Chronolibidinal Reading: Proust, Woolf, Nabokov

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My dissertation engages anew with fundamental questions concerning the aim of desire, the nature of temporal experience, and why we are moved by a work of art. Marcel Proust, Virginia Woolf, and Vladimir Nabokov all sought to transform the art of the novel to convey the complexities of temporal experience and the vulnerability of mortal life. Nevertheless, their works have persistently been read in terms of a desire to transcend mortal life. In contrast, I develop a theory of "chronolibido" that calls into question the very desire for immortality. The fear of time (chronophobia) does not stem from a desire to transcend time. On the contrary, it is generated by the investment in a life that will be lost. It is because one desires a temporal being (chronophilia) that one fears losing it (chronophobia). Through a series of close readings, I show how the notion of chronolibido holds the key to reassessing the major works of Proust, Woolf, and Nabokov. Their aesthetics, I contend, do not seek to transcend time but to render the radical temporality of life and engage the pathos of chronolibidinal being in the experience of the reader. Finally, I systematize the logic of chronolibido through a critical engagement with psychoanalysis. Contesting Freud and Lacan's notion of the death drive, I argue that temporal finitude is not a lack of being that we are inherently driven to overcome. Rather, temporal finitude is the source of both the desirable and the undesirable. The theory of chronolibido provides the framework for thinking this double bind and thereby opens a new way of reading the dramas of desire as they are staged in philosophy, in literature, and, indeed, in life itself.
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2011-01-31
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Proust; Woolf; Nabokov; Freud; Derrida; Deconstruction; Psychoanalysis; Desire; Temporality; Mourning; Death
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Culler, Jonathan Dwight
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Klein, Richard Jay
Cohen, Walter Isaac
Degree Discipline
Comparative Literature
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Ph. D., Comparative Literature
Degree Level
Doctor of Philosophy
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dissertation or thesis
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