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Hamilton, J.W. (1973). Jensen's Gradiva: A Further Interpretatation. Am. Imago, 30(4):380-412.

(1973). American Imago, 30(4):380-412

Jensen's Gradiva: A Further Interpretatation

James W. Hamilton, M.D.

Even if our investigation should teach us nothing new about the nature of dreams, it may perhaps afford us from this angle, some insight into the nature of the creative process. If actual dreams are considered to be unrestrained and irregular phenomena, what about the free recreations of such dreams?

Freud (1907)


In 1906, when Freud wrote Delusions and Dreams, his interpretation of Wilhelm Jensen's novel Gradiva (1903) which had been recommended to him by Jung, he was pleased to find ample literary support for his theories of infantile sexuality, repression and the role of the dream in intra-psychic life and confined his remarks generally to these topics. Though not his first attempt at applied analysis (Niederland, 1960), because of the lack of a theory of object relations and because of the emphasis upon the libidinal component of the instinctual drives in his thinking at the time, he did not fully appreciate the importance of object loss and of aggression in this particular novel. With the developments in ego psychology in recent years, it is now possible to offer some additional dynamic and genetic formulations about material in Gradiva and hopefully to add to our understanding of the creative process.

Briefly, Jensen's work, sub-titled A Pompeiian Fancy, concerns a young archaeologist, Norbert Hanold, who lives in an unnamed German University town where his preoccupation with academic pursuits preempts any meaningful contact with other persons. While on a visit to Rome, he becomes so impressed by a bas-relief of “a complete female figure in the act of walking” that he obtains a plaster cast of it upon his return home, and hangs it in his study, on the only wall not lined with books.

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