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Arlow, J.A. (1986). The Poet as Prophet: A Psychoanalytic Perspective. Psychoanal Q., 55:53-68.

(1986). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 55:53-68

The Poet as Prophet: A Psychoanalytic Perspective

Jacob A. Arlow, M.D.


The poet spins a public fantasy, created from his own private daydreams and speaking to the unconscious fantasies of his audience. He presents a socially acceptable form of expression of forbidden wishes and conflicts. A process of mutual exculpation is set up between the poet and his audience. For a special group the work of the poet may also make possible the alleviation of pathogenic anxieties. An examination of the play, The Beard, indicates how an artist may intuit and articulate changes in sexual morality. The poet rebels against the constraints of society, thereby helping his audience to rebel without guilt. He may be the herald of a changing morality, and even more, his art may become an instrument for such change.

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