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Segal, H. (1974). Delusion and Artistic Creativity: Some Reflexions on Reading 'The Spire' by William Golding. Int. R. Psycho-Anal., 1:135-141.

(1974). International Review of Psycho-Analysis, 1:135-141

Delusion and Artistic Creativity: Some Reflexions on Reading 'The Spire' by William Golding

Hanna Segal

This essay has no pretensions to literary criticism, nor is it an attempt to 'psychoanalyse' a book, or, through the book, its author. It is an attempt to use the material of a novel to further a psychoanalytic investigation into the origin and the nature of artistic endeavour. It is a continuation of a trend of thought I started in my paper 'A Psycho-Analytical Contribution to Aesthetics' (Segal, 1952). In particular, it is concerned with the shadowy area in which originate both the psychotic delusion and the artistic creation.

The Spire, a novel by William Golding (1964), is the story set in the Middle Ages, of the endeavours of Jocelin, Dean of the Cathedral, to build a 400-foot spire, as he has heard that this has been done in France. Despite the opposition of his chapter, and advice that such a spire cannot be built because the church has no foundations and the structure no strength, he is certain that he can translate his vision into reality. He has been vouchsafed a vision which convinces him that he has been chosen by God for this task. His conviction that he has been so chosen is also nourished by the fact that his promotion to his present position has been miraculously fast. He is supported by an angel, who 'warms his back'. Roger Mason is the only man capable of building such a spire, but he is, to begin with, doubtful, and later is completely opposed to the plan. Jocelin must compel him to do the building.

Apart from Jocelin, there are four main protagonists:

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