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Gabbard, G.O. (1994). The Flight of the Mind. Virginia Woolf's Art and Manicdepressive Illness: By Thomas C. Caramagno. Berkeley/Oxford: University of California Press, 1992. 362 pp.. Psychoanal Q., 63:810-812.

(1994). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 63:810-812

The Flight of the Mind. Virginia Woolf's Art and Manicdepressive Illness: By Thomas C. Caramagno. Berkeley/Oxford: University of California Press, 1992. 362 pp.

Review by:
Glen O. Gabbard

It was only a matter of time until the polarization between the psychoanalytic and the biological so characteristic of contemporary psychiatry would spread to the fields of literary criticism and psychobiography. Within academia, legions of semioticians in recent years have embraced Lacanian psychoanalysis and Saussurean linguistics as the royal roads to the literary text. With the appearance of this new volume by Thomas Caramagno, we now have a psychobiographer who suggests that impaired interhemispheric relations may be the neurophysiological basis for Lacan's observation that writers' texts subvert their own apparent meaning. More specifically, Caramagno asserts that psychoanalytic attempts to understand Virginia Woolf and her art have been seriously misguided because they have failed to take into account the biological basis of her manic-depressive illness.

While a departure from the excesses of Lacan may be welcome to some readers, the author's approach has its own unique limitations. Caramagno begins his book with a polemical tone. He takes psychoanalytic biographers of Woolf to task for overemphasizing the pathogenic influence of her childhood traumata, such as her mother's untimely death and her sexual abuse at the hands of her half-brothers.

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