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Young-Eisendrath, P. (1995). Weissman, Judith. Of Two Minds: Poets Who Hear Voices. Hanover & London: Wesleyan University Press, 1993. Pp. xxi + 335. Hbk. £37.95; Pbk. £17.95.. J. Anal. Psychol., 40(3):483-484.

(1995). Journal of Analytical Psychology, 40(3):483-484

Weissman, Judith. Of Two Minds: Poets Who Hear Voices. Hanover & London: Wesleyan University Press, 1993. Pp. xxi + 335. Hbk. £37.95; Pbk. £17.95.

Review by:
Polly Young-Eisendrath

This theoretical discussion of the bicameral mind, written by English Professor Judith Weissman, is well worth the literary or academic challenge it brings the reader for its richness of new ideas about psychological complexes and their ‘voices’. Working from the psychological thesis of Julian Jaynes (1976) from The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind, that our capacities for self-reflection develop (both historically and psychologically) from autonomous inner voices, Weissman presents a tour de force of literary illustrations. She begins with the ‘old fathers and absent kings’ in Homer, and ends with the ‘old fathers and great queens’ of William Butler Yeats. For anyone who loves the mystical, or is moved by the great Western works of divine inspiration, this volume is a feast of remembrances — of the best and best-known passages quoted in the light of an illuminating thesis.

The first chapter on Homer presents more and different material than in Jaynes's discussions of the differences between the Iliad and Odyssey. For example, from the first to the second poem we find a change in the nature of divine commands: while in the first poem, gods are revered and feared, in the second the relationship between humans and gods is more complicated and sometimes disguised. Of what the characters in the Odyssey say about Olympian gods, Weissman comments,

Though no one sees and hears them regularly anymore, people do pray to them and try to interpret omens and dreams as messages from them.

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