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Segal, H. (1984). Joseph Conrad and the Mid-Life Crisis. Int. R. Psycho-Anal., 11:3-9.

(1984). International Review of Psycho-Analysis, 11:3-9

Joseph Conrad and the Mid-Life Crisis

Hanna Segal


Joseph Conrad, a professional seaman, published his first novel at the age of 37. The thesis of this paper is that his creativity was mobilized by Conrad's severe mid-life crisis and was a way of working through his deep depressive anxiety which came to a crisis at the approach of mid-life. The paper refers to my previous papers relating artistic creativity to the depressive position and Elliott Jaques' paper, 'Death and the mid-life crisis', in which he emphasizes the particular importance of the mid-life crisis in the creative life of artists. Three short stories of Conrad's, which describe experiences of the time he was writing his first book, illustrate his state of mind and the problems he was struggling with at the time of writing: 'The Secret Sharer', 'The Heart of Darkness' and 'Shadow Line'. In 'Shadow Line', in particular, he describes the 'crossing of the Shadow Line' between late youth and adulthood—the mid-life crisis.

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