TURN OF THE SCREW PDF
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This PDF ebook was created by José If the child gives the effect another turn of the screw, what do you turning his eyes over the rest of us and going on: “It's. Free kindle book and epub digitized and proofread by Project Gutenberg. Download The Turn Of The Screw free in PDF & EPUB format. Download Henry James.'s The Turn Of The Screw for your kindle, tablet, IPAD.
Skip to main content. Log In Sign Up. Unhinging the Familiar: Stijn Praet. Psychoanalytische Perspectieven, , 25, 2: The Turn of the Screw is one of the most Gothic short stories ever written by modernist author Henry James. Its effect on the reader can be quite unnerving, uncanny even.
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It goes without saying that as no two human beings can ever share a mind, their personal meaning can never be completely shared as well. Meaning itself is a relative and unstable construct: The trauma here is that nothing — and nobody — can ever be truly familiar. Saying "I see" is always a partial truth at best. So what place does the uncanny occupy in the relation between the real and the symbolic, in that it triggers a sense of otherness in the familiar?
The real is what is made to look familiar, what is mastered by the symbolic to make it less of a threat. The fact remains however, that this familiarity is only a pretence on the part of the subject.
The subject knows this, he just does not want to be reminded.
And this is exactly what the uncanny object does: It is not that the object itself is new and unknown; that would only account for it being threatening and frightening. It is that it reveals everything to be essentially unknowable. Can an object be uncanny per se? I am inclined to think that it all depends on the degree and manner to which the subject involved feels implicated by it.
To an American plantation owner of the eighteenth century, an evening walk past the slave quarters may have been very uncanny indeed, pierced as he is by the unidentifiable gaze of his blacks. He has given them a familiar place in his reality: But part of him knows that this imposed order can be transgressed at any time; the opposition between the signifiers white master and black slave cannot guarantee his throat not being cut by one of them that same evening.
This does not make the idea of a black slave uncanny per se, it makes it uncanny to some. Freud himself notes that "the susceptibility to this type of sensation differs greatly in different people" Freud, h: The uncanny is indeed subjective to the core. Therefore, it may appear strange that the arts have often chosen to aestheticise the uncanny to appeal to the audience, to attract them through exhibiting the potentially repulsive. These so-called sublime works of art make the subject acutely aware of a perverse enjoyment, the Lacanian jouissance, a term which combines Freud's primordial drives of Eros and Thanatos: Before examining how this effect is achieved in The Turn of the Screw, I will illustrate its main principle by taking a look at the canvas of The Ambassadors by German humanist painter Hans Holbein the Younger Lacan, The tableau shows two portly self-important magistrates, posing rigidly at opposite sides of a console table on which are strewn various objects representing mankind's accomplishments.
But something does not fit the picture: It gazes back at him, challenging him to identify it. Only reluctantly does it reveal itself to be a skull.
As I have said before, an object is not uncanny per se. A skull may cause an entire range of emotions in an aesthetic context: In Renaissance and Baroque painting a skull often represents vanity, the idleness of mankind's achievements in the shadow of human mortality. It is often depicted in still lives between symbols of science and art, as in David Bailly's Self-portrait with Vanitas Symbols. From there it speaks to evoke the spectator's more general, moral sense of the ethical, not to stir his awareness of an unknowable real.
The fact remains that, unlike Self-portrait with Vanitas Symbols, The Ambassadors has a certain uncanny quality to it, not solely due to the mere presence of a skull. Those viewing it are made to walk a fine line between pleasure and discomfort. Somehow this painting foregrounds the impotence of human perception, of the symbolic.
The way in which Holbein conveys the anthropocentric story of the ambassadors is called the geometric perspective. In his day, it was considered to be most suited for capturing reality in its true essence, most able to mimic reality accurately. It was the normal, conventional way of seeing things, the only acceptable symbolic system through which a paintbrush could dominate over the real. It merely floats there, not offering any explanation for its location and deformation. The technique used here is that of anamorphosis, a distortion which requires a deviant vantage point if it is to make any sense at all.
However, anamorphosis in painting is most often applied to the entire tableau, and not to just one object in that tableau. In bringing together two different perspectives, two different sets of symbolic systems, this canvas renders the idea of perspective itself relative. There is no Absolute Eye through which the reality of the painting becomes fixed.
