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    That difficult thing, the liberal self

    Burdett, Carolyn (2013) That difficult thing, the liberal self. Journal of Victorian Culture 18 (1), pp. 173-175. ISSN 1355-5502.

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    Unusually, this review of Matt ffytche's book on the origins of the Freudian concept of the unconscious requires a word or two to justify its inclusion in this journal. The Foundation of the Unconscious is not primarily, or even partially, a Victorian study. Instead, it closely engages with idealist and Romantic philosophy, mostly of the German tradition, before, in its final section, jumping forward in time to Freud himself, but this important book is both thought-provoking and eminently relevant for Victorian scholars. One Victorian writer, moreover, does feature consistently (if not centrally) throughout ffytche's book, namely John Stuart Mill. For this study of the unconscious is a meticulously detailed unravelling of the developments, contestations and crises which cluster around the liberal self as it forms and deforms across the nineteenth century – the century at the heart of the book. Familiar though we may be with the notion that the twentieth century was the century of psychoanalysis, the unconscious, which is its conceptual life-blood, was fully part of the nineteenth, embedded in its particular social, political and cultural dynamics and the philosophies of selfhood that sought to make sense of them. As ffytche acknowledges early on in his study: ‘A complete understanding of the rationale for the development of the unconscious in the nineteenth century would require nothing less than a cultural history of the nineteenth century itself’ (p. 9).


    Item Type: Article
    School: Birkbeck Faculties and Schools > Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences > School of Creative Arts, Culture and Communication
    Research Centres and Institutes: Nineteenth-Century Studies, Centre for
    Depositing User: Sarah Hall
    Date Deposited: 25 Feb 2014 17:22
    Last Modified: 09 Aug 2023 12:34


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