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  • Preface
  • Peter L. Rudnytsky

Although by no means the exclusive preserve of psycho-analysis, the theme of this issue of American Imago is indubitably central to it. The question at hand is whether, as Edmund Wilson (1941) maintained in his classic exposition of the myth of Philoctetes as a paradigm of creativity, the "wound" of neurosis is inseparable from the "bow" of artistic power, or whether, as Lionel Trilling (1947) rejoined, "there is in fact no causal connection" between art and neurosis (169), and "whatever elements of neurosis" the artist may have "in common with his fellow mortals, the one part of him that is healthy, by any conceivable definition of health, is that which gives him the power to conceive, to plan, to work, and to bring his work to a conclusion" (175).

The four essays here assembled are all landmark contributions to the understanding of their respective subjects. The absence of fanfare in George Mandelbaum's title, "On Ben Jonson's Comedies," perhaps belies the dazzling quality of his reconstruction of the lasting reverberations in Jonson's plays of the death of his father before Jonson's birth and his mother's subsequent remarriage to a bricklayer almost certainly before her son had reached the age of three. Donald Capps's "Erik H. Erikson, Norman Rockwell, and the Therapeutic Functions of a Questionable Painting" takes off from the little-known fact that Rockwell was Erikson's patient at the Austen Riggs Center in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, during the 1950s to offer a beautiful and searching exploration, centered on the painting The Art Critic, of the roots of Rockwell's creativity in his relationships with women—above all, his mother but also his first two wives—as well as in his second wife's relationship to their three sons. Janet Hadda's "Ginsberg in Hospital," which has the distinction of garnering a story in the Los Angeles Times(Timberg 2007), draws on unpublished records to argue that Ginsberg's 1949 stay at the Psychiatric Institute of Columbia Presbyterian Hospital, far [End Page 161] from being either irrelevant or harmful to his artistic development—as previous scholars have presumed—in fact furnished an atmosphere of safety that allowed him to come to terms with the chaos arising from his mother's schizophrenia, and thus to find his own voice and become the poet of Howl. Finally, in a comprehensive reinterpretation of the life and work of Harry Stack Sullivan, Carlton Cornett proposes that Sullivan's concept of the malevolent transformation of the personality served as a means of "explaining himself to himself," and ought to be set beside the traditional paradigms of Sullivan's self-avowed schizophrenic illness and homosexuality as a frame of reference for understanding both his greatness as a psychoanalytic theorist and his human limitations.

This long-overdue issue is a time for both farewells and new beginnings. It marks the completion of my seventh year as editor of American Imago. With deep regret, I must say goodbye to Kristen Smith, my graduate assistant at the University of Florida for the past four years. Indefatigable and tenacious, Kristen has saved me from incalculable errors and embarrassments. Not only I but all of our authors are lastingly in her debt. Fortunately, we look forward to welcoming on board Matthew Snyder, who shows every promise of living up to the standard set by his two predecessors, Kristen Smith and Sarah Mallonee, and leaving his own distinguished mark on the journal in the years ahead. In addition, thanks to the generosity of The Johns Hopkins University Press, we will from now on be the beneficiaries of the talents of Gina Atkinson, already legendary in psychoanalytic circles as the managing editor of The Psychoanalytic Quarterly, who will serve as the copy editor of our annual guest-edited Fall issue.

I am also delighted to welcome Ellen Handler Spitz as our third regular columnist. Inspired by the example of Warren Poland, Spitz will regale our readers "Apropos the Arts," beginning with her meditation on a recent exhibit, "Weaving Women's Words," at the Jewish Museum of Maryland in Baltimore. It suffices to read "When Art Takes Hold" to be persuaded anew that Spitz...


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pp. 161-163
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