Abstract

This essay offers a Lacanian reading of desire in Henry James's The Portrait of a Lady. Isabel Archer's discovery of love through the ideal image of herself that she finds mirrored in Gilbert Osmond's gaze reveals the foundational paradox of desire and betrays her unconscious quest for what Jacques Lacan defines as jouissance or "painful pleasure." Through her choices, Isabel tacitly embraces the death drive and thus confronts the irrevocable "lack" which constitutes the human condition. Her active role in the destruction of her ideal of coherence and autonomy, including her final decision to return to Osmond, defines her, avant la lettre, as a shattered post-humanist subject.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1085-7931
Print ISSN
0065-860X
Pages
pp. 633-661
Launched on MUSE
2013-12-27
Open Access
No
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