The Hermit Poet

January 14, 2005

Jung’s Two Types of Writers

Filed under: Criticism,Poetry,Quotes — Neil Aitken @ 1:54 pm

Jung makes an interesting distinction between two types of writers in his essay, “The Relation of Analytical Psychology to Poetry.”

Writer #1

is wholly at one with the creative process, no matter whether he has deliberately made himself its spearhead, as it were, or whether it has made him its instrument so completely that he has lost all consciousness of this fact. In either case, the artist is so identified with his work that his intentions and his faculties are indistinguishable from the act of creation itself.

Writer #2

is not identical with the process of creation; he is aware that he is subordinate to his work or stands outside it, as though he were a second person; or as though a person other than himself had fallen within the magic circle of an alien will.

Patricia Monk sums up the differences nicely:

In the writer of the first type, then, the shaping techniques available to the conscious mind will not distory or hamper, but facilitate the transmutation of the unconscious content into verbal form because, during composition, the conscious and unconscious levels of the psyche are completly integrated. Furthermore, in the transmutation by the shaping techniques, the unconscious will lose nothing of its energy.

But the other poet, who feels the creative force as something alien, is one who for various reasons cannot acquiesce and is thus caught unawares.

Which really just means that there are poets and writers for whom creation comes as a natural flow from their unconscious resevoir which then can be channeled and shaped as it comes. These writers marry conscious craft and unconscious instinct.

And, conversely, there are other writers for whom writing requires the imposition of an external force — writing is either an excising or assimilation of an alien presence. These are the writers who frequentlhy insist that they can only write when “something hits them” or when “the spirit moves them.”

The Romantic Impulse

Filed under: Criticism,Quotes — Neil Aitken @ 1:17 pm

The romantic impulse, when it is strong, is desperately dangerous to those whom it possesses. The romantic attitude toward life – if such demoniacal possession may be called an attitude – is one in which feeling always takes precedence over reason or reflection. The poet of popular fancy – the man of weak nature pursuing pretty fancies and communicating them in verse – is the caricature: the reality is what Dylan Thomas was, a man shaken and destroyed by a bardic fury.

~Robertson Davies. “The Romantic Temperament,” Saturday Night 71:7 (9 Jun 1957), 22

Man, The Smaller Infinity

Filed under: Quotes — Neil Aitken @ 1:01 pm

Man is a gateway, through which from the outer world of gods, daemons, and souls ye pass into the inner world; out of the greater into the smaller world. Small and transitory is man. Already is he behind you, and once again ye find yourselves in endless space, in the smaller or innermost infinity.

~ C.G. Jung. “Seven Sermons to the Dead.” Memories, Dreams, Reflections. ed. Aniela Jaffe, final rev. ed. (New York: Pantheon Books 1973), 389

This is a fascinating thought — that man is the portal through which the supernatural / metaphysical / mythic is passed into the world. In a literal sense, it is a translation (which mathematically implies the movement of a entity in space and time while still retaining its original orientation). Man is the microcosm. The small scale infinity.

Criticism and the Beautiful Coincidence

Filed under: Criticism,Quotes — Neil Aitken @ 12:52 pm

We must always bear in mind that, despite the most beautiful coincidence between the facts and our ideas, our explanatory principles are none the less only points of view.

~ C.G. Jung

Despite how beautifully any theory describes and/or models something, it is ultimately still one out of many points of view. Something I wish more English professors would consider when discussing critical approaches to literary texts.