Performing the Case: Problems of the Case History in Zofloya, Frankenstein, and Mansfield Park
Nadler, Susannah Rebecca Sharon
In this thesis, I connect the emergence of the genre of the psychoanalytic case history in the early nineteenth century to the narratives of Charlotte Dacre's Zofloya (1806), Mary Shelley's Frankenstein (1818), and Jane Austen's Mansfield Park (1814). At the turn of the nineteenth century, the case history was quickly gaining prominence as both a new genre of writing and a new way of seeing the world. Exploring the connection between the novel and the case, I show how Dacre, Shelley, and Austen employ the methods of the case history while simultaneously deploying various strategies of resistance to the project of thinking in cases. While these challenges differ in each novel, a common thread running through each one is the exploration of performance as a disruption to the case history's project. By exploring the matrix of commitments particular to the early nineteenth-century case historian, this thesis illuminates the earnest, playful, dissident, and sometimes shocking ways that these novels engage with the project of the case history. Reversing the direction of illumination, it also shows how exploring these three novels through the lens of the case history sheds a new light on the historical project of thinking in cases, a practice that was quickly accruing cultural authority at this particular moment. In essence, I examine Zofloya, Frankenstein, and Mansfield Park as cases--simultaneously anomalous and representative instances--that engage with the genre of the case history and elucidate the problems and commitments of the early nineteenth-century case historian's project.
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