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Spring, W.J. (1935). Words and Masses: A Pictorial Contribution to the Psychology of Stammering. Psychoanal Q., 4:244-258.

(1935). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 4:244-258

Words and Masses: A Pictorial Contribution to the Psychology of Stammering

William J. Spring

Recently I was shown a number of pictures which children had made with a paint which has the consistency of mud. The children were told only to cover the paper with paint; they then chose their own colors and applied the paint to moistened paper with their hands. Among the paintings were those of a ten-year-old boy, who had stammered severely since the age of five. The history of these paintings was told me by the teacher in whose class he painted them, a woman of exceptional intuition, but with no technical psychoanalytic knowledge.


The boy was sent to this teacher from another art class, where he had a reputation for being irritable and for accidentally tipping over pots of paint. He came unwillingly at first and for several days made no attempt to touch the paints; he stood about and criticized the work of the other children, who often made fun of him because of his stammering. He seemed quite inaccessible. He even gave the teacher a false last name, saying that it was Vanderbilt. After a few days he slyly put his fingers in the paint belonging to another boy, when he thought he was not being observed. After a while he began putting paint on his own paper, selecting chiefly black and brown, or if he began with bright colors, mixing them together to make brown. He piled more paint on the paper than was necessary. He showed contempt for his own work and always asked to have it thrown away; his teacher, however, persuaded him to save it. He showed envious admiration for the paintings of another boy of the same age whose work was generally admired.

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