This book studies the will, will-power and wilfulness, the will to death or to power, and lack of will. It surveys many texts -- from Augustine, Shakespeare, Dickens, George Eliot and D H Lawrence -- in order to analyse the history of its different concepts: rational/irrational drive, sexual appetite, or just testamentary, so asserting identity beyond death. Drawing on philosophies of the will in Schopenhauer and Nietzsche, the book studies music as the embodied will in Wagner and Verdi. Considering the law and its prohibitions as a form of the will, it sees how these produce a perverse will. Drawing on Freud and Lacan it studies interrelationships between the law which prohibits and the desire which wills, how desire creates the law, and the law desire. What stands out is that the authors studied are fascinated by the will as unknowable and irresistible, as rational and countermanding rationality, as divided and imperious force. Chapters include how wills motivate plots in Shakespeare and the Victorian novel. Discussion of opera and Nietzsche focuses on the will as an unconscious force.
With sustained discussion of texts, and supporting arguments through a range of key thinkers in cultural theory, this book is indispensable for readers of literature, law, music and philosophy.
Jeremy Tambling is Professor of Literature at the University of Manchester. His most recent books are On Reading the Will: Law and Desire in Literature and Music (Sussex Academic Press 2012), and Literature and Psychoanalysis (Manchester University Press 2013).