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Grotjahn, M. (1960). Greek Culture and the Ego. A Psychoanalytic Survey of an Aspect of Greek Civilization and of Art: By Adrian Stokes. London: Tavistock Publications, Ltd., 1958. 101 pp.. Psychoanal Q., 29:404-406.

(1960). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 29:404-406

Greek Culture and the Ego. A Psychoanalytic Survey of an Aspect of Greek Civilization and of Art: By Adrian Stokes. London: Tavistock Publications, Ltd., 1958. 101 pp.

Review by:
Martin Grotjahn

This book of only one hundred one pages is so closely written that to review it adequately would almost necessitate reprinting it.

Applying psychoanalytic concepts to Greek art and religion and the Hellenic origin of science, Adrian Stokes combines Sigmund Freud's concept of projection with Melanie Klein's theory of introjection. He understands Greek art as a projection of the integrated ego structure. The mother's breast is the first part-object, representing the good and the bad. The interchange of introjection and projection starts with the projection of aggressiveness, leading from envy and greed to the introjection of persecutory objects. In the process of integration, the good and bad internal objects are gradually brought closer together. Parts of the ego may be put into external objects or into parts of them, for the purpose of appropriation and control. This happens when the child changes from the paranoid-schizoid stage to the depressive position.

Applying these concepts to matters of culture, Stokes puts forward the hypothesis of an 'ego figure'. It expresses a balance of what is various; it is unlike those cultural images that emphasize the more primitive aspects of the ego. His hypothesis enables the author to give body to the formal qualities of art in general, and in particular to a part of Hellenic civilization from which he develops the birth of science. He has filled out themes in this book that were little more than indicated in a previous study, on Michelangelo.

The Greeks believed that if a man is good he is happy, but also that if he is happy he is good. Human dignity is founded in the pursuit of an integrative balance. The healthy body, to which the Greeks paid unparalleled homage, is an indication of this striving for integration.

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