It thus becomes beautifully uncanny. However, this sensation is shortlived: The return of the text A similar thing occurs when reading The Turn of the Screw. James's text makes use of several different narrative frames — a feature adding even more ambiguity. The master frame comes from the perspective of an unnamed first person narrator, someone spending the Christmas season with a number of old acquaintances.
One of them, Douglas, claims to be in possession of a manuscript containing a gruesome, but true story written by his own childhood governess. Eventually, he begins reading it out to the group for entertainment. In her account, the governess asserts that long ago she witnessed the corruption of two orphan children, Flora and Miles, by the evil presence of two immoral ghosts. Her attempt at exorcising these fiends resulted in grave illness for the little girl and the death of the boy.
The account, together with James's story ends in medias res: I have stated earlier that the uncanny here is not to be located on the level of the story, but on the level of the text.
When considering only the story itself, one would quickly seek to explain the uncanny through the presence of the ghosts. Ghosts are of course a radical otherness; normality tends to preclude even the possibility of their existence. What is a "Freudianreading" and what is it not? What in a text invites-and what in a text resists-a psychoanalyticalinterpretation? In what way does literatureautho- rize psychoanalysis to elaborate a discourse about literature, and in what way, having granted its authorization, does literature disqualify that discourse?
A combined reading of The Turn of the Screw and of its psychoanalyticalinterpretationwill here concen- trate, in other words, not only on what psychoanalyticaltheory has to say about the literary text, but also on what literature has to say about psychoanalysis. In the course of this double reading, we will see how both the possibilities and the limits of an encounter between literatureand psychoanalyticaldiscourse might begin to be articulated,how the conditions of their meeting, and the modalities of their not meeting, might begin to be thought out.
What is a Freudian Reading? The Freudians err in the right direction. My concern Over the past four decades Freudian critics have made James's tale a cause celebre. The tale sustains the "cause" through erotic ambiguities. Since it also arouses childhood terrors, and perhaps arises from them, we may say that the Freudian approach works here or nowhere. Yet opponents charge that Freudian critics have reduced the tale to a "commonplace clinical record.
These subtle, challenging remarks err only in the sense that they consider as resolved, non-problematic,the very question that they open up: Up to what point can one be Freudian? At what point does a reading start to be "Freudianenough"? What is Freudian in a Freudian reading, and in what way can it be defined and measured? The one characteristicby which a "Freudianreading"is generally recognized is its insistence on sexuality, on its crucial place and role in the text.
The focal theoretical problem raised by a psycho- analyticalreadingwould thus appearto be the definitionof the very status of sexuality as such in a text. Wilson's reading of The Turn of the Screw indeed follows this interpretativepattern of accounting for the whole story in terms of the governess's sexual frustration: The theory is, then, that the governess who is made to tell the story is a neurotic case of sex repression, and that the ghosts are not real ghosts but hallucinations of the governess.
This essay will hereafter be referred to as Wilson. Observe, also, from the Freudian point of view, the significance of the governess's interest in the little girl's pieces of wood and of the fact that the male apparition first takes shape on a tower and the female apparition on a lake.
Wilson, p. What, however, was it in James'stext that originallycalled out for a "Freudian"reading? It was, as the very title of Wilson's article suggests, not so much the sexuality as "The ambiguity of Henry James. It is ambiguous,that it, its meaning, far from being clear, is itself a question. It is this question which, in Wilson's view, calls forth an analyticalresponse.
The text is perceived as questioning in three different ways: In the case of the narrativequestion 10 Cf. There is a very good reason, however, in the fact that nowhere does James unequivocally give the thing away: In the case of the the- matic question of uncanny strangeness,of fantastic happenings,he answers with a diagnosis: In the case of the rhetorical question of symbolic ambiguity, he answers with the "proper name," with the literal meaning of the phallic met- aphors.
Considered from the "Freudianpoint of view," sexuality, val- orized as both the foundation and the guidepost of the critical interpretation,thus takes on the status of an answer to the ques- tion of the text. Logically and ontologically,the answer of sexual- ity in fact pre-exists the question of textuality.
