Latent Lust in The Last Ride Together: A Study in Deconstruction and Psychoanalysis

Latent Lust in The Last Ride Together: A Study in Deconstruction and Psychoanalysis

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The Austrian neurologist Sigmund Freud (1865 – 1939) had been a tremendous cultural influence during the twentieth century, especially during its first half. Freud’s path-breaking work The Interpretation of Dreams came out in 1900, at the fag-end of the Victorian period. Subsequently, Freudian theories and ideas were employed to trace novel interpretations of pre-existing as well as newer literary texts. In the 1970s Freud’s thought was revised by Jacques Lacan from a linguistic standpoint. It was also during this time that the deconstructionist approach – the strategy employed by the poststructuralist school – was popularised by Jacques Derrida. This approach proposes to read a text against itself, bringing out its inherent self-contradictions. Armed with the weaponry of deconstruction, and paraphernalia of Freudian propositions, this paper endeavours to unearth a psycho-analytic reading of one of the most popular of Robert Browning’s poems -- The Last Ride Together.
Summarizing Freud's thoughts, M. H. Abrams writes in A Glossary of Literary Terms: "The forbidden, mainly sexual wishes come into conflict with the "censor"...but are permitted to achieve a fantasied satisfaction in distorted forms that serve to disguise their real motives and objects from the conscious mind." One crucial aspect of this process is 'sublimation'; Mr Abrams describes it as the power to "shift the instinctual drives from their original sexual goals to nonsexual "higher" goals." It would not be inappropriate to interpret Browning's dramatic monologue The Last Ride Together through this psycho-analytic lens. This would generate a reading whereby the 'ride' in the poem becomes at once metaphorical of, and substitutive for, the consummation of libidinal d...

... middle of paper ...

...aightforward expression of desire. Therefore, masquerades and disguises become all the more necessary. The speaker is constrained to say something other than what he would have liked to say. As a Renaissance painter, Andrea Del Sarto is privileged enough to capture his fluctuating beloved in a painting; the speaker in The Last Ride Together can at best turn the last ride into a sublimating experience.

Works Cited

Abrams, M H, Harpham, Geoffrey, A Glossary of Literary Terms, Wadsworth Publishing Company, 10th Edition, 2012.
Lacan, J, The four Fundamental Concepts Of Psychoanalysis, W. W. Norton & Company, 1998.
Waugh, Patricia ed. Literary Theory and Criticism, An Oxford Guide, Oxford University Press, Fifth Impression, 2011, P 286.
Bonaparte, Marie, The Life and Works of Edgar Allan Poe: A Psycho-analytic Interpretation, Imago Pub. Co. (London), 1949.

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