Constructing and Healing the Self through Writing
Publication Year: 2003
Published by: State University of New York Press
Title Page, Copyright, Dedication
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...My thanks goes out to the writers and educators who have been the guardians of my words, and have generously and most graciously advised me throughout the writing of this project. Their wisdom has been immeasurable: Jeffrey Berman, Elisabeth Young-Bruehl, Stephen Rosenblum, Donald Hall, Mark Bracher, Marshall Alcorn, Peter Caws...
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This collection is about the writing process and about writers who have used their literary expression as a means of signifying their pain and, through that signification, have found a better way to construct and heal themselves. Some of our greatest literatureâfrom Keatsâs odes to Charlotte Perkins Gilmanâs âThe Yellow Wallpaperâ to Sylvia Plathâs confessional poetryâhave been, in...
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More than other kinds of writing, confessional writing can broaden the vernacular of human understanding. Readers are moved by the liberation that touches the lives of those people who have endured painful experiences and then had the courage to revisit these experiences. These are not only the voices of suffering, but they are also voices of resistance, reconciliation...
Part I Speaking Pain: Women, Psychoanalysis, and Writing
Chapter 1 The Healing Effects of Writing about Pain: Literature and Psychoanalysis
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Recalling periods of inner turbulence, plummeting into black moods can be a disquieting, if not distressing, experience. The mind, as Milton observed, âis its own place.â But, if biographer Leon Edel is right, pain can also be a powerful catalyst for art: âWithin the harmony and beauty of most transcendent art works, I see a particular sadness . . . but it is a sadness that...
Chapter 2 Violating the Sanctuary/Asylum: Freudian Treatment of Hysteria in âDoraâ and âThe Yellow Wallpaperâ
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In her chapter âWriting the Wounded Psyche,â Louise DeSalvo cites several female writers who offer testimony how writing about their emotional problems became for them a vital form of self-nurturing. Healing through writing is a matter of using anguish and hardship to augment oneâs understanding. The willingness to examine and to dramatize the dismal periods...
Chapter 3 Breaking the Code of Silence: Ideology and Womenâs Confessional Poetry
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...David Aberbach has suggested that the impulse to create usually happens as the result of some early damage to the self.3 Reviving painful events can be cathartic for people who must reconcile themselves with painful episodes in the past. Freud saw in the creative writer a capacity for launching fantasy as a means of protecting the already vulnerable and...
Chapter 4 Fathering Daughters: Oedipal Rage and Aggression in Womenâs Writing
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The desire for male recognition is often at odds with a female writerâs desire for literary primacy. Indeed, a female writer need not capitulate to the patriarchal demand that she stay subordinate. When permitted access to the imagery of the unconscious, a writer may well surface with demons instead of angels. When female writers find a vehicle for expressing their...
Part II Soul-making: Conflict and the Construction of Identity
Chapter 5 Carving the Mask of Language: Self and Otherness in Dramatic Monologues
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Adopting a mask, or inventing a speaker through language, is often a helpful device for poets who wish to explore the conflicted aspects of their own personalities. The dramatic persona covertly expresses something the poet could not express from within his or her own consistent identity. As the monologue emerges, the poet immerses himself or herself into the flow of...
Chapter 6 Giottoâs Invisible Sheep: Lacanian Mirroring and Modeling in Walcottâs Another Life
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...This ambition is problematic, given the indirection of a language that can only come into being through the presence of an otherâthrough an other. As the Lacanian model suggests, subjectivity arises with the childâs entry into the symbolic order when he acquires language, a name, and social prohibitions. Subject formation is therefore based on assimilating a variety of elements within oneâs social context including the crucial element...
Chapter 7 Rescuing Psyche: Keatsâs Containment of the Beloved but Fading Woman in the âOde to Psycheâ
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Because myths are populated by figures who are always larger and wiser than mere mortals, yet still embody human foibles, Keats could restore through myth what he could never wholly accept as irrevocably lost: a mother waning away from consumption, a brother afflicted with the same diseaseâboth of whom he had failed to rescue from premature deaths....
Chapter 8 God Donât Like Ugly: Michael S. Harperâs Soul-Making Music
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Michael S. Harperâs poetry is about witness; about testimony, a precipitous dialectic of seeing and not seeing; of guilt and expiation, terror and beneficence. His poetry takes pain by the throat and does not yield. There is no passive resignation to the history of slavery in Harperâs lexicon; that history is always present as nightmare, demanding that we as readers recognize...
Chapter 9 Kenyonâs Melancholic Vision in âLet Evening Comeâ
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...Sunlight is seen so indirectly, as a belated influence on what has already been nourished by it. From the poetâs point of view, the bales no longer initiate sunlight, yet sunlight is so resplendent in the barn it pleases the poetâs eye, her preexisting need for beauty. Sunlight is therefore worthy of praise. We should bear in mind that in this beginning stanza, we, as readers, are...
Part III Healing Pain: Acts of Therapeutic Writing
Chapter 10 Using the Psychoanalytic Process in Creative Writing Classes
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Part of the appeal of the creative writing course may be that it offers students opportunities to explore their identities through writing. In the poetry course I teach, writing definitely becomes an absorbing process of self-examination with ethical as well as psychological dimensions. In my class as in most other classes, students are trained in a wide variety of literary...
Chapter 11 Rewriting the Subject: Psychoanalytic Approaches to Creative Writing and Composition Pedagogy
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Although a hidden alliance may exist between creative writing and composition factions within English departments, that alliance has been hard won and remains both tentative and discontented. There is more tension between the two groups than camaraderie, and even more tension between creative writing faculty and literary critics. As Eve Shellnut observes from...
Chapter 12 âTo Bedlam and Almost All the Way Backâ: The Image and Function of the Institution in Confessional Poetry
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In Ecrits Lacan presents the mirror stage as a platform for the subject to establish an organic relation with reality. Part of securing a relation to reality is the process of filtering out, or rejecting, images that do not fit into the organized concept of the self.1 At the same time, this structured identity (the âjeâ), is never identical to the subjectâs felt experience. We cannot...
Chapter 13 Asylum: A Personal Essay
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Treatments for mental illness during the twentieth century included psychotherapy in conjunction with hydrotherapy, vitamins, physical restraint, insulin therapy, and electroshock therapy. Hospitals modeled on McLean (where Lowell and Sexton were treated) were overcrowded and bureaucratic. Patients agreed to go into the hospitals for extensive diagnostic tests...
Chapter 14 Signifying Pain: Recovery and Beyond
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...Such a sentiment prompts a rereading of Thomas Hardyâs âTransformationsâ2 where the truth of lossâof what surrenders or diesâ is resurrected in another form: âA ruddy human life / Now turned to a green shoot.â In Hallâs poem, mud is the constituent of water and earth, dissolving and eradicating the differences between what something is made...
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On the day that I completed the first draft of this book, it was prematurely warm for March. I went to the post office to mail the manuscript, and then to teach my lackadaisical honors class. When an evangelical student from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, ignored my question about Byron, pointing out, instead, that my blouse clashed with my slacks, I knew it to be an ominous...
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Page Count: 320
Publication Year: 2003
Series Title: SUNY series in Psychoanalysis and Culture
Series Editor Byline: Henry Sussman