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Identity through the social phenomenon of sadomasochism in Conrad, Wilde, and Poe

Bonita Bernadine Dattner-Garza, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


The study draws on selected writings of Conrad, Wilde and Poe to examine the interpersonal and intrapsychic grounds on which a sadomasochistic dialectic has been erected. These writings suggest how the symbolic order works toward anchoring sadomasochism in the psyche. Although the symbolic order has been defined variously by various post-structuralist theorists, the study uses it here to refer to capitalism, aestheticism, social democracy, patriarchy, and rationalism. This symbolic order, which was being challenged and rethought in the latter half of the nineteenth-century, functions and survives by creating a lack or insufficiency within the subject that perpetuates a sadomasochistic dynamic. Suffering regulated and deployed, serves to subordinate, and yet empower, individuals within social relations. ^ From the feminist critic Lynn Chancer, the study adopts her criteria for defining and describing s/m—merging her model of the s/m dynamic with the socio-linguistic psychoanalytic theory of Jacques Lacan and the philosophical writings of Freidrich Nietzsche to argue for an alternative model of psychic functioning whereby sustaining the tension between self and other is equated with embracing and affirming life. The study provides a post-structuralist view of how self and other relations create subjectivity, of which s/m components are inevitably a part. ^

Subject Area

Literature, Comparative|Literature, Modern|Literature, American|Literature, English

Recommended Citation

Dattner-Garza, Bonita Bernadine, "Identity through the social phenomenon of sadomasochism in Conrad, Wilde, and Poe" (1999). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI9929194.