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Reed, G.S. (1983). The Power of Form: A Psychoanalytic Approach to Aesthetic Form. Psychological Issues, Monograph 49. Gilbert J. Rose. New York: International Universities Press, 1980, 243 pp.. Psychoanal. Rev., 70(2):279-280.

(1983). Psychoanalytic Review, 70(2):279-280

The Power of Form: A Psychoanalytic Approach to Aesthetic Form. Psychological Issues, Monograph 49. Gilbert J. Rose. New York: International Universities Press, 1980, 243 pp.

Review by:
Gail S. Reed

In The Power of Form, Gilbert Rose has made a rare attempt at a psychoanalytic approach to aesthetics. For Rose, form, like Winnecott's transitional object, occupies an intermediate area of experience. By allowing an intermixture of opposing elements, Rose believes that aesthetic form dynamically resolves a duality inherent in mental functioning. Rose characterizes this duality as a “dialectic between separation and fusion, control and ambiguity, tension and release, thought and feeling or action, change and constancy, present and past” (p. 211). Thus he sees art as part of an ongoing transitional process conceptualized in economic terms as an interaction between primary and secondary processes, in structural terms as a movement between ego core and ego boundaries, in genetic terms as an interplay between “primary narcissitic fusion states and separation-individuation,” and over all, as a movement between “confusion undifferentiated and clarity defined.” Aesthetic form, he argues, is the result of autonomous ego functioning, not regression in the service of the ego. It satisfies a human need for orientation in a fluid reality.

The breadth of these formulations is related to the courageously wide scope of Rose's inquiry. In discussing the aesthetic form of music, literature, and art, he is attempting a general psychoanalytic conceptualization for forms utilizing varying channels of expression and reception. However, Rose's desire to treat

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