, nothing grand’, MP 114):

  • Ye fallen avenues! Once more I mourn
  • Your fate unmerited, once more rejoice
  • That yet a remnant of your race survives.
  • How airy and how light the graceful arch,
  • Yet awful as the consecrated roof
  • Re-echoing pious anthems! While beneath
  • The chequer'd earth seems restless as a flood
  • Brush'd by the wind. So sportive is the light
  • Shot through the boughs, it dances as they dance,
  • Shadow and sunshine intermingling quick,
  • And darkning and enlightning, as the leaves
  • Play wanton, ev′ry moment, ev′ry spot.
  • (Ti. 338–49)

The fallen avenues represent the very space of reflection, ‘darkning and enlightning’ from moment to moment. The self-observing mind—at rest but not immobile, responsive to shifts of mood and the quick play of passing thoughts—preserves the vital link between sense perception and consciousness. This landscape of reverie (not the sofa) is the real subject of The Task. But Cowper goes out of his way to invest the fallen avenues with retrospective political meaning when he invokes ‘Our arch of empire … A mutilated structure, soon to fall’ (T i. 773–4). Mansfield is a (p.77) similarly ‘mutilated structure’, rendered imperfect by an Empire predicated on the slavery from which Sir Thomas Bertram derives his wealth.

For once included in the family outing, Fanny arrives at Sotherton full of ‘respect’—her term (MP in)—for the history of a great country house, and on the look-out for the avenue of oak trees. She never reaches it, but her imaginary relation to the distant avenue shapes the abortive trajectory of the entire episode. Oppressed by their guided tour of a great house that represents the formality and restraint of the past, the young people ‘as by one impulse, one wish for air and liberty, all walked out’ (MP 118). In their different groupings, they find their way through an open door into the shady wilderness beyond the formal gardens and terraces (‘they were all agreed in turning joyfully through it, and leaving the unmitigated glare of day behind’, MP 119). The wilderness, like Julie's wilderness in La Nouvelle Heloise, is an enlarged shrubbery whose limits have been disguised by ingenious planting (the effect ‘was darkness and shade, and natural beauty’, MP 119). On this border between garden and park, boundaries become permeable. The Sotherton wilderness forms a stage for Austen's unquiet comedy of matched and mismatched lovers in pursuit of each other; two's company but three's a jealous crowd. Each couple finds a way to get rid of the unwanted third, breaching the confines of the ha-ha and locked gates and escaping into the relative freedom of the park. Austen minutely calibrates her characters' relations to each other—their mingled but unequally distributed feelings of attraction, resentment, jealousy, disappointment, and depression (the last two terms are Austen's; the emotions belong to Fanny). Their claustrophobic desire to get out is the underside of Fanny's exaggerated respect for limits. Austen conveys the deathly inertia and fear which keeps the agoraphobe from exploring her environment, while all the while longing to reach the distant avenue.

‘Knocked up’ by the walk, Fanny is left on a bench by her two companions to recover (‘to sit in the shade on a fine day, and look upon verdure, is the most perfect refreshment’, MP 123). Like Byatt's middle-aged Austen on her sofa, she is relegated to (p.78) observing—and envying—the life lived by others. By contrast, ‘resting fatigues’ her companion, the lively and restless Mary Crawford. She and Edmund Bertram walk off to measure the extent of the wilderness and explore their mutual attraction; Edmund has felt a new ′connection to Mary Crawford when she takes his arm for the first time during their walk. Their expedition is protracted to an hour when they find their way into the park via an open side-gate. Meanwhile, another trio appears—Maria Bertram, Mr Rushworth, and Mary Crawford's sophisticated brother Henry, serving as adviser in the scheme of ‘improving’ Sotherton. They are eager to reach a distant knoll, in order to get a good view of the house and the surrounding park; but the iron gate is locked. While Mr Rushworth obediently goes for the key, Maria confides her dismay at the ‘smiling prospect’ before her (marriage to Mr Rushworth): ‘Yes, certainly, the sun shines and the park looks very cheerful. But unluckily that iron gate, that ha-ha, give me a feeling of restraint and hardship. I cannot get out, as the starling said’ (MP 127). Henry Crawford suggests taking a short cut (as he will do again), and the pair climb round the gate to a chorus of distress from Fanny: ‘You will hurt yourself Miss Bertram … you will certainly hurt yourself against those spikes—you will tear your gown—you will be in danger of slipping into the ha-ha’ (MP 127). Fanny knows where all this tends: one slip, and you're out of the novel for good: ‘Let other pens dwell on guilt and misery’ (MP 446—Austen's way of dealing with the adultery foretold here). As Maria and Henry stroll off into the park, the remaining characters enter and exit in pursuit of one another (Julia Bertram, chagrined that her sister has out-manoeuvred her in the competition for the eligible but elusive Henry Crawford, Mr Rushworth mortified that his future wife has already dumped him for a more attractive man). When at last Fanny goes in search of Edmund and Mary, she finds that ‘they had been across a portion of the park into the very avenue which Fanny had been hoping the whole morning to reach at last; and had been sitting down under the trees. This was their history. It was evident that they had been spending their time pleasantly’ (MP 130).

