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Robinson, K. (2014). Uncertainties, Mysteries, Doubts: Romanticism and the Analytic Attitude by Robert Snell. Published by Routledge, London, 2012; 220 pp; £28.99 paperback. Brit. J. Psychother., 30(2):267-269.

(2014). British Journal of Psychotherapy, 30(2):267-269

Book Reviews

Uncertainties, Mysteries, Doubts: Romanticism and the Analytic Attitude by Robert Snell. Published by Routledge, London, 2012; 220 pp; £28.99 paperback

Review by:
Ken Robinson

This is a book about what it is to attend, listen, be receptive psychoanalytically to patients. It is a subject not often enough approached directly in the analytic literature but one that is especially important, as its author recognizes, in the face of the current push towards the manualization and audit of psychotherapy which threatens to replace listening to the patient with an open mind with listening for preconceived material. The author is concerned with listening to, and takes a highly original approach. Instead of using clinical examples he explores works by carefully selected artists and writers that confront us with particular challenges: Goya, Hölderlin and Novalis, Baudelaire, Poe, Alfred de Vigny and Keats. The challenge represented by each is offered as a reminder of, or as a sort of refresher course for, an aspect of the analytic attitude that the author proposes.

The author presents Goya as requiring ‘us to endure our anxiety, as he finds ever more inventive ways of confronting us with what lurks in the shadows: the repressed and denied, rage, perversity, malignant narcissism, the power of the collective and social unconscious’ (p. 65). He sees the collision of reason and unreason as the generating impulse in Goya's work. In the case of Hölderlin the collision is between a ‘striving for classical clarity’ and a ‘“Romantic” … recognition that such clarity was no longer compatible with truthfulness of utterance’ (p.

[This is a summary excerpt from the full text of the journal article. The full text of the document is available to journal subscribers on the publisher's website here.]

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