The inward mirror: George Meredith and the psyche Public Deposited

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  • March 22, 2019
  • Vien, Courtney L.
    • Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of English and Comparative Literature
  • One of the most intriguing aspects of George Meredith's work is his prescient, astonishingly realistic portrayal of the human psyche. Meredith anticipates the theories of Freud and the techniques of such modernists as Joyce, Lawrence, and Woolf in his depiction of the psyche as fluid, multilayered, and influenced by subconscious drives. This dissertation analyzes the presentation of the psyche in four of Meredith's major works: the novels The Ordeal of Richard Feverel, The Egoist, and the neglected masterpiece Diana of the Crossways, and the sonnet sequence Modern Love. In these works, Meredith portrays not only his characters' thoughts and feelings but also their subconscious desires and fears, their attempts at self- aggrandization and self-delusion, and the archetypes and cultural scripts which inform their behavior. He argues for greater acceptance of emotion, sensation, intuition, and other non-rational aspects of the psyche, which he saw as devalued in an age which privileged science and technology. In his novels and poetry, Meredith also grapples with the philosophical implications of the decentered self, acknowledging that the instability of the self casts doubt on other traditional loci of truth, such as God and Nature. Ultimately, however, he suggests that, with sympathy, patience, and right reading, people can recognize a stable center of selfhood in one another, which he terms the soul. Finally, the dissertation explores the ways in which Meredith's concept of the psyche inform his bold experiments with novelistic form and narrative voice.
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  • Life, Allan Roy
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  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
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