The question comes to be articulated rhetorically,thematically,and narratively only by virtue of the fact that the answer is as such concealed. Indeed the question is itself but an answer in disguise: The Freudiancritic's job, in this perspective, is but to pull the answer out of its hiding place- not so much to give an answer to the text as to answer for the text: It would not be inaccurate,indeed, to say that the traditional analytical response to literature is to provide the literary question with something like a reliably professional "an- swering service.
Does "James" or James's text authorize this way of answering for him? Does "Freud" or Freud's text authorize this way of answering through him? The question of the possibility of answeringfor the text, as well as that of the status of such an answer, is in fact raised by James's text itself in its very opening, when Douglas, having promised to tell his dreadful story, intimates that it is a love story, which was confided to him by the heroine the governess: Griffin, however, expressed the need for a little more light.
In taking upon himself "to reply,"to make explicit who it was the governess was in love with, in locating the riddle's answer in the governess's repressed desire for the Master, what then is Ed- mund Wilson doing?
What is the "Freudian"reading doing here if not what the text itself, at its very outset, is precisely indicating as that which it won't do: And this Jamesiancommentaryseems to be sug- gesting that such a reading might indeed be inaccurate not so much because it is incorrect or false, but because it is, in James's terms, vulgar. If so, what would that "vulgarity"consist of? And how should we go about defining not only an interpretation'saccuracy, but what can be called its tact? Is a "Freudianreading"-by defini- tion- tainted with vulgarity?
Can a Freudian reading, as such, avoid that taint? What, exactly, makes for the "vulgarity" in Wilson's reading? Toward whom, or toward what, could it be said that this analysis lacks tact? Wells Norton, p. And in the New York Pre- face to The Turn of the Screw, he elaborates further the nature of that difficulty, of that tension which underlies his writing as a question: Portentous evil -how was I to save that, as an intention on the part of my demon spirits, from the drop, the comparative vulgarity, inevitably at- tending, throughout the whole range of possible brief illustration, the offered example, the imparted vice, the cited act, the limited deplorable presentable instance?
The vulgar, therefore, is anything which misses, or falls short of, the dimension of the symbolic, anything which rules out, or excludes, meaning as a loss and as a flight, -anything which strives, in other words, to eliminate from lan- guage its inherent silence, anything which misses the specific way in which a text actively "won't tell. If vulgaritythereby consists of the reductionof rhetoricas such, of the elimination of the indecision which inhabits meaning and of the ambiguity of the text, isn't that precisely Wilson's goal?
Isn't Wilson's critical and analytical procedure that, precisely, of a lit- eralization i. Wilson, in fact, is quite aware of the text's rhetorical, undecidable question: The fundamental question presents itself and never seems to get properly answered: What is the reader to think of the protagonist?
The Turn of the Screw by Henry James
But he only points out that question in order to reduce it, over- come the difficulty of the ambiguity,eliminate the text's rhetorical indecision by supplying a prompt answer whose categorical liter- ality cannot avoid indeed seeming rudimentary,reductive, "vulgar. We find that it is a variation on one of his [James's] familiar themes: They are not always emotionally perverted.
Sometimes they are apathetic. Or they are longing, these women, for affection but too inhibited or passive to obtain it for themselves. Wilson, pp. Is this type of literalization of textual sexuality what a "Freud- ian point of view" is really all about?
Invalidated and disqualified by James, would this "vulgarizing" literalization in truth be val- idated, authorized, by Freud? If for James the literal is vulgar,. In order to investigate this question, I would like to quote, at some length, Freud himself, in a little-known text which appeared in under the title "'Wild' Psychoanalysis": A few days ago a middle-agedlady The precipitating cause of the outbreak of her anxiety-states had been a divorce from her last husband; but the anxiety had become considerably intensified, according to her account, since she had consulted a young physician in the suburb she lived in, for he had informed her that the cause of her anxiety was her lack of sexual satisfac- tion.
He said that she could not tolerate the loss of intercourse with her husband, and so there were only three ways by which she could recover her health-she must either return to her husband, or take a lover, or obtain satisfaction from herself. Since then she had been convinced that she was incurable She had come to me, however, because the doctor had said that this was a new discovery for which I was responsible, and that she had only to come and ask me to confirm what he said, and I should tell her that this and nothing else was the truth I will not dwell on the awkward predicament in which I was placed by this visit, but instead will consider the conduct of the practitioner who sent the lady to me In both cases, the reference to Freud's theory is as brutally and as crudely literal, reducing the psycho- analytical explanation to the simple "lack of sexual satisfaction.
