H.D.’s novel Palimpsest has often been analyzed using psychoanalytic theories due to her relationship with Sigmund Freud and his work. However, her own approach to the science of psychoanalysis reveals that she often complemented her scientific understanding with her syncretic religious beliefs, a perspective she referred to as “spiritual realism,” which suggests that analysis with a spiritual nuance may provide a deeper understanding of the novel’s intended purpose. Postsecular theory makes for a useful lens by which to analyze Palimpsest’s treatment of reintegrating spiritual knowledge into Freud’s secular understanding of the modern world by providing the benefits of such a paradigm shift. Because H.D. adopted the ocean as her metaphor for spirituality, eternity, and transcendence, integrating oceanic and archipelagic theories also help to analyze H.D.’s intentions for spiritual realism by providing the characteristics with which illustrate her ritualistic writing process and its transformative experiences.My reading of the novel using postsecular and oceanic/archipelagic theories reveals that Palimpsest has more significance beyond a psychoanalytic treatment of H.D.’s own traumatic past. Instead, H.D.’s reasons for breaking down secular constructs of reality—such as time, space, memory, and individuality—emerge, showing that as an artistic modernist, she was attempting to outline the spiritual solution to modernity’s weaknesses and secularity’s limitations. By providing examples of characters’ poetic communions with eternity, Palimpsest explores the spiritual potential within humanity’s palimpsestic multi-layered consciousness, expressing how that which can transcend time, space, limits of communication, and personal failures can be discovered inward through outward spiritual connection to the eternal. This reading also provides justifications for H.D.’s decisions to write poetic prose novels, an answer to the alienating secular approaches to psychoanalytic knowledge that denied her identity as a poet-oracle, revealing her intent to share spiritual realism’s transformative power despite its secular critics.
College and Department
BYU ScholarsArchive Citation
Murdock, Mari Anne, "Navigating Palimpsest’s Sea Garden: H.D.’s Spiritual Realism" (2019). Theses and Dissertations. 8125.
H.D., Palimpsest, Freud, Modernism, Archipelagic Studies, Oceanic Studies, Postsecular Studies