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Hutter, A.D. (1982). Poetry in Psychoanalysis: Hopkins, Rossetti, Winnicott. Int. R. Psycho-Anal., 9:303-316.

(1982). International Review of Psycho-Analysis, 9:303-316

Poetry in Psychoanalysis: Hopkins, Rossetti, Winnicott

Albert D. Hutter


D. W. Winnicott describes a session in which poetry figures prominently: his patient recites Christina Rossetti's 'Passing Away' and later refers to a line from Hopkins' 'Carrion Comfort', while Winnicott himself comments on these poems and alludes to another Hopkins poem, 'Spring and Fall'.

An analysis of these poems uncovers a preoccupation with a struggle between God and the poet: a struggle that is in turn reflected in the transference. Both Hopkins and Rossetti desire and resist a merger with an ideal, parental, image of God; but these two poets display radically different styles as they seek to present and then resolve their conflicts. The different poetic structures offered by Rossetti and Hopkins mirror the changes that occur in Winnicott's patient during the reported session. These poems also demonstrate the subtle and complex relationship between poetry and psychoanalysis, between the psychological explication of poetry and the need for an extraordinary sensitivity to language in therapy—to poetry in psychoanalysis. This study of Winnicott's reported session also leads to speculation on the dynamics of plagiarism and writer's block.

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