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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Metaphysical hunger and distaste in the notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge by Rainer Maria Rilke, Hunger by Knut Hamsun aand Nausea by Jean-Paul Sartre Frimer, Victoria


In many works of modern fiction the theme of alienation is presented in terms of a spiritual hunger or starvation. Concurrently images and metaphors of distaste crop up as the inevitable adjuncts to feelings of spiritual deprivation or hunger. The metaphor of distaste is projected onto the image of modern urban society and is consciously or unconsciously blamed for the hero's sense of estrangement. Rilke's presentation of this problem in The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge centres on a young man's self-observation during a period of spiritual as well as national exile. The Rilkean hero's emphasis on childhood memories contributes a great deal towards establishing the premise that the modern hero's feeling of anomie or spiritual hunger is the consequence of a character predisposition towards introversion, daydreaming, and creativity, in short the "Tonio Kroeger" portrait of a specific type of artistic temperament. In Hamsun's Hunger and Sartre's Nausea the two respective heroes are presented in terms of their current psychological reactions to a large, fundamentally anonymous city. In all three novels I have focussed on the themes of hunger and distaste and attempted to explain the mariner in which these psychologically motivated perceptions become confused with one another (in the mind of the protagonist) and in their confusion reflect the process of an estrangement which begins with an estrangement from society and ends with an estrangement from self. While little reference is made to psychological theory, the particular approach of this study reflects indirectly my reading of the psychoanalytical writing of Dr. Edmund Bergler.

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