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Jordan, E. (1986). Notes and commentary: The Poem as Patient. Free Associations, 1(7):111-117.

(1986). Free Associations, 1(7):111-117

Notes and commentary: The Poem as Patient

Elaine Jordan

‘“The Ancient Mariner”: opium, the saboteur of self-therapy’, by A. Hyatt Williams, Free Associations no. 6 (1986) 123-44.

‘Grief and Mourning in Tennyson's “In Memoriam”’ by Victoria Hamilton (this issue, pp. 87-110).

I offer here some reflections, from the point of view of a literary critic, on what appears to me to be a tacit assumption on the part of analysts: that the text is a transparent window to the unconscious of the poet. I think that the situation is rather more complicated and interesting than this view suggests, and I would like to present some preliminary thoughts, not so much as a criticism of the two articles mentioned above, as an attempt to raise an important set of issues.

Unlike the analysand Coleridge, his analyst A. Hyatt Williams is assured of certain certainties, a tribute to his secure home in Kleinian theory. This permits him to know that the albatross in ‘The Ancient Mariner’ (probably) stands for the mother, while the other mariners are ‘quite clearly’ the siblings of the Ancient Mariner/Coleridge for whose death he is/feels responsible. He also knows that the Mariner perceived the albatross in a paranoid light, killing it because of ‘savage, spiteful, envious impulses within himself’. This latter is rather more than I know from reading the poem.

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