XI , pp. This edition will hereafter be abbreviated Standard. Curiously enough, Freud, like James, begins with a reminder that the validity of an interpretationis a function not only of its truth, but also of its tact: Everyone will at once bring up the criticism that if a physician thinks it necessary to discuss the question of sexuality Standard, p.
But tact is not just a practical, pragmatic question of "couch- side manner"; it also has a theoretical importance: Besides all this, one may sometimes make a wrong surmise, and one is never in a position to discover the whole truth.
Psycho-analysis provides these definite technical rules to replace the indefinable "medical tact" which is looked upon as a special gift. The "wild psychoanalyst"'s analysis thus lacks the necessary tact, but that is not all. Moreover, the physician in question was ignorant of a number of scientific theories [Freud's italics] of psycho-analysis or had misapprehended them, and thus showed how little he had penetrated into an understanding of its nature and purposes.
The doctor's advice to the lady shows clearly in what sense he understands the expression "sexual life" -in the popular sense, namely, in which by sexual needs nothing is meant but the need for coitus In psychoanalysis the concept of what is sexual comprises far more; it goes lower and also higher than its popular sense. Mental absence of satisfaction with all its consequences can exist where there is no lack of normal sexual intercourse By emphasizing exclusively the somatic factor in sensuality he undoubtedly simplifies the problem greatly.
Standard, pp. Sexuality, says Freud, is not to be taken in its literal, popular sense: But how are we to understand an extension of meaning which includes not only more, but also less than the literal meaning?
This apparent paradox, indeed, points to the specific complication which, in Freud's view, is inherent in human sexuality as such. The question here is less that of the meaning of sexuality than that of a complex relationship between sexuality and mean- ing; a relationship which is not a simple deviation from literal meaning, but rather, a problematization of literality as such. The oversimplifying literalization professed by the "wild psycho- analyst" thus essentially misconstrues and misses the complexity of the relationship between sex and sense.
It entails, however, another fundamental error, which Freud goes on to criticize: A second and equally gross misunderstanding is discernable behind the physician's advice.
It is true that psycho-analysis puts forward absence of sexual satisfac- tion as the cause of nervous disorders. But does it not say more than this? Is its teaching to be ignored as too complicated when it declares that nervous symptoms arise from a conflict between two forces -on the one hand, the libido which has as a rule become excessive , and on the other, a rejection of sexuality, or a repression which is over-severe?
No one who remembers this second factor, which is by no means secondary in importance, can ever believe that sexual satisfaction in itself constitutes a remedy of general reliability for the sufferings of neurotics. A good number of these people are, indeed, Nervous symptoms, Freud insists, spring not simply from a "lack of sexual satisfaction" but from a conflict between two forces.
Re- pression is constitutive of sexuality: But the second factor as such is precisely the contradiction of the first. Which means not only that the literal meaning-the first factor-is not simply first and fore- most, but also, that its priority, the very primacy in which its literality is founded, its very essence of literality, is itself subverted and negated by the second, but not secondary, meaning. The "lack of satisfaction," in other words, is not simply an accident in sexual life, it is essentially inherent in it: What would "the abnormal"be, however, in Wilson's view, if not precisely that which is not literal, that which deviates from the literal?
Literal normal sex being viewed as a simple, positive act or fact, it is simply inconceivable that it would constitutively miss its own aims, include its own negation as its own inherent property.
For Wilson, sex is "simple," i. But for Freud, as we have seen, not only is the status of sexuality not simple: It is indeed because sexuality is essentially the violence of its own non-simplicity, of its own inherent "conflict between two forces," the violence of its own division and self-contradiction,that it is experiencedas anxiety and lived as terror.
The terrifyingaspect of The Turn of the Screw is in fact linked by the text itself, subtly 14 Jacques Lacan, "Discours de cloture des journees sur les psychoses chez l'enfant," in Recherches, special issue on "Enfance alienee," 11 d6- cembre , pp. Unless otherwise indicated, all quotations from Lacan's works in this paper are in my translation.