(p.79) The avenue that Cowper had associated with the chiaroscuro of reflection, and Fanny with reverence for the past, becomes a place where two people might take legitimate pleasure in each other's company Linking the great house and the park, its past history and its smiling prospects, the avenue links Edmund and Mary Crawford in a hypothetical future that excludes Fanny Austen allows us to know ‘that the absence of the loved one is painful’; Fanny loves Edmund and is jealous of Mary Crawford. We register her feelings of abandonment and exclusion—‘the pain of having been left a whole hour … the sort of curiosity she felt, to know what they had been conversing about all that time … her disappointment and depression’ (MP 130). Throughout the novel, Fanny's most vivid connection to others in fact occurs via this suffering consciousness. Her feelings of pain and curiosity, disappointment and depression, anticipate the amateur theatricals at Mansfield, when she and Julia Bertram, both onlookers at the flirtations of others, become ‘two solitary sufferers, or connected only by Fanny's consciousness’ (MP 183). Fanny's connecting consciousness—a projection of Austen's—makes her a fictional looker-on at life, middle-aged before her time (confined to a sofa of her own). Her solution is to attach herself to what is not (or is no longer) there, deriving melancholy satisfaction from its contemplation.35 For Fanny, it isn't a matter of replacing an object of desire by a symbol (the distant avenue).36 Rather, the object has become identified with absence itself, and the hatred mobilized against it—as we can now see with hindsight—displaced on to (p.80) stupid Mr Rushworth's unthinking enthusiasm for Reptonian ‘improvement’, or on to the envied and resented Mary Crawford, who is systematically cut down to size during the course of the novel by both Fanny and Austen herself. The fallen avenues of the past become a magnet for this attachment to an absent object, always lost, but made permanently available in the surrogate form of literary memory. Maria Bertram's sense of confinement expresses itself in pathetic fallacy and the sentimental cliche of the caged starling in Sterne's Sentimental Journey. By contrast, Fanny's attachment to a lost object expresses itself in ‘what poetry only can attempt to describe’ (MP 139)—in elegy, diffused over the literary landscape of the entire novel; in having only got what she has not got. Mansfield Park uses the trope of landscape to gather up a complex skein of interpersonal, intrapsychic, and symbolic meanings, as well as political, ideological, and economic agendas that may not, in fact, have been consciously available to its author. But perhaps the meaning that emerges most clearly from Austen's use of the avenue as a link to the past is the simplest one: namely, Fanny's wish to preserve it. By installing Cowper's ‘fallen avenues’ in her internal world, Fanny does her best to conserve them, producing elegiac food for thought. Like the pained lover of Hoskins's poem, Fanny knows that the best kind of presence is absence after all. Conservation, you might say, keeps the fallen avenues permanently on line—just as rereading and remembering tread the same recursive path when they return to the sites of meaning embodied by literary tradition.

