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Sautter, D. (1974). Dylan Thomas and Archetypal Domination. Am. Imago, 31(4):335-359.

(1974). American Imago, 31(4):335-359

Dylan Thomas and Archetypal Domination

Diana Sautter

At the outset, archetypal analysis appears a potentially “romantic” endeavor—the mental suggestion is that through defining archetypes in a given poet's works, one will discover his words related to a larger world of meaning. Furthermore, discursive writing on the archetypes tempts one into the inflation of making factual statements about the meanings: the poems become labeled, grandiose, and paraphrased.

However, if there is a check to this inflation, awareness of archetypal patterns may function as an opening to resonance rather than as definition.

The opposing work of two critics on the poetry of Dylan Thomas provides a dialectic which makes just such a check—in fact, at first the two books seem to cancel each other out. The book by Jacob Korg, entitled Dylan Thomas, seeks to relate the poems to what Korg calls “the rhetoric of mysticism,” undertaking to analyze “the development of a private symbology, a system of metaphors capable of expressing the visionary realm.” Korg's conclusions are often appropriately mystifying—he is prone to identify image complexes by pointing out that they are typically “mystical” or refer to “primary oneness,” et cetera. This, it seems to me, is inflation par excellance, although Korg does have some valuable insights on individual poems. David Holbrook's book, Dylan Thomas and Poetic Dissociation, errs in the opposite direction: Holbrook sees Thomas' poetry as narcissistic, infantile, and as the product of “dissociated phantasy” The poems are dangerously immoral, abjectly incoherent, and by the end of the book, Holbrook is frankly referring to Thomas as “schizoid.”

For Holbrook, Thomas' disorganized and destructive life looms at least as large as the poems (though he keeps the life in

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1 Jacob Korg; Dylan Thomas (New York, 1965), p. 28.

2 David Holbrook; Dylan Thomas and Poetic Dissociation (Illinois, 1964) p. 135.

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