But it is probable that James had by this time After having prom- ised to tell his story, Douglas adds: Nothing at all that I know touches it. I remember asking. He seemed to say it was not so simple as that; to be really at a loss how to qualify it Prologue, p. If, far from implyingthe simplicityof a self-presentliteral mean- ing, sexuality points rather to a multiplicity of conflicting forces, to the complexity of its own divisiveness and contradiction, its meaning can by no means be univocal or unified, but must neces- sarily be ambiguous.
It is thus not rhetoric which disguises and hides sex; sexuality is rhetoric, since it essentially consists of am- biguity: Sexuality is the division and divisiveness of meaning;it is meaning as division, meaning as conflict. And, indeed, what is the subject of The Turn of the Screw if not this very conflict which inhabits meaning, the inherent conflict which structures the relationship between sex and sense? But our vantage point is different from the governess's: Nowhere is there a last word.
Meaning indicates only the direction, point only at the sense toward which if fails. The Conflict of Interpretations: To participate in a division is, however, at the same time, to fight against division: One after another,the critics thus contest Wilson's read- ing by negating or denying his assumption that the very meaning of The Turn of the Screw can at all be divided or equivocal: But what if there is one thing, one little thing, that cannot be read in either of two senses, that can be read only in one sense?
What then? How strange that Mr. Wilson does not see that any such fact Encore , Paris: Seuil, , p. This work will henceforth be referred to as Encore. In the story, of course, there are passages that it is possible to read ambivalently; but the determining unambiguous passages from which the critic might work are so plentiful that it seems hardly good critical strategy to use the ambiguous ones as points of departure Robert, Heilman, FR, MLN, p.
Gi'axted that the text hits various levels of meaning, it would appear on the whole unwise to have themnmutually contradictory Alexender Jones. In precisely trying to unify the meaningof the text and to proclaimit as unambiguous,the critics only mark more forcefullyits con. Contradictionreap- pears with ironical tenacity in the very words used to banish it: Wilson Oliver Evans, Casebook, p. But here again, to affirm contradictionin the very act of deny- ing it, as does the critics' story, their story of the "true" inter- pretation of the story, is precisely to bear witness to the double bind which is constitutive of the very frameworkof the governess's narrative,to be caught in the dynamicallyconflictive impasse which confronts the governessherself as narrator.
To affirm contradiction in the very act of denying its existence in the text is therefore to repeat,oneself, the textual act, to performthe very act of textuality triggeredby the ambiguity of sexuality. It becomes thus clear that the critical debate, in its intentions and contentions, itself partakes of the textual action.
The actors, or the agents of this textual action, are indeed the readers and the critics no less than the characters. Reading here becomes not the cognitive observationof the text's pluralisticmeaning,but its "act- ing out. Comprehendingits own criticism, the text, through its reading,orchestratesthe critical disagreementas the performanceand the "speech act" of its own disharmony. The studies of The Turn of the Screw, accordingto their own self- presentation, divide themselves into so-called "Freudian"and so- called "anti-Freudian"readings.
Thus it is that while Ezra Pound calls James'sstory "a Freudianaffair,"21 while Wilson-as we have seen-invites us to "observethe Freudianpoint of view," and while Oscar Cargill celebrates "Henry James as a Freudian Pioneer" in the very title of the first version of his study of The Turn of the Screw, KatherineAnne Porter, on the other hand, singles out The Turn of the Screw as an illustration of Freud's "defeat": So does Robert Heilmanstrike at Freud himself through Wilson, in entitling his polemical essay against the latter, "The Freudianreadingof The Turn of the Screw," an essay whose opening line marks well the generalizationof the methodological reproach at stake: In a counter-attack on 20 Critique et Vertie, Paris: Wilson's interpretation"in an essay which he entitles: Between "Freudians"and "anti-Freudians,"in the critical debate around The Turn of the Screw, Freud's ghost sig- nificantly and ironically thus seems to have become the very mark and sign of divisiveness and of division.
It is as though "Freud" himself, in this strange polemic, had become the very name of the critical disagreement,the uncanny proper name of discord.
This symmetrical polar opposition between "Freudians"and "anti-Freudians"itself rests, however, on an implied presupposition, which is, in truth, as problematic,and as paradoxical,as the debate itself. The paradox can be summed up as follows: Whereas the two opposing critical sides believe themselves to be in spectacular disagreement over James's "true meaning," they demonstrate in fact a spectacularagreement over Freud's "true meaning,"which, unlike that of James,is consideredby both sides to be transparent, unequivocal, incontrovertible.
