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Tip: To sort articles by year…

PEP-Web Tip of the Day

After you perform a search, you can sort the articles by Year. This will rearrange the results of your search chronologically, displaying the earliest published articles first. This feature is useful to trace the development of a specific psychoanalytic concept through time.

For the complete list of tips, see PEP-Web Tips on the PEP-Web support page.

Wolfenstein, E.V. (1987). Art and Psyche. A Study in Psychoanalysis and Aesthetics: By Ellen Handler Spitz. New Haven/London: Yale University Press, 1985. 188 pp.. Psychoanal Q., 56:716-720.

(1987). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 56:716-720

Art and Psyche. A Study in Psychoanalysis and Aesthetics: By Ellen Handler Spitz. New Haven/London: Yale University Press, 1985. 188 pp.

Review by:
Eugene Victor Wolfenstein

The general aim of Art and Psyche is to contribute to the "ongoing dialogue between psychoanalysis and aesthetics" (p. ix). This aim is, I think, largely realized. Spitz not only summarizes with great clarity an impressive number of the speakers who have contributed to the conversation; she also makes a contribution of her own. First, she offers us three "paradigms" (p. x) of the relationship between psychoanalysis and art. Second, she puts forward a number of criticisms and speculations, of or based upon the texts from which the paradigms were derived.

Each paradigm consists of an aesthetic problem, a modality of art criticism, and a specific aspect of psychoanalytic theory. In the first, which (following Freud) Spitz terms "pathography" (p. x), the focus is on the relationship between the artist and the work of art. Spitz aligns this problem with classical psychoanalytic theory and with Romantic criticism, "with its emphasis upon the centrality of the artist's experience" (p. x). In the second, the focus is upon the work of art itself, as a microcosm, an autonomous reality which must be understood in its own terms. The correlates here are ego psychology and so-called Objective or New Criticism. In the third, the focus is upon the relationship between a work of art and its audience. Spitz sees object relations and "reader-response" criticism as the related modalities in this instance.

Having announced these three models of interpretive context, Spitz then states that she is "in the odd position of challenging the very models I have set up by showing that any interpretive context is necessarily more extensive and complex than can be consciously known by the interpreter at any given moment.

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