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Rage and Reparation in the Epiphanies of Edward Thomas: Dark-Bright Water, Grating Roar Martin Bidney SUNY at Binghamton THOUGH THE POETIC CAEEER of Edward Thomas was cut short in 1917 by his death in Flanders, he left us masterful epiphanies of melancholy. Thomas's work copes with loss; psychologist Jamison cites Thomas to clarify depressive and suicidal moods.1 Like the artistic acts of mourning carried out by other modernists (Virginia Woolf, René Magritte, Djuna Barnes, Countee Cullen), which Ester Sánchez-Pardo studies from a neo-Kleinian psychoanalytic standpoint, the epiphanies of Edward Thomas are deeply conflicted, unresolved attempts at healing .2 Animated by contradictory urges toward rage and reparation as he deals with resentment and nostalgia, Thomas's epiphanies of dark-bright vision and half-subdued harsh roaring instantiate "modernist melancholia."3 His epiphanies confirm Melanie Klein's emphasis on unsubduable love-hate conflicts as childhood ambivalences recur with startling insistence in a melancholic mourning without closure.4 New Critics, one recalls, found conflicts, tensions, lack of closure everywhere —are Kleinian ambivalences merely the same thing in different words? By no means, for Klein clarifies much more than ironic tensions. Her groundbreaking analysis of melancholic mourning illumines an inner drama by indicating strategies used in reparative attempts to quell rage. These include the will to sacrifice; the repressive tactic of positing one's omnipotence; growing acceptance of métonymie displacement through reality testing; and the temporary finding of a substitute mother in a female alter ego. Thomas's epiphanies embody multi-stage Kleinian drama. Emphasizing lasting conflict, Klein questions Freud's sharp distinction between mourning and melancholia. Freud had suggested that 292 Bidney : Thomas "when the work of mourning is completed," the ego again becomes "free," whereas in melancholia, because there is an identification of the ego with the lost object, not only the "world" becomes "poor and empty" but "the ego itself'5—a loss harder to repair. The loss of self-esteem brings guilt. In "Mourning and Melancholia," Freud adds to the idea of identification "the notion of incorporation or introjection: identifying himself with the lost object," the melancholic takes it in and "feels himself to have devoured it," a guilty "phantasy" with "enduring effects upon his psyche."6 These conflicted fantasy-effects, which Klein will stress, center on the sad ambivalence I find so marked in Edward Thomas: Introjection [or incorporation] bears unmistakably the signs of the oral phase—or, more specifically, the later or sadistic part of that phase. It was from this connection ... that Freud inferred a characteristic that belongs to all introjected objects: namely, ambivalence. For ambivalence is itself a marked characteristic of both the oral- and anal-sadistic phases. ... In a phase dominated by biting or defecating, love and hatred give way to one another with a facility borrowed from the easy and rapid transitions that these physical activities themselves can make between being gestures of love and being gestures of hate.7 Identification implies incorporation, devouring—a mentality alternating ambivalently between love and aggression. The rage central to identification is repressed in idealizing an introjected object, but traumas such as loss and separation activate repressed resentment.8 When hate erupts, guilty "self-reproaches"9 devour the devourer with a "gnawing of conscience."10 For Klein, the stern superego brings remorse of conscience at the earliest oral stage of development, since the breast is loved when available, hated when it vanishes, then guiltily devoured when it returns. Klein "describes introjection of a good and a bad breast as the first step in building the infant's inner world"; later, at about six months of age, with the onset of the "depressive position," the child incorporates mother not as a breast-object but as a whole person, but conflict continues:11 "The child internalizes both the 'good,' loving mother and the 'bad,' frustrating one."12 Remorse persists. Though the conflicted ego seeks to make "reparation" for its impulses of enraged voracity,13 the reparative integration of the child's ego and of its fantasized ego-validating mother imago is so fragile that in "normal mourning, as well as in abnormal mourning" or melancholia, "the infan293 ELT 47 : 3 2004 tile depressive...


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pp. 292-310
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Will Be Archived 2021
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