But in reality the "true Freud" is no more immediately accessible to us than the "true James.
The Turn of the Screw, by Henry James: FREE Book Download
What, in- deed, if it were not enough to call oneself a "Freudian"in order to be one? And what if it were not enough to call oneself an "anti- Freudian,"either, in order to, in truth, become one? In this sense, Freud'sname can hardlybe considereda propername, but becomes in effect nothing other than a ghost, as ambiguousas James'sghosts, to the extent that it conveys not an establishedtruth or a referential knowledge, but an invitation to interpretation.
A "Freudianread- ing" is thus not a reading guaranteed by, grounded in, Freud's knowledge, but first and foremost a reading of Freud's "knowl- edge," which as such can never a priori be assured of knowing anything, but must take its chances as a reading, necessarily and constitutively threatened by error.
The question, therefore, can no longer be simply to decide whether in effect the "Freudian"reading is true or false, correct or incorrect. It can be both at the same time. It is no doubt correct, but it misses nonetheless the most importantthing: The question of a reading's"truth" must be at least complicated and re-thought through another question, which Freud, indeed, has raised, and taught us to ar- ticulate: What is it made to miss? What does it have as its function to overlook?
What, precisely, is its residue, the remainderit does not account for? Since, as we have seen, the critical scene of the polemic is both repetitive and performativeof the textual scene, it can in fact be said that it is the very "falseness"of the readings which con- stitutes their "truth. And it is "false," indeed, to the extent that it excludes them. These opposed positions which assert the text's contradictionin the very act of denyingit, are thus "true"to the extent that they are "false.
Is it at all possible to read and to interpret ambiguitywithout re- ducing it in the very process of interpretation? Are reading and ambiguity in any way compatible?
It should be noted that the expression "Freudianreading" is itself an ambiguousexpression which can refer either to Freudian statements or to Freudian utterance: While it is almost exclusively in the first of these two senses that the concept "Freudianreading"is understoodand used in the American cultural context, in France, it is on the contrary rather in the second sense that a new reading of Freud has been elaborated by Jacques Lacan.
For Lacan, indeed, the unconscious is not only that which must be read, but also, and primarily, that which reads. Freud's discovery of the unconscious is the outcome of his reading of the hysterical discourse of his patients, i. The discovery of the unconscious is therefore Freud's discovery, within the discourse of the other, of what was actively reading within himself: The gist of Freud's discovery,for Lacan,thus consists not simply of the revela- tion of a new meaning-the unconscious-but of the discovery of a new way of reading: He spent a lot of time listening, and, while he was listening,there resultedsomethingparadoxical, It was while listeningto hystericsthat he read that there was an unconscious.
That is, somethinghe could only construct,and in which he himself was implicated; he was implicatedin it in the sense that, to his great astonishment,he noticed that he could not avoid participatingin what the hystericwas telling him, and that he felt affected by it.
Naturally, everythingin the resultingrules throughwhich he es'tablishedthe practice of psychoanalysisis designed to counteractthis consequence,to conduct things in such a way as to avoid being affected. Our reading of The Turn of the Screw would thus attempt not so much to capture the mystery's solution, but to follow, rather, the significantpath of its flight; not so much to solve or answer the enigmatic question of the text, but to investigate its structure; not so much to name and make explicit the ambiguityof the text, but to understand the necessity and the rhetorical functioning of the textual ambiguity.
The question underlyingsuch a reading is thus not "what does the story mean?
The Turns of the Story's Frame: The Turn of the Screw Literature is language Stanley E. Fish The actual story of The Turn of the Screw that of the governess and the ghosts is preceded by a prologue which is both posterior and exterior to it, and which places it as a story, as a speech event, in the context of the "reality"in which the story comes to be told.
The narratedstory is thus presented as the center of the frame -the focal point of a narrative space which designates and cir- cumscribesit from the outside as its inside. Placed aroundthe story which becomes its center, the narrative frame, however, frames another center within its literal space: The story had held us, round the fire, sufficiently breathless He began to read to our hushed little circle, Since the narrative space of the prologue organizes both a frame around the story and a circle around the fire, since the fire and the story are both placed at the very center of the narration,the question could arise as to whether they could be, in any way, con- sidered metaphors of each other in the rhetorical constellation of the text.