Another poem by Cowper, also about an avenue, draws these reflections on landscape, memory, and literary tradition into a different relation. The Task, as we have seen, uses the ‘corresponding lines’ of a classical colonnade as a metaphor for poetry. ‘The Poplar-Field’ is at once a graceful elegy for felled trees and a poet's epitaph:

  • The Poplars are fell'd, farewell to the shade
  • And the whispering sound of the cool colonnade,
  • The winds play no longer, and sing in the leaves,
  • Nor Ouse on his bosom their image receives.
  • (p.81) Twelve years have elapsed since I first took a view
  • Of my favourite field and the bank where they grew,
  • And now in the grass behold they are laid,
  • And the tree is my seat that once lent me a shade.
  • The black-bird has fled to another retreat
  • Where the hazels afford him a screen from the heat,
  • And the scene where his melody charm'd me before,
  • Resounds with his sweet-flowing ditty no more.
  • My fugitive years are all hasting away,
  • And I must e′er long lie as lowly as they,
  • With a turf on my breast, and a stone at my head
  • E′er another such grove shall arise in its stead.
  • Tis a sight to engage me if any thing can
  • To muse on the perishing pleasures of Man;
  • Though his life be a dream, his enjoyments, I see,
  • Have a Being less durable even than he.37

Cowper's rippling anapaests state the ‘plain emotional fact’ of absence (The Poplars are fell'd … And now in the grass behold they are laid′). But they also contain a subtler, contrary play of possibility. Whose, really, is the subjectivity that records shade, movement, sound? Whose bosom preserves the absent ‘image’? The equivalence of poplars and reflected image reintroduces the temporal dimension of reflection: ‘Twelve years have elapsed … ’ The vantage point of memory is at once a ‘seat’ and a (psychic) ‘retreat’ (‘The black-bird has fled to another retreat’). The fort/ da of ‘before’ | ‘no more’—the on-again, off-again effects of rhyme and rhythm—puts the stress on what is ‘fugitive’, what comes and goes but will never return. We remember how Freud's grandson tried to master his mother's absence with a game (throwing a cotton reel out of his cot and retrieving it), for ever playing out the departure and return of his lost object. But (p.82) although the sight of something gone (’Tis a sight to engage me if any thing can … ′) brings painful thoughts of transience, it also generates a characteristic activity of mind called ‘musing’ (To muse on the perishing pleasures of Man). Reflection allows us to glimpse, for a moment, what it means not to lose sight of something in the mind's eye, to hold something in mind; to muse, even, on perishing pleasures. Or rather, Cowper's seeing (‘I see’)—his thinking—takes place in the absence of anything to see. As Freud might have said, in the projective time of the future past perfect, ‘objects’ (and even life itself) ‘shall have been lost which once brought real satisfaction’.38

In The Poplar-Field′, the loss of a reflected image, or the silencing of a bird, become metaphors for the poet's own anticipated loss of vision and voice. Life is a dream; can transitory enjoyments endure? Cowper's reflections on death are deliberately sententious, even formulaic (‘I must e′er long lie as lowly as they’). Such thoughts belong to classical convention, like his rising and falling anapaests. But the subtlety of his elegy eludes the thudding finality of … and a stone at my head′. A tree casts a reflection, but it cannot ‘reflect’, still less muse. Only the poem, in this sense, truly remembers. ‘The Poplar-Field’ is a poet's farewell to poetry—a speaking epitaph, this time the writer's own. We identify with its capacity to remember, as much as with the painful absence it records. Rereading a book or poem, like revisiting an imagined landscape, similarly depends on the to-and-fro movement of retreat and conservation, forgetting and memory: the movement that we call reflection. In this sense, the book (or poem, or landscape) functions as a link—as what Wilfred Bion (in Attacks on Linking′) calls the linking function of thought. I want to end with a passage from Joan Riviere's essay on literature and the internal world. Riviere writes, strongly, movingly, and directly, that death means not simply the end of life, but the disappearance of a complex identity predicated on the relation between present and past:

(p.83) death is not only a matter of whether the breath leaves the body and the heart ceases to beat. That is one item of the experience of death, it is true; but is that all that death means to us? It is probably the most important factor in death because it is irrevocable, and thus all else that death means becomes irrevocable: namely, the cessation, the disappearance, so comparatively sudden, of a living existence, an entity, a person, a personality, a most complex and composite structure of attributes, tendencies, experiences, memories, idiosyncracies good and bad, as well as the body they belong to. It is all this which disappears; from one moment to the next it was here and it is gone. So when one fears one's own death, it is all that which one will lose, one's life2—in both senses—one's present breath of life, and one's past life′ out of which one's identity is constituted. (IW 316)

