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Canadian Social Science

Vol.4 No.3 June 2008

The Identity Construction and Split Self of Eliza in
Pygmalion:
a P sychoanalytic Perspective
LA CONSTRUCTION D'IDENTITÉ ET L’AUTODIVISION
D'ELIZA DANS P YGMALION :
U NE PERSPECTIVE PSYCHANALYTIQUE

WANG Xiaoyan1
Abstract: This paper tries to explore the identity construction and the split selfhood of Eliza in Pygmalion from Freudian and Lacanian psychoanalytic perspectives. George Bernard Shaw has often been labeled “unpsychological” by critics. However, the notion has been reexamined. Some critics have de-emphasized the traditional psychological emphasis on childhood and sex to focus instead on Freud’s preoccupation with language. And Lacan is most famous for his post-structural rereading of Freud.

There are two observations that are relevant to Eliza’s identity: the purpose of analysis is to bring the unconscious to consciousness—or, in postmodern terminology, making the new self real through the transference process. Higgins’s “analysis” consists of bringing the underdeveloped and hidden “other” Eliza to light, so that she can make her way in the world. In this sense, he just brings Eliza’s unconscious new self into consciousness.

The second useful observation is that analysis begins with a repetition. Higgins, acting as a Lacanian mirror for Eliza, reveals the new identity concealed beneath her ragged dress and dirty face, which is a repetition of the identity construction process of her mirror experience as a small child when she first developed the awareness that she was a separate human being.

However, Eliza’s talking cure is, perhaps, less than a complete success, for it is clear that she experiences emptiness and loss even after completing the “treatment”. Eliza never completely resolves her inner and outer conflicts. Equally problematic for her is the deepening of the inner split that we all first experience in the mirror stage described by Lacan: the realization that we can never close the gap between essence and expression and, even worse, that we deepen the split as we become more

1

Female. Major: English Literature.
Address: Postgraduate 2006, Foreign Language School, Central China Normal University, Wuhan, Hubei Province, P.R. China.
E-mail: tiangang888882006@126.com
* Received 26 March 2008; accepted 13 May 2008

WANG Xiaoyan/Canadian Social Science Vol.4 No.3 2008 68-73
articulate. Therefore, the identity problem discussed by Shaw has got postmodern characteristics.
Key words: psychoanalysis, identity construction, split self Résumé: Le présent document tente d'étudier la construction de l'identité et l’autodivision d'Eliza dans Pygmalion d’après la perspective psychanalytique freudienne et lacanienne.

George Bernard Shaw a souvent été marqués "im-psychological" par les critiques. Toutefois, la notion a été réexaminé. Certains critiques n’ont plus souligné l’importance psychologique traditionnelle sur l'enfance et le sexe au lieu de se concentrer sur la préoccupation de Freud avec la langue. Et Lacan est le plus célèbre pour sa relecture post-structurelle de Freud.

Il y a deux observations qui sont pertinentes sur l'identité d’Eliza: le but de l'analyse est de mettre l'inconscience à la conscience-ou, dans la terminologie postmoderne, ce qui rend le nouveau soi réel à travers le processus de transfert. L’"analyse" de Higgins consiste à apporter

l’«autres» d'Eliza sous-développée et cachée à la lumière, afin qu'elle puisse faire son chemin dans le monde. En ce sens, il apporte juste la nouvelle soi inconsciente d’Eliza en conscience.
La deuxième observation utile est que l'analyse commence par une répétition. Higgins, agissant comme un miroir lacanien pour Eliza, révèle la nouvelle identité dissimulée sous sa robe en lambeaux et son visage sale, qui est une répétition du processus de construction de l'identité de son miroir expérience en tant qu'une petite enfant quand elle a développé la première fois la conscience qu'elle...
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