Narcissism and the Conditions of Self-knowledge in James's "The Jolly Corner"
Abstract

This psychoanalytic reading examines Henry James's short story, "The Jolly Corner," through theories of narcissism advanced by Freud and Lacan. Paralleling the protagonist, Spencer Brydon, with Ovid's Narcissus, this reading claims that James's tale is a rewriting of the Narcissus myth. While Narcissus comprehends his own image and dies, Brydon denies the identity of this spectral alter-ego and survives. Brydon's traumatic encounter with his alter-ego dramatizes the subject's narcissistic investment in a single, unified identity as a condition for survival. Similarly, James advances the idea that this text's continuing signification is contingent on not believing that the story has a determinate meaning.