The absence that we most fear is our own forgetting. Kleinian accounts of literary creation tend to emphasize the impulse to recover past times and lost objects, or to repair damaged ones.39 But literary memory—mourning the trees—is not just a form of reparation, or a way to preserve the ‘past life’ on which identity is predicated. By the same token, Riviere's eloquent account of the finality of life's disappearance (‘it was here and it was gone’) goes beyond the fort/da of object loss. She writes not only that present life includes the sense of having a past to lose, but that the capacity for reflecting on death is inseparable from being fully alive. (p.84)


(1) A. S. Byatt and Ignes Sodre, Imagining Characters: Six Conversations about Women Writers, ed. Rebecca Smith (London, 1995), 37-

(2) Ibid. 37¬

(3) See Richard Sterba, ‘The Fate of the Ego in Analytic Therapy’, IJP-A 15 (1934), 117–26. The ego, according to Freud's New Introductory Lectures on Psycho-Analysis, ′can treat itself like any other object, observe itself, criticize itself, do Heaven knows what besides with itself (see ibid. 120 n.). Sterba ends his essay by quoting Herder on the origins of speech (‘This first characteristic due to conscious reflection was a word of the mind’); he concludes: ‘In the therapeutic dissociation which is the fate of the ego in analysis, the analysand is called on “to answer for himself” [in German: “put to speech”] and the unconscious, ceasing to be expressed in behavior, becomes articulate in words. We may say then, that in this ego-dissociation we have an extension of reflection beyond what has hitherto been accessible’ (ibid. 126).

(4) See Ernst van Alphen, ‘De representatie van ruimte en de ruimte van representatie’ (The Representation of Space and the Space of Representation′), De Witte Raafi 70 (1997), 5–7 (forthcoming in English): The depiction of landscape … is not an end in itself as a representation of space, but it is the way in which the space of representation is being explored′; ‘Landscape … becomes a metaphor for a mode of looking … which draws the eye into the painting and makes the beholder forget that the space is representational’. Van Alphen is especially interesting on the way in which the space of landscape can be inviting, seducing, or promising. By contrast, he argues, ‘Architectural space engages by raising obstacles’ which in turn ‘raise the desire of … doing something which is forbidden’. This distinction has a bearing on the combination of landscape and architectural space in the design represented by Austen's Sotherton in Mansfield Park, where access to landscape involves overcoming physical and psychic obstacles. See also Jean-Philippe Antoine, ‘Photography, Painting and the Real: The Question of Landscape in the Painting of Gerhard Richter’, in Gerhard Richter (Paris, 1995), 53–89, for a relevant discussion of absence and memory in the painting of Caspar David Friedrich.

(5) See, for instance, Alan Liu, Wordsworth: The Sense of History (Stanford, Calif, 1989) for the politics of the picturesque, and see also Ann Janowitz, England's Ruins: Poetic Purpose and the National Landscape (Oxford, 1990).

(6) Cf. John Steiner's use of this term in relation to borderline patients, in Psychic Retreats: Pathological Organizations in Psychotic, Neurotic and Borderline Patients (London and New York, 1993)-

(7) First published in IJP-A 33 (1952), Riviere's essay was also included in Melanie Klein, Paula Heimann, and R. Money-Kyrle (eds.), New Directions in Psychoanalysis (London, 1955); quoted here from The Inner World and Joan Riviere: Collected Papers 1920–1958, ed. Athol Hughes (London, 1991), 303, cited hereafter as IW.

(8) Quoted from The Poems of John Donne, ed. Herbert Grierson (2 vols., Oxford, 1912), app. B: Poems Attributed to John Donne, ii. 428–9. Riviere quotes the first line as ‘Absence, hear thou my protestation … ’; this and other slight inaccuracies may suggest she is quoting the poem from memory or from another source. Later in her essay, Riviere gives an account of a comparable lover's experience drawn from Conrad's story, ‘The Arrow of Gold’ (see IW, 326–8) to illustrate ‘the phantasy of self-projection into the object which appears to be bound up and simultaneous with the process of introjection of the object’ (327).

