The Limits of Ferocity

Sexual Aggression and Modern Literary Rebellion

The Limits of Ferocity

Book Pages: 416 Illustrations: Published: May 2011

Author: Daniel Fuchs

Literature and Literary Studies > Literary Criticism, Theory and Philosophy > Psychoanalytic Theory

The Limits of Ferocity is a powerful critique of the culture of extremity represented in the works of D. H. Lawrence, Georges Bataille, Henry Miller, and Norman Mailer. Daniel Fuchs provides close readings of their literary and intellectual texts, which convey a loathing of middle-class culture or, as the case may be, society itself, in favor of a rebellion often expressed as an aggressive, even apocalyptic, sexuality. The Marquis de Sade is the precursor of this literature, which idealizes the self that violates taboos and laws in the search for erotic transcendence. Fuchs shows as well how these writers reflected and contributed to a broader cultural assault on liberal moderation and Freudian humanism. He explains Freud’s theories of culture and sexual aggression and describes how they were rejected or reworked, sometimes in favor of a liberating violence, by theorists including Wilhelm Reich, Norman O. Brown, and Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari. Fuchs concludes with a reflection on books by William Burroughs, Bret Easton Ellis, and the sociologist Philip Rieff. This absorbing study illuminates the utopianism and narcissism in works of intellectual and artistic “ferocity” that characterized the turn in American consciousness from the period after the Second World War to the late 1960s and 1970s.


“At a time in which the American political environment could hardly be more extreme or polarized, Daniel Fuchs’s trenchant critique of modernist literary rebellion issues a resounding call for restored moderation, civility, and humanism in our cultural values and perspectives…. Sociological critique bows to Fuchs’s sensibility as a literary critic and his empathetic appreciation of the dynamic tensions of inner life as expressed by the literary imagination. That sensibility shines through in this supremely intelligent and humane book.” — Barbara Schapiro, D.H. Lawrence Review

The Limits of Ferocity is a fascinating and essential book for the student of modernity. Daniel Fuchs identifies one of the key strands in modernist thought and cultural behavior in this authoritative, intellectually sophisticated treatment of modernist outrage at the repressions and civilized limits implied in Freud’s theory of the superego, and of the anti-bourgeois attempts of many modernists to go beyond all such boundaries and limits through utopian sexual transcendence. This is interdisciplinary cultural/historical critique at its best.” — Gloria L. Cronin, author of A Room of His Own: In Search of the Feminine in the Novels of Saul Bellow

“An epic achievement, The Limits of Ferocity is a significant contribution to the study of modern fiction and to psychoanalytic criticism. Daniel Fuchs yokes familiar writers and thinkers together in a new way, making us rethink their relationship.” — Andrew Gordon, author of An American Dreamer: A Psychoanalytic Study of the Fiction of Norman Mailer


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Daniel Fuchs is Professor Emeritus of English at the City University of New York’s College of Staten Island. He is the author of Saul Bellow: Vision and Revision and The Comic Spirit of Wallace Stevens, both also published by Duke University Press.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments ix

Introduction 1

1. Freud and the Postwar Temper 11

2. Freud and Others on Aggression 24

3. Wilhelm Reich 40

4. Norman O. Brown 53

5. Deleuze and Guattari 67

Interchapter. Deleuze and Guattari on Lawrence and Miller 88

6. The Marquis de Sade 102

7. D. H. Lawrence 145

8. Georges Bataille 194

Interchapter. Bataille on Sade 224

9. Henry Miller 232

Interchapter. Miller on Lawrence 271

10. Norman Mailer 293

Interchapter. Mailer on Mailer 332

Conclusion. The Naked and the Clothed 346

Notes 363

Index 391
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Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-5005-7 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-4992-1
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