Proxies and Prostheses: Stray dogs from Flaubert’s L’Éducation sentimentale (1845) to Jane Campion’s The Piano (1992)

Abstract: This essay compares six dogs who appear in the margins of four texts and two films, examining how they serve in the narratives as proxies or prostheses for plot and character. The first pair are from the two versions of Flaubert’s L’Éducation sentimentale (1845 and 1869) and feature at key turning-points in the protagonist’s life. The next pair are kindly female dogs tricked by their male masters, J. M. Barrie’s Mr Darling and André Gide. The last two dogs serve as prostheses rather than proxies; each belonging to the daughter of a couple riven by adultery and supplementing the daughter’s activity as mediator and disrupter of desire. How is silence the precondition for the dog’s meaning in these texts?

Keywords: Dogs, proxies, prostheses, fictions of adultery, Fatal Attraction, The Piano, Flaubert, Barrie, Gide

Professor Naomi Segal is Professorial Fellow at Birkbeck, University of London. In 2004 she was founding Director of the Institute of Germanic & Romance Studies. She has served on or chaired numerous UK and European committees, including within ESF and HERA, and chairs the international initiative Cultural Literacy in Europe ( She is the author of 86 articles and 16 books, including monographs Consensuality: Didier Anzieu, gender and the sense of touch (2009), André Gide: Pederasty & Pedagogy (1998), The Adulteress’s Child (1992), Narcissus and Echo (1988), The Unintended Reader (1986, repr. 2010) and The Banal Object (1981). She has recently translated Didier Anzieu’s Le Moi-peau into English and has a monograph on Replacement at the planning stage. She is a Chevalier dans l’Ordre des palmes académiques, an Academic Associate of the British Psychoanalytical Society and a Member of the Academia Europaea.


Naomi Segal – Proxies and Prostheses (pdf)

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