(9) See, for instance, Hanna Segal's classic paper, ‘A Psychoanalytic Approach to Aesthetics’, in The Work of Hanna Segal: A Kleinian Approach to Clinical Practice (Northvale, NJ, and London, 1981), 185–205. Segal's example, inevitably, is Proust: ′Writing a book for him is like the work of mourning in that gradually the external objects are given up, they are reinstated in the ego, and re-created in the book. … all creation is really a re-creation of a once loved and once whole, but now lost and ruined object, a ruined internal world and self (190). In her 1980 postscript, however, Segal adds that she would ‘now emphasize more the role of idealization arising from the paranoid-schizoid position’ citing Adrian Stokes on the artist's wish to ‘maintain simultaneously an ideal object merged with the self and an object perceived as separate and independent, as in the depressive position’ (204)—a crucial revision.

(10) See, for instance, W. S. Bion, ′A Theory of Thinking (1962), Second Thoughts (London, 1984), 112: ‘If the capacity for toleration of frustration is sufficient the “no-breast” becomes a thought and an apparatus for “thinking” it develops … The crux lies in the decision between modification or evasion of frustration.’ See also Edna Ơshaughnessy's elegant, brief essay, ‘The Absent Object’, Journal of Child Psychotherapy, 1 (1964), 34~43: ′the absent object is a spur to the development of thought. It is not an accident that this is so, since there is a logical connection between thought and absence. You can be asked to think of something that is absent, a painting in a gallery (say), but you cannot be asked to think of a painting you are already looking at; perception shuts out thought, in this basic and simple sense. You can think about—in the sense of reflect upon—anything, things present as well as absent, but before you can “think about” you must develop the prior capacity to “think of”. This latter is essentially linked to things absent; developmentally speaking, to the absent breast′ (34). The Lacanian position—that lack hollows being into desire (i.e. gives rise to language)—is too well known to need further elaboration, but similarly implies the absence of the object and of immediate satisfaction.

(11) See Melanie Klein, ‘On the Theory of Anxiety and Guilt’ (1948; Envy and Gratitude, WMK iii. 25–42), and Paula Heimann, ‘Notes on the Theory of the Life and Death Instincts’, in Melanie Klein, Paula Heimann, Susan Isaacs, and Joan Riviere, Developments in Psycho-Analysis (London, 1952), 32.1–37-

(12) J.-B. Pontalis, ‘Places and Separation’, Frontiers in Psychoanalysis: Between the Dream and Psychic Pain, trans. Catherine Cullen and Philip Cullen (London, 1981), 112–25, cited hereafter as FP; subsequent page references in the text are to this translation. For object loss and separation anxiety considered particularly from a Kleinian perspective, see also Jean-Michel Quinodoz, The Taming of Solitude: Separation Anxiety and Psychoanalysis (London and New York, 1973). Quinodoz defines excessive separation anxiety as ′the tragic fear of finding oneself alone and abandoned—the fount of psychical pain and the affect of mourning, as Freud showed in 1926 [in Inhibitions, Symptoms, and Anxiety]′ (ibid. 3).

(13) See, for instance, Promenade VII, where Rousseau hears the clicking of a stocking mill in the midst of his imaginary solitude; Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Reveries of a Solitary Walker, trans. Peter France (Harmondsworth, 1979), 118.

(14) Quotations are from the Woodstock edition of William Kenrick's 1803 translation, Eloisa, or a Series of Original Letters (2 vols., Oxford, 1989), in which Julie becomes ‘Eloisa’; this was the much-reprinted edition available to Rousseau's late 18th-century and Romantic readers in England and is cited hereafter as E. References in the text are to the volumes and pages of this edition. For influential readings of Rousseau's novel which have shaped my own reading, see, for instance, Jean Starobinski, Jean-Jacques Rousseau: Transparency and Obstruction, trans. Arthur Goldhammer (Chicago, 1988), and Tonny Tanner, The Novel of Adultery: Contract and Transgression (Baltimore, 1979).

