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Halton, A. (1984). Meg Harris Williams: Inspiration in Milton and Keats. Published by MacMillan Press, 1982. Hardback, £17.50.. J. Child Psychother., 10(2):251-252.

(1984). Journal of Child Psychotherapy, 10(2):251-252


Meg Harris Williams: Inspiration in Milton and Keats. Published by MacMillan Press, 1982. Hardback, £17.50.

Review by:
Anna Halton

From the brief comments on the dust cover of this book, the reader might be given to expect an element of explicit cross-referencing between the disciplines of dynamic psychology and literature. This is not, in fact, the case. Inspiration in Milton and Keats is first and foremost a scholarly work of literary criticism. The psychoanalytic insights are there but alluded to implicitly, so that the psychoanalytically informed may recognise a debt to, say Bion's theory of thinking, but the literary academic, unacquainted with such ideas would not have his attention drawn to them, at least not in any conscious sense. I mention this because I think it might be helpful for any prospective reader approaching the book from a purely psychoanalytic vantage point.

At the outset Meg Harris Williams usefully dismisses the facile and glutinous romanticism (the wings of bliss variety) so often associated with notions of poetic inspiration.

The mental state of inspiration is in essence, one which allows new knowledge to make an entry into aesthetic form. By “knowledge” I do not mean a piece of information, or accumulation of facts, but something closer to revelation or intuited understanding: something which has far reaching consequences and which fundamentally, though perhaps imperceptibly, changes the total outlook of both poet and reader.

The author stresses the psychological disruption and emotional exposure involved in the poet's attempt to attune himself to the reception and expression of poetic insight.

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