Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects

Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name





Nancy Yousef

Committee Members

Gerhard Joseph

Wayne Koestenbaum

Subject Categories

Arts and Humanities


Relational Psychoanalysis, Trauma, Intersubjectivity, dissociation


In this dissertation I apply contemporary relational psychoanalytic, trauma and field theories to three novels, Charlotte Bronte’s Villette, George Eliot’s Middlemarch and Virginia Woolf’s To The Lighthouse and offer a new psychoanalytic understanding of the relationship between fictional characters, author and reader useful for literary criticism. These theories are based on the assumption that the primary human motivation is the desire for relatedness and intimacy, a co-constructed, intersubjectivity characterized by mutuality, recognition and respect. The dissertation reviews core concepts of these theories including the phenomena of dissociation, enactments and intersubjectivity. In my analysis of the novels I demonstrate the centrality of dissociations and enactments. in defending against unbearable trauma and parts of self. These defenses may profoundly constrict capacity for empathy and intersubjective love. I explore the developing relational fields between Lucy and Paul in Villette, Dorothea and Ladislaw in Middlemarch and the Ramsey family and Lily Briscoe in To The Lighthouse, the latter a fictional representation of Woolf. My primary focus is the success or failure of their mutual struggle to find mature co-constructed intersubjectivity and love and the negative impact of patriarchy and the society they live in.


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