The Need for Zeal and the Dangers of Jealousy: Identity and Legitimacy in La Regenta



La Regenta (1884–5), by Leopoldo Alas, is a narrative which parades seductively as one of adultery, yet is replete with forms of desire other than that of sexual desire, whether this be legitimate, or associated with the accomplishment of an adulterous union. In this novel a surface text of sexual desire can be read as being constructed as a defence against the apprehension of decay. This is a strategic and defensive construction in the face of a psychotic apprehension of a world that is collapsing and dissolving and the desperate need to erect a framework, a bulwark against it. The framework erected is the fiction of sexual desire, produced in heightened form as the fiction of adulterous love. The text is thus one that, viewed from a Lacanian framework, articulates the intention to answer the hysteric’s question of ‘What sex am I? Can I reproduce?’ in preference to facing the obsessional’s question of ‘Am I alive or am I dead?’.1 What parades as a desire that relates to specific objects (desire for a particular lover, for example) can in the light of this be construed as a longing or a need more primitive than a stage at which the ego can be deemed to relate to others as whole beings. Desire is predominantly orientated not towards precise objects but, consonant with the Freudian understanding of impulses or drives as expounded in his 1915 essay, ‘The Instincts and Their Vicissitudes’,2 towards particular forms of satisfaction or appeasement.


Sexual Desire Romance Language Family Romance Scarlet Letter Easter Procession 
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© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 1997

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