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Trauma and Cure in Rebecca West’s The Return of the Soldier
Abstract

Abstract:

Two critical trends have persisted with surprising resilience in scholarship on Rebecca West’s novel The Return of the Soldier: first, the wholesale dismissal, for psychoanalytic as well as purely literary reasons, of amnesiac Chris Baldry’s climactic “cure,” and second, the underestimation and general neglect of Chris’s sweetheart, Margaret Allington. Drawing on the work of Françoise Davoine and Jean-Max Gaudillière, this essay argues that the soldier’s cure in fact emerges as a highly convincing transferential encounter in light of recent advancements in trauma theory, and that Margaret — an intuitive analyst and therapist — is crucial to Chris’s final transformation, for better or worse. The essay thus makes the case for a reappraisal of an unduly slighted character — that is, for the recognition of Margaret’s powerful agency in the text — while also arguing for the psychoanalytic relevance of The Return’s controversial conclusion.