Cultures of the Death Drive

Melanie Klein and Modernist Melancholia

Cultures of the Death Drive

Post-Contemporary Interventions

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Book Pages: 504 Illustrations: 5 illus. Published: May 2003

Gender and Sexuality > Feminism and Women’s Studies, Literature and Literary Studies > Literary Criticism, Theory and Philosophy > Psychoanalytic Theory

Cultures of the Death Drive is a comprehensive guide to the work of pioneering psychoanalyst Melanie Klein (1882–1960) and to developments in Kleinian theory to date. It is also an analysis and a demonstration of the distinctive usefulness of Klein’s thought for understanding modernist literature and visual art. Esther Sánchez-Pardo examines the issues that the seminal discourses of psychoanalysis and artistic modernism brought to the fore in the early twentieth century and points toward the uses of Kleinian thinking for reconceptualizing the complexities of identity and social relations today.

Sánchez-Pardo argues that the troubled political atmosphere leading to both world wars created a melancholia fueled by “cultures of the death drive” and the related specters of object loss—loss of coherent and autonomous selves, of social orders where stability reigned, of metaphysical guarantees, and, in some cases, loss and fragmentation of empire. This melancholia permeated, and even propelled, modernist artistic discourses. Sánchez-Pardo shows how the work of Melanie Klein, the theorist of melancholia par excellence, uniquely illuminates modernist texts, particularly their representations of gender and sexualities. She offers a number of readings—of works by Virginia Woolf, René Magritte, Lytton Strachey, Djuna Barnes, and Countee Cullen—that reveal the problems melancholia posed for verbal and visual communication and the narrative and rhetorical strategies modernist artists derived to either express or overcome them. In her afterword, Sánchez-Pardo explicates the connections between modernist and contemporary melancholia.

A valuable contribution to psychoanalytic theory, gender and sexuality studies, and the study of representation in literature and the visual arts, Cultures of the Death Drive is a necessary resource for those interested in the work of Melanie Klein.


"[T]he questions at issue are interesting ones. . . . [T]his book is a serious contribution to Kleinian literature." — Stephen Wilson , TLS

"Esther Sánchez-Pardo is to be saluted for her enterprising interdisciplinarity. . . ." — Jed Deppman , Symploke

"The book will be of interest to people with varying levels of familiarity with Klein. . . . Sánchez-Pardo's specific emphasis on melancholia, the social, and modernist aesthetics is valuable." — Heather Love, Postmodern Culture

Cultures of the Death Drive offers a sustained consideration of Kleinian psychoanalysis for literary reading. It will doubtless open up psychoanalytic literary criticism to new and unsettling perspectives. I expect this book to have a singular and important effect on contemporary intellectual life.” — Judith Butler, University of California, Berkeley

Cultures of the Death Drive is a work of great learning and original thought. I believe it will be an important source book on Klein for beginners and adepts alike.” — Fredric R. Jameson, Duke University


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Esther Sánchez-Pardo is Associate Professor of English at Complutense University in Madrid. She has written and edited numerous books in Spanish.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments ix

Abbreviations of the Works of Melanie Klein x

Introduction: Anxieties and Their Vicissitudes 1

Part One

1. Itineraries 23

2. Kleinian Metapsychology 55

3. Femininities: Melancholia, Masquerade, and the Paternal Superego 72

4. Masculinities: Anxiety, Sadism, and the Intricacies of Object-Love 94

5. Kleinian Melanacholia 118

6. The Death Drive and Aggression 137

7. The Setting (Up) of Phantasy 162

Part Two

8. Modernist Cultures of the Death Drive 193

9. Framing the Fetish: To the Lighthouse: Ceci n'est pas un roman 218

10. Funereal Rites: Melancholia, Masquerade, and the Art of Biography in Lytton Strachey 273

11. Melancholia Reborn: Djuna Barnes's Styles of Grief 306

12. Melancholia, the New Negro, and the Fear of Modernity: Forms Sublime and Denigrated in Countee Cullen's Writings 343

Afterword: Modern(ist) Cultures of the Death Drive and the Melancholic Apparatus 386

Notes 395

Bibliography 451

Index 475
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

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Winner, ANDEAN Award, La Asociacion Espanola de Estudios Anglo-Norteamericanos

Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-3045-5 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-3009-7
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