This hypothesis in turn opens up another question: Before pursuing these questions further, let us take another look at the prologue'sstatus as the story's "frame.
The frame picks up the story, then, both after its end and before its opening. If the function of the frame is to determine the story's origin, then that origin must somehow be both anterior and posterior to the story. Anterior to the story but recounted and accounted for a pos- teriori, the story's origin seems to depend on the authority of the story teller, i. Douglas had known the governess, the story's heroine, as his sister's governess long after the story had taken place, and had been secretly in love with her although she was ten years his senior.
It was, however, only later, on her deathbed, that the governess confided to him a written account of her story. Having received and read the manuscript,Douglas had in turn kept the governess's story secret for forty years, until that night around the fire when at last, to his privileged circle of friends and most especially to the general narrator, he decided to reveal it.
And finally, long after his own telling of the story around the fire, Douglas, on his own deathbed, confided the treasured manuscript to his friend the narrator, who tells us in the prologue that the story he is transmittingto us is his own transcription,made still later, of that manuscript,which he had heard Douglas read before the fire.
The existence of the story is thus assured only through the constitution of a narrative chain, in which the narrators relay the story from one to the other. The story's origin is therefore not assigned to any one voice which would assume responsibility for the tale, but to the deferred action of a sort of echoing effect, produced-"after the fact"-by voices which themselves re-produce previous voices. It is as though the frame itself could only multiply itself, repeat itself: The story's origin is therefore situated, it would seem, in a forgetting of its origin: But isn't this forgetting of the story's origin and beginning,and the very story of this forget- ting, constitutive, precisely, of the very story of psychoanalysisand of analysis as a story?
The Turn Of The Screw
The Turn of the Screw would seem to be very like a psychoanalyticaltale. Through the spiral threads of its prologue, the story indeed originates in a frame through which it frames itself into losing its own origin: The New York Preface, in its turn, both underlines and illustrates this point: The starting point itself - the sense The good Thus it was, I remember, that amid our lament for a beautiful lost form, our distinguished host expressed the wish that he might but have recovered for us one of the scantiest of fragments of this form at its best.
He had never forgotten the impression made on him as a young man by the withheld glimpse, at it were, of a dreadful matter that had been reported years before, and with as few particulars, to a lady with whom he had youthfully talked.
The story would have been thrilling could she but find herself in better possession of it, dealing as it did with a couple of small children in an out-of-the-way place, to whom the spirits of certain "bad" servants, dead in the employ of the house, were believed to have appeared with the design of "getting hold" of them.
This was all, but there had been more, which my friend's old converser had lost the thread of He himself could give us but this shadow of a shadow - my own appreciation of which, I need scarcely say, was exactly wrapped up in that thinness Norton, pp.
On the one hand, as Alexander Jones points out, the "outside"frame expands the "inside"of the story, bringing into it both the story- teller and the reader: By placing himself within the confines of the story as "I," the narrator, James makes himself one of the characters rather than an omniscient author. No one is left on the "outside" of the story, and the reader is made to feel that he and James are members of the circle around the fire Casebook, p.
In including not only the content of the story but also the figure of the reader within the fireside circle, the frame indeed leaves no one out: But the frame at the same time does the very opposite, pulling the inside outside: The frame is thereforenot an outside contour whose role is to displayan inside content: With respect to the story's content, the frame thus acts both as an inclusion of the exterior and as an exclusion of the interior: Like the circle round the fire, the story's frame thus encloses not only the story's content, but, equally, its readers and its reading.
But what if the story's content were precisely its own reading? What if the reading outside the text were none other than the story's content inside the text , being also, at the same time, that which compromises that content's inside, preventing it from coinciding with itself, making it ec-centric, exterior to itself?
If we stop to consider that this non-presence of the story to it- self, this self-exteriority, this ec-centricity and foreignness of the content to itself, can define, as such, precisely, the unconscious,we can see that reading,here, might be just the key to an understand- ing of the essential link between the story and the unconscious.
For has it not become obvious that the chain of narrativevoices which transmits The Turn of the Screw is also, at the same time, a chain of readings? Readings which re-read, and re-write, other readings? In the chain transmission of the story, each narrator,to relay the story, must first be a receiver of the story, a readerwho at once recordsit and interpretsit, simultaneous- ly trying to make sense of it and undergoing it, as a lived ex- perience, an "impression,"a reading-effect.
