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Wesley, P. (1987). The Wellsprings of Literary Creation: An Analysis of Male and Female "Artist Stories" from the German Romantics to American Writers of the Present: By Ursula R. Mahlendorf. Columbia, S.C.: Camden House, 1985. 292 pp.. Psychoanal Q., 56:573-579.

(1987). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 56:573-579

The Wellsprings of Literary Creation: An Analysis of Male and Female "Artist Stories" from the German Romantics to American Writers of the Present: By Ursula R. Mahlendorf. Columbia, S.C.: Camden House, 1985. 292 pp.

Review by:
Patricia Wesley

Marshaling various strategies, psychoanalytic literary criticism seeks to penetrate the "impenetrable barrier" of artistic form that Oscar Wilde valorizes in his critical dialogue, "The Decay of Lying":

Art begins with abstract decoration, with purely imaginative and pleasurable work dealing with what is unreal and non-existent. This is the first stage. Then Life becomes fascinated with this new wonder, and asks to be admitted into the charmed circle. Art … keeps between herself and reality the impenetrable barrier of beautiful style or decorative or ideal treatment. The third stage is when Life gets the upper hand, and drives Art out into the wilderness (italics added).

Such an endeavor is not without risk. Art may—temporarily—be driven "out into the wilderness"; too much psychoanalytic criticism naïvely equates the figurative with the wild. But, of equal concern to psychoanalysts, criticism of this genre may ensnare psychoanalysis as well, so that a double exile occurs.

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