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Civitarese, G. (2014). Bion and the Sublime: The Origins of An Aesthetic Paradigm. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 95(6):1059-1086.

(2014). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 95(6):1059-1086

Psychoanalytic Theory and Technique

Bion and the Sublime: The Origins of An Aesthetic Paradigm Language Translation

Giuseppe Civitarese

A video abstract of this article can be viewed at:

(Accepted for publication 21 May 2014)

In constructing his theory Bion drew on a number of symbolic matrices: psychoanalysis, philosophy, mathematics, literature, aesthetics. The least investigated of these is the last. True, we know that Bion cites many authors of the Romantic period, such as Coleridge, Keats, Blake and Wordsworth, as well as others who were held in high esteem in the Romantic period, such as Milton. However, less is known about the influence exerted on him by the aesthetics of the sublime, which while chronologically preceding Romanticism is in fact one of its components. My working hypothesis is that tracing a number of Bion's concepts back to this secret model can serve several purposes: firstly, it contributes to the study of the sources, and, secondly, it makes these concepts appear much less occasional and idiosyncratic than we might believe, being as they are mostly those less immediately understandable but not less important (O, negative capability, nameless dread, the infinite, the language of achievement, unison etc.). Finally, connecting these notions to a matrix, that is, disclosing the meaning of elements that are not simply juxtaposed but dynamically interrelated, in my view significantly increases not only their theoretical intelligibility but also their usefulness in clinical practice. In conclusion, one could legitimately argue that Bion gradually subsumed all the other paradigms he drew on within the aesthetic paradigm.

[This is a summary excerpt from the full text of the journal article. The full text of the document is available to journal subscribers on the publisher's website here.]

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