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Naiburg, S. (2020). Epilogue: “Slouching Towards Bethlehem”: Our Analytic Self Emerges. Psychoanal. Inq., 40(2):155-158.

(2020). Psychoanalytic Inquiry, 40(2):155-158


Epilogue: “Slouching Towards Bethlehem”: Our Analytic Self Emerges

Suzi Naiburg, Ph.D., LICSW

Let me close this issue by returning to where I began, with the slouching beast in Yeats’s “The Second Coming,” one of the “beings who inhabit Yeats’s apocalyptic poems that await their ‘hour,’” a beast that “foretells a monstrous birth” (Vendler, 2007, p. 139, 170). The creature, “with a lion body and the head of a man,/a gaze blank and pitiless as the sun” (Yeats, 1983, p. 187), terrifies; the landscape he crosses is devastated. The poem’s narrator, Vendler (2007) asserts, “knows that he is not seeing the glorious Second Coming of Christ but a reprise, in grotesque form, of the birth of a new energy at Bethlehem” (p. 172). How, I wonder, would such a monstrous birth and the nightmare and catastrophe Yeats’s poem describes apply to our becoming our analyst self?

When I posed this question for myself, I didn’t have an answer. I had to trust I could write my way there. I wasn’t even sure where the question came from. Perhaps it was my training in literature; entering this field in midlife; the impact of growing up Jewish in the shadow of World War II; the blatant trampling of democracy and human rights here and abroad that fueled my query. Whatever the impetus, named or unformulated, I questioned how the powerful intensity of Yeats’s imagery figures in the process of becoming our analyst self.

Coltart acknowledges the image of breakdown in “The Second Coming” but does not underscore the poem’s apocalyptic vision, sense of catastrophic destruction, and desolation of a “world undone” (Meyer, 2015) – in Yeats’s time by World War I, the Easter Rising, and the Troubles and Civil War in Ireland that followed (Vendler, 2015).

[This is a summary excerpt from the full text of the journal article. The full text of the document is available to journal subscribers on the publisher's website here.]

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