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(1960). Meetings of the New York Psychoanalytic Society. Psychoanal Q., 29:297-299.

(1960). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 29:297-299

Meetings of the New York Psychoanalytic Society

September 15, 1959. NOTES ON THE ENVIRONMENT OF A GENIUS. K. R. Eissler, M.D.

In this paper the author attempts to bring the environmental features of Goethe's boyhood he considers most important into meaningful connection with Goethe's later genius. Among these features of undoubted importance in the boy's development was the fact that his father, relieved of the necessity of earning a living, so organized his life as to make the rearing and education of his children his principal occupation. His industriousness and zeal made him a propitious subject of identification for the future genius, whose colossal output also required a combination of play activity and self-discipline. From an early age Goethe shared in the daily activities of his father, familiarizing himself with the adult world. This must have had a relevant bearing on his later proficiency in every activity he undertook as poet, dramatist, statesman, scientist. The father possessed, too, a subtle feeling for the phaseal needs of the child, manifested by the early, benign, tender, and actively maternal behavior toward him, changing gradually to the stern representative of law and order. This blending of images, of a benign preoedipal father and of a law-enforcing and prohibiting Oedipal father, was a fortunate prerequisite for the relationship between ego and superego, on whose proper coöperation in the adult largely depended the intensity and quality of creativity. The relationship between father and son is described as reflecting a combination of wholesome narcissism and strong object love, one almost completely free of ambivalence, and serving the best possible interests of the future genius.

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