(15) See Steiner, Psychic Retreats, 3.

(16) Earlier, Eloisa—staking out the scene of their first kiss—anticipates Saint Preux's experience during a ramble of her own: ‘You, my amiable friend—you were my companion—or rather, I carried you in my heart. I sought those paths which I imagined we should have trod, and marked the shades which seemed worthy to receive us’ (E i. 95).

(17) See Beyond the Pleasure Principle (SE xviii. 15 and n.).

(18) See Envy and Gratitude, WMK iii. 303.

(19) Cf. Rousseau's mini-drama, Pygmalion, for his interest in the interplay between narcissism and artistic creation, and his articulation of something close to the Kleinian concept of narcissistic projective identification.

(20) Jane Austen, Mansfield Park, ed. Tony Tanner (Harmondsworth, 1966), 222, cited hereafter as MP; subsequent page references in the text are to this edition. Mansfield Park has given rise to an exceptionally interesting group of critical essaysin recent years, mostly, however, focused on the theatricals. See, for instance, David Marshall, ‘True Acting and the Language of Real Feeling: Mansfield Park’, Yale Journal of Criticism, 3 (1989), 87–106. For a subtle and relevant consideration of Austen's Persuasion in relation to the literary and to books, see Adela Pinch, ′Lost in a Book: Jane Austen's Persuasion, in Strange Fits of Passion (Stanford, Calif, 1996). See also Ruth Bernard Yeazell, ‘The Boundaries of Mansfield Park’, Representations, 7 (1984), 133–52, repr. in Judy Simons (ed.), Mansfield Park and Persuasion (New York, 1997), 69–92, for an interesting anthropological consideration of the structure of space that includes the Sotherton episode. A. S. Byatt and Ignes Sodre explore the novel's underlying concern with ‘constancy’ (including memory and constancy to place) in Imagining Characters, Ch. 1; I am indebted to the many suggestive insights in their chapter, although choosing to place my own emphasis on the more problematic aspects of Fanny's psychic conservatism.

(21) See the passage from Sven Birkerts, The Gutenberg Elegies: The Fate of Reading in an Electronic Age (New York, 1994), 77, quoted on pp. 5–6 above, which suggests how strongly the image of a woman in a garden (or shrubbery) may be subliminally associated with the idea of reading.

(22) See the following exchange between Fanny and Edmund after Sir Thomas Bertram's return from Antigua: ‘Did not you hear me ask [Sir Thomas] about the slave trade last night? … but there was such a dead silence! And while my cousins were sitting by without speaking a word, or seeming at all interested in the subject, I did not like—I thought it would appear as if I wanted to set myself off at their expense, by shewing a curiosity and pleasure in his information which he must wish his own daughters to feel’ (MP 213). For the precise dating of this reference to issues of the (officially abolished) slave-trade in 1812, see Brian Southam, ‘The Silence of the Bertrams’, Times Literary Supplement, 17 Feb. 1995; repr. in Claudia L. Johnson (ed.), Mansfield Park (New York and London, 1998), 493–8; see also Michael Steffes, ‘Slavery and Mansfield Park: The Historical and Biographical Context’, English Language Notes, 34 (1996), 23–41. Like other Caribbean landowners of the period, Sir Thomas may have wished to set an enlightened example in the management of his slave-run estates in the wake of the abolition of the British slave-trade in 1807. For the complexities of Austen's relation to, and representation of, colonialism in Mansfield Park, see, for instance, Edward W. Said, Culture and Imperialism (New York, i993)〉 80–97. Moira Ferguson also considers the relation of gender to slavery in Mansfield Park, detailing Austen's abolitionist sympathies and her ‘recommendations for a kinder, gentler plantocracy’; see Mansfield Park: Slavery, Colonialism and Gender’, Oxford Literary Review, 13 (1991), 118–38, repr. as ‘Mansfield Park: Plantocratic Paradigms’, in Colonialism and Gender Relations from Mary Wollstonecraft to Jamaica Kincaid: East Caribbean Connections (New York, 1993), 65–89, and, for the larger context, see also Moira Ferguson, Subject to Others: British Women Writers and Colonial Slavery, 1670–1834 (New York and London, 1992). For Mansfield Park's combination of feminist and abolitionist issues, see Joseph Lew, ‘“That Abominable Traffic”: Mansfield Park and the Dynamics of Slavery’, in Beth Fowkes Tobin (ed.), History, Gender, and Eighteenth- Century Literature (Athens, Ga. 1994), 271–300; repr. in Johnson (ed.), Mansfield Park, 498–510. Byatt gives surprisingly short shrift to such issues, which were undoubtedly in Austen's Christian and Abolitionist mind (see, for instance, Imagining Characters, 41). Lord Mansfield, coincidentally, was the judge who, by his ruling in 1772 that former slaves could not be forcibly returned from England to slavery in the Caribbean, provided a legal stepping-stone towards the abolition of the British slave-trade thirty years later.