I asked him if the experience in question had been his own. To this his answer was prompt.
The Turn of the Screw
You took the thing down? I took it here " he tapped his heart. By which, to avoid obscurity. I mean nothing more cryptic than I feel myself show them best by showing almost exclusively the way they are felt, by recognising as their main interest some impression strongly made by them and intensely received. We but too probably break down We want it clear, goodness knows, but we also want it thick, and we get the thickness in the human con- sciousness that entertains and records, that amplifies and interprets it.
That indeed, when the question is And that "other" here is the reader. The reader-i. Douglas with respect to the governess!
The reader-narratoris here that "other,"his personal story is the "other history,"and his reading i. Each one of these super- imposed stories, each act of narrationand each narrative,is here a reading of the other; each reading is a story in the other, a story whose signification is interfered with but whose interference is significant,a story whose very meaning interferesbut whose inter- ference means. And this, of course, brings us back to the very question of the unconscious, for what, indeed, is the unconscious if not-in every sense of the word-a reader?
And that's what the whole affair of the unconscious amounts to" Encore, p. The story of the unconscious thus resemblesJames'stale, insofaras they both come to us, constitutive- ly, through the reader. Blackmur, New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, , p. Unless otherwise indicated, quotations from James's Prefaces will refer to this collection, hereafter abbreviated AN.
Douglas's per- formance as storyteller, as author-narrator, consists, thereby, of a literal act of reading. And if the first-person narrator retransmits the story, communicates to us a reproduction and a reading of that reading, it is doubtless the result of the "immense effect" Douglas's reading produced on him, and which he hopes in turn to produce on us.
The very act of telling, of narration, proceeds then from the potentially infinite repercussion of an effect of reading; an effect that, once produced, seeks to reproduce itself as an effect yet to be produced-an effect whose effect is an effect to produce.
Narrative as such turns out to be the trace of the action of a reading; it is, in fact, reading as action. In Douglas's very first remarks, on the opening page of the prologue, the very title of the story is uttered as the mark, or the description, of its own reading-effect: If the child gives the effect another turn of the screw, what do you say of two children?
Also that we want to hear about them" Prologue,p. It is by virtue of the reading-effect it produces that the text receives its very name, its title. But that title, as a title, is not given to it by the original author of the manuscript: The next night, by the cornerof the hearth On the first occasion the same lady put another question.
I said. But Douglas,without heeding me, had begun to read with a fine clearnessthat was like a renderingto the ear of the beauty of his author's hand Prologue,p. In this manner the prologue, just as it displaced and dislocated the relationship be- tween the inside and the outside, deconstructsas well the distinction and the opposition between reader and writer. The reader here be- comes the author, and the author is in turn a reader. What the -narratorperceives in Douglas's reading as "a renderingto the ear of the beauty of his author's hand" is nothing but Douglas's per- formance as a reader, which becomes a metaphor of the original author'swriting through the very act of readingwhich that writing has inspired and produced as one of its effects.
In essence, then, when Douglas answers the question "What is your title? The story, therefore, seems to frame itself into losing not only its origin but also its very title: Just as the frame'scontent, the governess's narrative, tells of the loss of the proprietor of the house, of the "Master" by virtue of which loss the house becomes precisely haunted, haunted by the usurping ghosts of its subordinates , so does the framingprologue convey, throughthe reader's vocal ren- dering of an authorship to which he has no title, the loss of the proprietorof the narrative.
It is thus death itself which moves the narrativechain forward,which inaugurates the manuscript'sdisplacementsand the process of the substitution of the narrators. By so doing, death paradoxicallyappears not as an end but rather as a starting point: For each of the people who receive and keep the manuscript of the story, that manuscriptconstitutes, well beyond the death of the addressor-the person who bequeathed it to them-, the sur- vival of the giver's language and the giver's own survival in his language: And we hardly need recall that it is precisely the return of the dead which provides the central moving force of the narrative being thus transferred: While the prologue contains nothing supernatural in itself, it 24 Ecrits, Paris: Hereafter referred to as Ecrits.
What, however, is the motivation for the narrative'stransmis- sion?