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Silver, D. (1983). Prologue. Psychoanal. Inq., 3(3):351-355.

(1983). Psychoanalytic Inquiry, 3(3):351-355


Donald Silver, M.D.

We are all perpetual mourners. We mourn not only the death of others, but our own inevitable losses as we pass through life. We undergo continual psychic reorganization in response to the changed realities betokened by these losses. We mourn progressively on behalf of adaptation and adjustment, and we mourn pathologically when these goals elude us. For better and worse, we are perpetual mourners.

Self-evidently, then, the themes of mourning and death with which we are concerned in this issue of Psychoanalytic Inquiry are common to all of us. Why exactly do we propose to investigate such universal themes in relation to art? It is because great art captures with special poignancy and intensity the shared mourning experiences of all men that it merits special attention. Through art, we can enlarge our understanding of the universal tasks mandated by the experience of loss and the fear of death. Artists provide a public record of private vicissitudes—of denial, grief, guilt, and aggression—that are the sequels to such losses and such fears. Their work highlights both the progressive strategies for mastering these affects and the defensive and regressive strategies that obstruct such mastery. In these thematic preoccupations, then, great art is surely a reflection of the human condition, and especially, the human condition as it presents itself to the clinical psychoanalyst.

Our focus on themes of mourning and death in art also affords valuable insight into the psychology of creativity. We touch here on the relationship between mourning and creativity, a topic that has been of special interest to analysts in recent years.

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