(23) Humphrey Repton coined the term ‘appropriation’ specifically to describe ‘extent of property’ both owned and viewed by the landowner: ‘The pleasure of appropriation is gratified in viewing a landscape which cannot be injured by the malice or bad taste of a neighbouring intruder: thus an ugly barn, a ploughed field, or any obtrusive object which disgraces the scenery of a park, looks as if it belonged to another, and therefore robs the mind of the pleasure derived from appropriation, or the unity and continuity of unmixed property’; see An Enquiry into the Changes of Taste in Landscape Gardening (1806; repr. Farnborough, Hants, 1969), 165–6, and compare this aesthetic justification for ‘unmixed property’ with the lover's phantasy of undisputed possession of the beloved. Cf. also John Barrell, The Dark Side of the Landscape: The Rural Poor in English Painting 1730–1840 (Cambridge, 1980), for another striking exclusion from the park landscape—that of the rural poor. Henry Crawford's suggestions about how Edmund Bertram might improve his parsonage so that it better fits with the idea of a gentleman's residence provide a similar reminder that the history of enclosure also involved the removal of traces of other people's owner-ship from view: ‘The meadows beyond what will be the garden … must be all laid together of course; very pretty meadows they are, finely sprinkled with timber. They belong to the living, I suppose. If not, you must purchase them’ (MP 250–1).

(24) For a contemporary debate over the past and present social and cultural uses of the country house and its park, see the symposium on Norbury Park, Vicki Berger and Isabel Vasseur (eds.), Arcadia Revisted: The Place of Landscape, (London, 1997); see also Simon Schama, Landscape and Memory (New York, 1995), esp. 153–74 for the British oak, and, for arcadia redesigned—‘a product of the orderly mind rather than the playground of the unchained senses’, 517–38.

(25) See W. R. Bion's suggestive paper on the link, ‘Attacks on Linking’ (1959), in Second Thoughts, 93–109, for an account of ‘phantasized attacks on the breast as the prototype of attacks on objects that serve as a link and projective identification as the mechanism employed by the psyche to dispose of the fragments produced by its destructiveness’ (93). For Bion, the destructive attack on a link is also directed at the phantasy of the parental couple and at verbal thought itself.

(26) Cf. Jacques Derrida's exploration of mat a″archive in Archive Fever: A Freudian Impression, trans. Eric Prenowitz (Chicago, 1996).

(27) According to Sodre, ‘[Fanny's] reference to “forgetting, almost forgetting what was before” … is connected to the wish to forget her bad experiences. What she says about the wonderfulness of memory is also linked to the central theme of constancy: remaining attached to one's good experiences, and being faithful, and grateful, to the past’ (Imagining Characters, 37).

(28) In Sketches and Hints on Landscape Gardening (1795), Repton compares The happy medium betwixt the wildness of nature and the stiffness of art′ to the way in which ‘the English constitution is the happy medium between the liberty of savages and the restraint of despotic government’; see Edward Hyams, Capability Brown and Humphrey Repton (London, 1971), 162; for the picturesque controversy during the 1790s, see ibid. 158–64, and Dorothy Stroud, Humphrey Repton (London, 1962), 82–92. The most helpful discussion of Repton's work in relation to Austen's own Reptonian landscape aesthetic is to be found in John Dixon Hunt's essay, ‘sense and Sensibility in the Landscape Designs of Humphrey Repton’, in Gardens and the Picturesque (Cambridge, Mass., 1992), 139–68. For the political wars of the picturesque in relation to literature, see also Liu, Wordswonh: The Sense of History, 61–137, esp. 104–15. See also Edward Malins, English Landscaping and Literature 1660–1840 (London, 1966), and Kay Diana Kris, The Idea of the English Landscape Painter (New Haven, 1997).

