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Mahon, E.J. (2018). The Universal Analogy: The Complementary Visions of Poetry and Psychoanalysis. Psychoanal Q., 87(3):415-433.

(2018). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 87(3):415-433

The Universal Analogy: The Complementary Visions of Poetry and Psychoanalysis

Eugene J. Mahon

The “scientific” aspects of poetry and psychoanalysis are emphasized in this paper. Baudelaire believed that poetry was the most scientific discipline of all given that it alone recognized and implemented the concept of a universal analogy, by which he meant that in poetry there is no restriction on the words or images that a poet may decide to bring together as the phenomenal world is being investigated and sublimated. This is decidedly similar to Freud’s concept of free association, which suggests that if language learns to exploit primary processes and a relative, albeit temporary, contempt for secondary processes of rationality and logic, the whole of the mind, consciousness and unconsciousness can be studied scientifically. To be sure, science is being asked to redefine itself in this analogy, but a science that ignores the phenomenal world of conflict, dreams, parapraxes, symptoms et cetera and chooses to study only what can be viewed under electron microscopy, is a restrictive science indeed! Keats’s concept of negative capability is quite similar to Freud’s concept of free associations or Baudelaire’s universal analogy and all three are invoked as this paper compares and contrasts the unique, and yet quite similar, methodologies of both poetry and psychoanalysis.

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