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Martin, L.C. (1922). 'Roland'—Un Symbole: Par J. Vodoz. (Paris, Edouard Champion, 1920.). Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 3:395-396.

(1922). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 3:395-396

'Roland'—Un Symbole: Par J. Vodoz. (Paris, Edouard Champion, 1920.)

Review by:
L. C. Martin

As the psychology of the unconscious slowly penetrates into France, where the reasonable side of human mentality is so much vaunted, the charge of exaggeration and uncertainty is brought against it with perhaps more than usual energy and want of discrimination. There are cases, we know, in which the charge may be only too well grounded; and it is unfortunate that it should be so apposite to the present work, described in its preface as 'une tentative d'appliquer les théories de la psychologie analytique, à l'étude d'un sujet digne d'attirer … toute notre attention', but in reality offering no very reliable support for the conclusions it suggests.

It is at least a merit that the author does not call his work a study in the application of psycho-analysis to the criticism of literature. Almost the only scientifically acceptable part of his theory regarding Le Chanson de Roland is that which represents the poem as in part a dramatization of the Oedipus complex. In virtue of his love for his mother (symbolized, usually, as France) Roland opposes Ganelon, his step-father, and independently refuses the proffered auxiliary aid of Charlemagne, the King; and a justifiable and interesting article (perhaps not more) might have been written to show in what degree the tragic events that followed were bound up with these psychological factors alone. Instead, much of the dénouement is made to depend on Roland's suddenly realizing (through some mysterious and undefined agency) that his attachment to his mother is a harmful thing and must be sacrificed … 'et ce premier pas fait, ses yeux s'ouvrent: dans le père, il ne voit plus, uniquement, le répresentant de l'autorité, de la force, l'intrus—il reconnaît les autres attributs: la toute-puissance s'exerçant dans la bonté, l'amour se manifestant dans le désir de sauver …' Roland is therefore a symbol of the highly-civilized notion of self-sacrifice, and the poet's moral lesson for his compatriots is 'Renoncez à suivre vos instincts égoistes. Ne recherchez pas dans ce que vous appelez l'amour du sol natal la satisfaction de vos désirs de bien-être et de volupté. Unissez-vous en sujets soumis à votre roi, que veut être votre père.'

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