The narrative push

in Fragmenting modernism

This chapter explores the relationship between fragmentation, repression and writing, focusing on some of the less-obvious contributing factors for Ford Madox Ford's first volume of autobiography, Ancient Lights. It describes Sigmund Freud as ‘at least emblematic’ of modernism, and pursues the idea of a relationship between psychoanalysis and modernist literary subject matter and techniques. The attempt to recognise gaps between parts of the self is powerfully resonant in the early modernist era: ‘For both Henry James and Fyodor Dostoevsky, reality lay in human consciousness and the fathomless workings of the mind’. We know from James's ‘Chamber of Consciousness’, in which suspends the spider-web of experience ‘catching every air-borne particle’, that consciousness alone manifests multiple and distinct strands. Psychoanalysis emerged as simply ‘a psychology that emphasised the unconscious mind’, rather than its conscious counterpart. Freud writes on the experience of the closeness of death in war as a unification of the civilised man with the primitive urge to kill – now he can, and with impunity.

Fragmenting modernism

Ford Madox Ford, the novel and the Great War

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