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Dalsimer, K. (1994). The Compulsion to Create: A Psychoanalytic Study of Women Artists: By Susan Kavaler-Adler. New York & London: Routledge. 1993. Pp. 356 + xii.. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 75:856-859.

(1994). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 75:856-859

The Compulsion to Create: A Psychoanalytic Study of Women Artists: By Susan Kavaler-Adler. New York & London: Routledge. 1993. Pp. 356 + xii.

Review by:
Katherine Dalsimer

This volume is an intriguing enterprise, ambitious in its scope. Dr Kavaler-Adler examines the lives and work of six women writers, Charlotte Brontë, Emily Brontë, Emily Dickinson, Sylvia Plath, Edith Sitwell and Anaïs Nin, from the vantage-point of object-relations theory. It is a diverse group she has chosen to discuss, one that encompasses both England and America, spans both the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, includes writers of prose and poetry and links writers of quite differing stature. Kavaler-Adler looks past their differences, however, to find in their lives and work a recurrent theme. Her discussion is concerned with the inner representational world of these writers: she places at the centre of the creative process for women the internalised father—daughter relationship. She finds that in cases of developmental arrest, which she refers to either as pre-oedipal arrest or as fixation at Melanie Klein's paranoid-schizoid position, the representation of the father remains split, the malignant and benign aspects unassimilated.

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