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Silen, P. (2008). The Vale of Soulmaking: The Post-Kleinian Model of the Mind and Its Poetic Origins by Meg Harris Williams London & New York: Karnac, 2005, 251 pp.. Fort Da, 14(2):124-130.
(2008). Fort Da, 14(2):124-130
The Vale of Soulmaking: The Post-Kleinian Model of the Mind and Its Poetic Origins by Meg Harris Williams London & New York: Karnac, 2005, 251 pp.
Reviewed by Peter Silen, Ph.D.
Glimpsing a Self Unrecognizable
Gustave Courbet could apparently “paint an object convincingly … without knowing what it was” (Berger, 1980a, p. 145). Conjuring a representation suspended in uncertainty strains logic, but, then, so does forming a coherent self, a process, argues Meg Harris Williams in The Vale of Soulmaking, as mysterious and creative as making art: “… the mind, like a work of art, needs to be shaped by its innate poetic quality” (p. 7). Williams considers forces outside of consciousness, shadowy and often incommunicable, that contribute to the shaping of the self.
This idea — that there are sources of knowledge beyond that known by the self that are essential for its development — is the storyline that repeats throughout Williams's book. This story is familiar to those having read Bion, Meltzer, and other post-Kleinians, and the theory that Williams presents in her book is a restatement found in earlier writings (Williams, 1991/2004; Meltzer & Williams, 1988), rather than a new formulation of a post-Kleinian model of the mind. What distinguishes her book is its intricate weaving of psychoanalytic theory and literary criticism. Williams acknowledges the important place in our collective psyche of a storytelling past filled with the exploits of warriors, knights, and poet/adventurers seeking psychic development and self-knowledge. Offering the reader Homer, Sophocles, Shakespeare, Milton, and Keats, she analyzes their texts focusing on themes of transformation of the self at the deepest level.
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