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

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Abstract

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.

Keywords

Sexual Desire Romance Language Family Romance Scarlet Letter Easter Procession 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Notes

  1. 1.
    See Jacques Lacan, ‘The Hysteric’s Question’, in The Psychoses: The Seminar of Jacques Lacan, ed. by Jacques-Alain Miller, Book III (1995–96), translated with notes by Russell Grigg (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993),Google Scholar
  2. and Gregorio Kohon, ‘Reflections on Dora: the Case of Hysteria’, in Kohon, ed., The British School of Psychoanalysis: The Independent Tradition (London: Free Association Books, 1986), 376.Google Scholar
  3. 2.
    Sigmund Freud, ‘The Instincts and Their Vicissitudes’ (1915), in On Metapsychology: The Theory of Psychoanalysis, trans. under James Strachey, ed. Angela Richards, Pelican Freud Library, vol. 11 (1984), 113–38.Google Scholar
  4. 3.
    See Alison Sinclair, ‘The Gendered Language of Desire in La Regenta’, forthcoming in Journal of Hispanic Research, vol. 3 (1994–5), 231–49.Google Scholar
  5. 4.
    On some of the connotations of the triangle, see René Girard, Deceit, Desire and the Novel: Self and Other in Literary Structure (1961), translated by Yvonne Freccero (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins, 1965),Google Scholar
  6. Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, Between Men: English Literature and Male Homosexual Desire (New York: Columbia University Press, 1985),Google Scholar
  7. Berta López M., ‘El deseo triangular en La Regenta’, Estudios Filológicos 22 (1987), 59–76,Google Scholar
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  9. 5.
    Maria Moliner, Diccionario del uso del español, 2 vols (Madrid: Gredos, 1966).Google Scholar
  10. 6.
    See James Mandrell, ‘Malevolent Insemination: Don Juan Tenario in La Regenta’, in Noel Valis, ed., ‘Malevolent Insemination’ and Other Essays on Clarín, Michigan Romance Studies 10 (Ann Arbor, University of Michigan, 1990), 1–28;Google Scholar
  11. Noel Valis, ‘On Monstrous Birth: Leopoldo Alas’s La Regenta’ in Naturalism in the European Novel: New Critical Perspectives, ed. Brian Nelson (New York/Oxford: Berg, 1992), 191–209 and ‘Aspects of an Improper Birth: Clarín’s La Régenta’, in New Hispanisms: Literature, Culture, Theory, ed. Mark I. Millington and Paul Julian Smith, Ottawa Hispanic Studies 15 (Ottawa: Dovehouse Editions, 1994), 96–126;Google Scholar
  12. Lou Charnon-Deutsch, ‘Voyeurism, Pornography and La Regenta’, Modern Language Studies 19 (4) (1989), 93–101, and ‘La Regenta and Theories of the Subject’, Romance Languages Annual 1 (1989), 395–8.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. 9.
    Saint Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, trans. by the Fathers of the English Dominican Province, 2a 2ae 2 36.1 (London: R. and T. Washbourne Ltd, 1917), 473. See also Aquinas’s awareness of the primitive and early nature of envy in his quotation from Augustine’s Confessions: ‘I myself have seen and known even a baby envious, it could not speak, yet it turned pale and looked bitterly on its foster-brother’ (36.3, 477).Google Scholar
  14. 12.
    Maria Moliner, Diccionario del uso del español, 2 vols (Madrid: Gredos, 1966).Google Scholar
  15. 13.
    Melanie Klein, ‘Envy and Gratitude’ (1957), in Envy and Gratitude and Other Works 1946–1963 (London: Virago, 1988), 181.Google Scholar
  16. 14.
    See John Brenkman, Straight Male Modern: A Cultural Critique of Psychoanalysis (New York and London: Routledge, 1993),Google Scholar
  17. and Nancy J. Chodorow, Femininities, Masculinities, Sexualities: Freud and beyond, (London: Free Association Books, 1994).Google Scholar
  18. 15.
    Ernest Jones, ‘Jealousy’ (1929), in Papers of Psychoanalysis, 5th edn (London: Baillière and Cox, 1948).Google Scholar
  19. 16.
    Jessica Benjamin, The Bonds of Love: Psychoanalysis, Feminism, and the Problem of Domination (London: Virago, 1990), 95.Google Scholar
  20. 17.
    Julian Pitt-Rivers, The People of the Sierra (London: Weidenfeld and Nicholson, 1954), 107–10. The compadrazgo is the relationship of compadres between the parents (padres) and the god-parents (padrinos) of a child, the latter conventionally being a married elder brother and his wife. The relationship is one of extreme formality and seriousness, and introduces further levels of incest taboo, since it is forbidden by popular terms to marry either one’s padrino or compadre. Google Scholar
  21. 18.
    Sigmund Freud (1909), ‘Family Romances’, in On Sexuality: Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality and Other Works, ed. Angela Richards, Pelican Freud Library, gen. edn James Strachey, vol. 7 (Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1977), 221–5.Google Scholar

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© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 1997

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