The World of Psychology

The World of Psychology

The World of Psychology

The World of Psychology

Excerpt

The relationship between literature and psychology is an intimate one--and if psychology has done much to clarify some literary problems, literature in its turn has offered its insights to the psychologist. In this book, we have tried to bring together some of the psychological literature of the past century, its sources in classical philosophy and pertinent fiction. In so doing, we have included the findings of both the rational and analytic schools. Occasionally, the fiction emerges as a case study. Equally often, however, we can perceive the Janus-face of the relationship: the fiction itself offers us a profound psychological knowledge that transcends our intellectual awareness of meaning and offers us an emotional experience of truth that is more vital and compelling than any psychological study-in-depth could hope to be.

A long time ago, Aristotle gave the world the concept of catharsis when he recognized the object of art to be the release of tension. Aristotle assumed that the explicit events of the tragedy provided the source of release, and in framing his theory he raised many important questions about the nature of art which have not yet been fully answered. Until Sigmund Freud rocked us into awareness of the role played by the unconscious in shaping our literature, the field of literary criticism remained relatively static. Freud recognized that art served to transform the fearsome visions of our dreams into an aesthetically satisfying and emotionally reassuring form. He introduced psychological tools into the literary world and turned his own talents to analysis of fiction.

Freud's analyses, as well as those of psychologically oriented critics who followed him, have often been attacked--purportedly because they have replaced aesthetic criticism with psychological reductionism. But such attacks have little basis in fact. Psychological analysis of fiction serves not to narrow fiction and force it down the neck of the Freudian bottle but rather to broaden the base of literary criticism. The psychologists have concerned themselves not only with the exposure of the inner conflict. They have brought a profound understanding to aesthetic problems, they have attempted to deal with the old Aristotelian concepts of death and stasis in art in terms of form as well as content. The . . .

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