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Sanity, Madness, Transformation

Sanity, Madness, Transformation: The Psyche in Romanticism

Ross Woodman
Edited and with an afterword by Joel Faflak
Copyright Date: 2005
Pages: 270
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  • Book Info
    Sanity, Madness, Transformation
    Book Description:

    InSanity, Madness, Transformation, Ross Woodman offers an extended reflection on the relationship between sanity and madness in Romantic literature. Woodman is one of the field's most distinguished authorities on psychoanalysis and romanticism. Engaging with the works of Northrop Frye, Jacques Derrida, Sigmund Freud, and Carl Jung, he argues that madness is essential to the writings of William Blake, William Wordsworth, and Percy Shelley, and that it has been likewise fundamental to the emergence of the modern subject in psychoanalysis and literary theory. For Frye, madness threatens humanism, whereas for Derrida its relationship is more complex, and more productive. Both approaches are informed by Freudian and Jungian responses to the psyche, which, in turn, are drawn from an earlier Romantic ambivalence about madness.

    This work, which began as a collection of Woodman's essays assembled by colleague Joel Faflak, quickly evolved into a new book that approached Romanticism from an original psychoanalytic perspective by returning madness to its proper place in the creative psyche.Sanity, Madness, Transformationis a provocative hybrid of theory, literary criticism, and autobiography and is yet another decisive step in a distinguished academic career.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-8628-1
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xii)
  4. Sources and Abbreviations
    (pp. xiii-2)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 3-22)

    This book on Romanticism may be divided into two parts. The first part focuses upon Blake viewed within a critical frame largely provided by my contrary readings of Carl Jung and Northrop Frye. The second part focuses primarily upon Shelley viewed within a critical frame largely provided by my agonistic readings of Paul de Man and Jacques Derrida. The subject is madness understood in this study as the inability of man to inhabit himself.¹ The term ‘man’ is used in the generic rather than the gender sense to describe the logocentric drive towards self-knowledge and self-mastery, a drive that in...

  6. 1 Jung and Romanticism: The Fate of the Mythopoeic Imagination
    (pp. 23-46)

    Like the Romantics before him, Jung viewed the human act of perception as a creative act bringing into play a whole range of psychic activity to which matter as physical sensations located in the brain is mentally bound. For Jung, the psyche is the creative process itself, which enacts both its binding to matter and the transformation of matter that the binding performs. The conversion of external sensations, which as sensations are no longer external (‘felt in the blood,’ writes Wordsworth), into mental images in the brain is the action Jung attributes to the psyche. The fact that an external...

  7. 2 Frye’s Blake: The Site of Opposition
    (pp. 47-85)

    ‘Jung, in describing himself,’ writes Donald Winnicott in his review ofMemories, Dreams, Reflections, ‘gives us a picture of childhood schizophrenia, and at the same time his personality displays a strength of a kind which enabled him to heal himself. At cost he recovered, and part of the cost to him is what he paid out to us, if we can listen and hear, in terms of his exceptional insight. Insight into what? Insight into the feelings of those who are mentally split’ (Psycho-Analytic Explorations483). As a compensation for his ‘psychotic breakdown’ at the age of three, Jung, Winnicott...

  8. 3 Blake’s Fourfold Body
    (pp. 86-109)

    When Blake asserts that ‘the Human is Fourfold,’ he is describing the way in which the fully ‘Human’ sphere, as distinct from its lower mineral, vegetable and animal spheres, relates to the world. The lower spheres together constitute a psycho-physical body that Paul, as Frye notes, calls the ‘soma psychikon,’ understood as an unresolved temporal relationship between soul and body in which each struggles to bind the other to itself. In ‘The Human Abstract’ and ‘A Poison Tree,’ Blake describes this binding as a mutual entrapment in terms of the Miltonic myth in which Blake’s Milton found himself and from...

  9. 4 Wordsworth’s Crazed Bedouin: The Prelude and the Fate of Madness
    (pp. 110-147)

    A defining difference between Wordsworth’s poetic vision and that of William Blake is the creative role that Wordsworth assigned to memory. Blake set out ‘to cast off the rotten rags of Memory by Inspiration’ (M41[48].4) in a manner that Wordsworth identified with a ‘madness,’ which he both feared as psychotic and celebrated as divine. Having experienced both forms of it, Wordsworth settled for memory as a form of natural rather than divine inspiration. Wordsworth describes this natural inspiration as ‘the gravitation and the filial bond / Of nature’ (P2.243–4). Rejecting Newton’s law of gravity as ‘the Sleep of Ulro,...

  10. 5 Shelley and the Romantic Labyrinth
    (pp. 148-177)

    In the late spring of 1822, approximately nine weeks before he drowned, Shelley and Mary Shelley moved with Jane and Edward Williams into Casa Magni, which faced the gulf of Spezia. One night, shortly before the drowning, Shelley dreamt that Edward and Jane, their bodies lacerated and covered with blood, came into his bedroom shouting ‘“Get up Shelley, the sea is flooding the house & it is all coming down.”’ Still asleep, Shelley rushed into Mary’s bedroom, where she was slowly recovering from a miscarriage, only to confront his own figure bending over the bed strangling her. Walking along the...

  11. 6 The Sanity of Madness: Byron and Shelley
    (pp. 178-196)

    Bending over the corpse of Keats, Urania in Shelley’sAdonaismanages for a moment to animate it:

    In the death chamber for a moment Death

    Shamed by the presence of that living Might

    Blushed to annihilation, and the breath

    Revisited those lips, and life’s pale light

    Flashed through those limbs, so late her dear delight.

    Shelley here could not have failed to have in mind Mary Shelley’s waking vision of the animation of a corpse, recounted in her introduction to the 1831 revised third edition ofFrankenstein: The Modern Prometheus:

    When I placed my head on my pillow, I did...

  12. Conclusion
    (pp. 197-209)

    According to Shelley, while the dialectical materialism of modern science has ‘enlarged the limits of the empire of man over the external world,’ it has also, ‘for want of the poetical faculty, proportionally circumscribed those of the internal world,’ so that ‘man, having enslaved the elements, remains himself a slave’ (DP502–3). Blake makes the same point. ‘The Great Vintage & Harvest is now upon Earth,’ Los declares,

    The whole extent of the Globe is explored: Every scatterd Atom

    Of Human Intellect now is flocking to the sound of the Trumpet

    All the Wisdom which was hidden in caves...

  13. Afterword: Ross Woodman’s Romanticism
    (pp. 210-236)
    Joel Faflak

    ... it is on account of this in-between [between nature and the human break from it] that the subject cannot be reduced to the Self as a ‘center of narrative gravity.’ Where, then, do we find traces of this in-between in philosophy? In the Cartesiancogito. For a systematic deployment of this dimension, one has to wait for the advent of German Idealism. The basic insight of Schelling, whereby, prior to its assertion as the medium of the rational Word, the subject is the ‘infinite lack of being [unendliche Mangel an Sein],’ the violent gesture of contraction that negates every...

  14. Notes
    (pp. 237-258)
  15. Bibliography
    (pp. 259-266)
  16. Index
    (pp. 267-278)