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Contexts for Mrs. Dalloway. Freud, “ Mourning and Melancholia ” (1917). Mourning. Melancholia. [T]he reaction of the loss of a loved person, or to the loss of some abstraction which has taken the place of one, such as one’s country, liberty, and ideal, and so on” (243).

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Contexts for mrs dalloway

Contexts for Mrs. Dalloway

Freud mourning and melancholia 1917
Freud, “Mourning and Melancholia” (1917)



[T]he reaction of the loss of a loved person, or to the loss of some abstraction which has taken the place of one, such as one’s country, liberty, and ideal, and so on” (243).

Symptoms—apart from decreased self-esteem—same as melancholia

As with melancholia, involves denial of loss and intense remembering of loved object.

Prolonged clinging to lost object, but eventually “respect for reality gains the day” (244), one recognizes loss and can emotionally attach to new object.

“When the work of mourning is completed, the ego becomes free and uninhibited again” (245).

  • Same cause as mourning.

  • Symptoms include (244):

    • “profoundly painful dejection,”

    • “cessation of interest in the outside world,”

    • “loss of the capacity to love,”

    • “inhibition of all activity,” and

    • decrease of self-esteem, tendency to self reproach which can “culminate in a delusional expectation of punishment” (244). “The patient presents his ego . . . as worthless , incapable of any achievement, and morally despicable . . .” (246).

  • Melancholic may not consciously perceive full extent of what has been lost.

  • Melancholic incorporates lost object into own ego.

    • Self-accusations may actually apply to lost object.

World war i
World War I

  • Scope

    • 32 nations divided into Triple Entente (England, Russia, France) and Triple Alliance (Germany, Italy, Austria-Hungary) powers

    • Estimated $186 billion total cost

    • Troop deaths estimated at 37 million, civilian at 10 million (Great Britain and colonies experienced 35% death, wounding, imprisonment or MIA of troops)

  • Technologies of chlorine gas, tanks, planes, more destructive shells and weapons

Photo of mustard gas victim courtesy of:The Soldier’s Reality (S. Davies WWI History Course)

Wwi cont d
WWI, Cont’d

Photo of soldier at Battle of the Somme courtesy: WWI Research Project at The Learning Center

  • Battle of the Somme (July 1916)

    • 3M shells launched at German trenches over one week

    • July 1 ground attack resulted in 20,000 killed and 40,000 wounded out of 100,000 British and French troops

  • Trench warfare

  • Military Service Act (Great Britain 1916)

Shell shock
Shell Shock



Inability to concentrate



Physical symptoms: blindness, twitching, limb dysfunction

Hallucinatory flashbacks to war experience

Sources and further reading
Sources and Further Reading

  • “The Battle of the Somme.” The Great War and the Shaping of the 20th Century. PBS.

  • Bourke, Joanna. “Shell Shock in World War I.”BBC: World Wars in Depth.

  • Freud, Sigmund. “Mourning and Melancholia.” The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud, Volume XIV. 237-258.

  • Matthews, Stephen. Modernism: A Sourcebook. New York: Palgrave, 2008.

  • “The Medical History of WWI: Psychiatry.” WWI: The Medical Front.

  • Report of the War Office Committee of Enquiry into Shell Shock (1922)