Trauma and recovery in Janet Frame's fiction; a thesis submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in the Faculty of Graduate Studies (Department of English), The University of British Columbia.
Focusing on four novels by Janet Frame in dialogue with texts by Freud, Zizek, Lacan, and Silverman, my project theorizes trauma as the basis for both an ethical and an interpretive practice. Frame's fiction develops a cultural psychology, showing how the factors of narcissistic fantasy and the incapacity to mourn contribute to physical and epistemic aggression committed along divides of ethnicity, gender, and linguistic mode of expression. Employing trauma as a figure for an absolute limit to what can be remembered or known, I suggest that reconciliation with whatever is inaccessible, lacking, or dead within an individual or collective self fosters a non-violent relation with others. I begin by querying the place of "catharsis" within hermeneutic literary interpretation, focusing on the construction of Frame within the New Zealand literary industry. With Erlene's adamantine silence at its centre, Scented Gardens for the Blind (1964) rejects the hermeneutic endeavour, exemplified by Patrick Evans' critical work on Frame, to make a text "speak" its secrets. My readings of Intensive Care (1970) and The Adaptable Man (1965) address inter-generational repetitions of violence as the consequences of the failure to recognise and work through the devastations of war. The masculine fantasy of totality driving the Human Delineation project in Intensive Care has a linguistic corollary in Colin Monk's pursuit of the Platonic ideality of algebra, set against Milly's "degraded" punning writing. In The Adaptable Man, the arrival of electricity ushers in a new perceptual rgime that would obliterate any "shadow" of dialectical negativity or internal difference. The thesis ends with a swing toward conciliation and emotional growth. The homosexual relationship depicted in Daughter Buffalo (1972) offers a model of transference, defined as a transitional, productive form of repetition that opens Talbot to his ethnic and familial inheritance. Working from within a radical form of narcissism, the novel reformulates masculinity by embracing loss as "phallic divestiture" (Kaja Silverman)