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Richards, V. (2014). Marion Milner, the Life by Emma Letley. Published by Routledge, London, 2013; 224 pp; £26 99 paperback. Brit. J. Psychother., 30(4):554-556.
(2014). British Journal of Psychotherapy, 30(4):554-556
Marion Milner, the Life by Emma Letley. Published by Routledge, London, 2013; 224 pp; £26 99 paperback
Review by: Val Richards
An unacknowledged visionary
In a carefully researched and fascinating study, Emma Letley brings to light the many interlinked facets of Marion Milner's interests and personality. This biography will appeal to a variety of readers, especially in its exploration of the overlap for Milner between psychoanalysis and painting. She emerges as a figure of great talent, versatility and depth, with exceptional tenacity in her quest for truth, especially in her own inner life, although her close personal relationships were marked by an element of seeming detachment. Also, in public situations, Milner suffered from shyness and a lack of confidence.
Milner's preoccupations reflect the psychoanalytic climate of her times and its affinities with the world of art. Her psychoanalytic ideas and beliefs, meticulously charted by Letley, were influenced perhaps as strongly by such contemporary art theorists as Herbert Read and Adrian Stokes as by psychoanalytic thought. Although - and maybe partly because - she was a respected analyst, Milner saw herself as primarily a visual person, and from her ideas on painting, especially in On Not Being Able to Paint, she earned the gratitude of many frustrated would-be artists.
Letley points to Milner's core inspiration as the vision of William Blake, primarily his concept of the contraries within the soul: ‘without contraries there is no progression’ (p. 139). Light and dark, good and evil, God and Satan, all are inseparable opposites.
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