By the mid-195Os, when Saul Bellow published Seize the Day, French existentialism and the phenomenological view of humankind that underlies it had become popular enough in the United States and England for leading novelists to begin dealingMoreBy the mid-195Os, when Saul Bellow published Seize the Day, French existentialism and the phenomenological view of humankind that underlies it had become popular enough in the United States and England for leading novelists to begin dealing critically with its fundamental assumptions.
Taking as its starting point the critique of existentialisms phenomenological background derived from Edmund Husserl and elaborated by Martin Heidegger and Jean-Paul Sartre, Julius Rowan Rapers Narcissus from Rubble delves into the intellectual assumptions that lie behind eleven of the most influential and challenging novels created by Bellow, Thomas Pynchon, John Fowles, Jerzy Kosinski, John Barth, and Lawrence Durrell. Raper sees the central conflict of twentieth-century humanistic inquiry as the modern opposition between psychology and philosophy.
He dramatizes the competition in the novels between the phenomenological model of human behavior and a variety of models associated with psychoanalysis, especially those created by Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung, and Heinz Kohut. He argues that despite numerous efforts to fuse phenomenology and psychoanalysis, the two conceptions of personality have been fundamentally opposed to each other since Husserls original description of phenomenology.
The book underscores the irony that while much contemporary literary criticism continues to draw on a phenomenologically based view of character derived in part from the essays of Jacques Lacan, our leading novelists for a quarter century have been warning us in major novels such as Henderson the Rain King, V., and The Magus of the rage, compulsiveness, emptiness, pointlessness, fragmentation, and associated dangers to which taking a phenomenological stance may contribute.
Raper finds that all six novelists worked through the intellectual maze that Freud called narcissism, as well as through the hazards of self-transcendence, to a new understanding of narcissism that is less judgmental and more perc