(29) Here is Repton on the aesthetic pleasures of ‘continuity’: ‘This seems evidently to be a source of pleasure, for the delight expressed in a long avenue, and the disgust at an abrupt break between objects that look as if they ought to be united; as in the chasm betwixt two large woods, or the separation betwixt two pieces of water; and even a walk, which terminates without affording a continued line of communication, is always unsatisfactory’; see An Enquiry into the Changes of Taste in Landscape Gardening, 164.

(30) An Enquiry into the Changes of Taste, 24–8. ‘Every sacrifice of large trees must be made with caution’, Repton notes (27 n.).

(31) Fanny complains to Edmund that ‘This is not my idea of a chapel. There is nothing awful here, nothing melancholy, nothing grand. Here are no aisles, no arches, no inscriptions, no banners’ (MP 114); she goes on to quote Sir Walter Scott's The Lay of the Last Minstrel, giving her interest in the past a specifically literary turn.

(32) Elsewhere, Fanny responds to a starry night in terms of ‘what poetry only can attempt to describe’; on this occasion too, her feelings are couched in the literary language of 18th-century enthusiasm: ‘Here's repose! … Here's what may tranquilize every care, and lift the heart to rapture!’ (MP 139). As so often in the novel, Fanny's turn from nature to literary language—equally associated with repose, tranquillity, and uplift—serves as a retreat from the fatigue, division, and dissatisfaction that characterizes Austenian sociality.

(33) The Poems of William Cowper, ed. John D. Baird and Charles Ryskamp (3 vols., Oxford, 1980–95), ii. 113, cited hereafter as T. Subsequent references are to the book and line numbers of The Task.

(34) See Envy and Gratitude, WMK iii. 307–8. For recent essays on the psychoanalytic meaning of landscape and place, see R. D. Hinshelwood, The Countryside′, British Journal of Psychotherapy, 10 (1993), 203–10, and Andrew Samuels, ‘I am a Place: Depth Psychology and Environmentalism’, ibid. 211–19.

(35) Compare D. W. Winnicott's patient in Transitional Objects and Transitional Phenomena′ (1953), for whom the rug that is not there is more real than the rug that is there, just as her previous analyst is more important to her than her present analyst (Winnicott): ‘she formulated the sentence: “All I have got is what I have not got.” There is a desperate attempt here to turn the negative into a last-ditch defence against the end of everything. The negative is the only positive’; see Playing and Reality (1971; repr. London, 1991), 22–4.

(36) Cf. Hanna Segal, ‘Notes on Symbol Formation’ (1957), in The Work of Hanna Segal, 51, summarizing Ernest Jones: ‘when a desire has to be given up because of conflict and is suppressed, it may express itself in a symbolic way, and the object of the desire which had to be given up can be replaced by a symbol.’ Segal argues for extending Jones's definition from this primitive symbolic process to the symbols used in self-expression, communication, discovery, and creation.

(37) The Poems of William Cowper, ii. 25–6; first published in The Gentleman's Magazine for 1784. Cowper apparently wrote ‘The Poplar-Field’ (written to a favourite tune of Lady Austen) ‘after having conducted Lady Austen to the site of a Poplar Grove, which he intended to show her, but found just cut down’ (see The Poems of William Cowper, ii. 316).

(38) See ‘Negation’ (1923); SE xix. 238.

(39) See Janine Chasseguet-Smirgel, Thoughts on the Concept of Reparation and the Hierarchy of Creative Acts', International Review of Psycho-Analysis, 11 (1984), 399–406, for a distinction between reparation of objects and reparation of the subject via creative acts; I am grateful to Rosika Parker for drawing my attention to this essay.