Following a resurgence of interest in Daphne du Maurier’s writing, The Pathology of Desire in Daphne du Maurier’s Short Stories offers an overview of all her collections and a detailed reading of nine stories. These contain recurrent references to the incomplete or impaired human form and are best read through a corporeal lens. The criticism illustrates her importance as a cultural commentator fascinated by the results of frustrated human desire, and includes a synopsis of the published collections, and the stories within them, to give the reader a sense of the variety of the overarching themes and the persistent force of corporeality in the stories. Du Maurier is well-known as a novelist, but her short fiction is pivotal to understanding her position and influence as a writer. She rewrites fairytales and foregrounds female violence long before it became a cultural trend.
Setara Pracha is senior research fellow and lecturer in the Department of English at the University of Buckingham.
Section I: The Corpus
Introduction: Corporeality: The Conceptual Skeleton
Chapter One: ‘The critics will never forgive you for writing Rebecca’: Repositioning Daphne du Maurier and an Anatomy of the Short Story Collections
Section II: The Dismembered Self
Chapter Two: ‘Split Second’ [head] (1980)
Chapter Three: ‘The Blue Lenses’ [eyes] (1952)
Chapter Four: ‘The Lordly Ones’ [tongue] (1959)
Chapter Five: ‘Monte Verità’ [breasts/ yoni] (1952)
Chapter Six: ‘The Apple Tree’ [limbs] (1952)
Chapter Seven: ‘The Alibi’ [phallus] (1959)
Chapter Eight: ‘The Little Photographer’ [feet] (1952)
Chapter Nine: ‘The Doll’ [body] (1937, 2011)
Section III: A Pathology of Desire
Chapter Ten: Reconstructive Surgery
Appendix: The Bare Bones
About the Author
In this fascinating and pioneering study of the short stories of Daphne du Maurier, Setara Pracha redefines for the twenty-first century the reputation of this famous novelist, making the case for her reassessment as an accomplished, cosmopolitan and radical short-story writer. Taking corporeality as a thematic framework in her close critical commentary and analysis of eight key stories, du Maurier’s symbolic and literal representation of parts of the body facilitates Pracha’s broader – and compelling – discussions on human desire, power, culture, and history. Du Maurier’s short stories are thus revealed as the most daring – and modern – of all her fiction, the contents of which wrestle with issues facing British society in the aftermath of the Second World War.
By dissecting eight spine-chilling short stories in the Daphne du Maurier corpus, Setara Pracha tantalizingly demonstrates how the writer addresses key contemporary issues through the body part centerstaged in each. Such a “literary embodiment of cultural and social themes” allows Pracha to anatomize the gender, sexual, political, moral, and historical considerations which these stories support. One’s perception of the scope and depth of du Maurier’s stories is markedly broadened by this first full-length study of her short fiction, which also aims at placing du Maurier among the masters of the genre.