The Lady of Shalott: A Lacanian Romance

Julia Saville

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In the course of her book Pictures of Romance, Wendy Steiner, pointing to the intensified interaction of painting and literature in the nineteenth century, remarks that their complicity with the dynamics of romance often serves as a foil for the realistic psychological novel.1 She argues that the realist novel, in the process of psychologizing love, often depended on romance formulae while simultaneously defining itself in terms of a disdain for literary and pictorial romance.2 Taking up Steiner's point, I want to focus on a particular juncture in the history of nineteenth-century poetic and pictorial collaboration, the movement of Pre-Raphaelitism, and its penchant for translating poetic texts into pictures, and vice versa. Juxtaposing Pre-Raphaelitism with twentieth-century Lacanian psychoanalytic theory, I want to argue firstly, that Jacques Lacan's discussion of the scopic drive and the gaze has much to say about the preoccupation of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood with the “moment's monument”.3 More tangentially, I also want to suggest that the reason for this lies in Lacan's own investment in the heritage of romance. If the psychologized realist novel participated in the very dynamics of romance that it eschewed, so too Lacanian psychoanalysis, even as it defines itself as a science, also participates in the long-standing genealogy of romance.4.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)71-87
Number of pages17
JournalWord and Image
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1992
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Visual Arts and Performing Arts
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Literature and Literary Theory


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