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Collingbourne, R. (1994). The Chamber of Maiden Thought. By Meg Harris Williams & Margot Waddell. London: Tavistock/Routledge. Pp. 217. £12.99.. Psychoanal. Psychother., 8(1):87-88.

(1994). Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy, 8(1):87-88

The Chamber of Maiden Thought. By Meg Harris Williams & Margot Waddell. London: Tavistock/Routledge. Pp. 217. £12.99.

Review by:
Rachel Collingbourne

The book takes its title from Keats's metaphor for the inner world of psychic reality. What occurs within the Chamber represents the life of the mind, the developmental shifts in the internal drama from a narcissistic organisation to true object-relationships. On first entering, writes Keats, we are

intoxicated with the life and atmosphere, we see nothing but pleasant wonders, and think of delaying there for ever in delight.

On penetrating further, the Chamber

becomes gradually darkened … We see not the balance of good and evil. We are in a Mist … We feel ‘the burden of the Mystery’.

I quote this metaphor at some length because it is in the matter of ‘mystery’ that a book on this subject succeeds or fails. How to preserve the mystery of artistic creation and the reader's response to it, while attempting to lay bare its bones? The authors argue that psychoanalysis is the true child of literature by illustrating some literary origins of the psychoanalytic model of mind. This literary-historical perspective is contrasted with the more familiar medico-scientific one. The stated intention is not reductionist in the sense of providing psychoanalytic interpretations of literary works, but rather to put the post-Kleinian model of mind back in touch with its roots.

Seminal poetic and literary thinkers are discussed in the first eight chapters, beginning with Shakespeare, and moving on to Milton, Blake, Wordsworth, Coleridge, and Keats. The novel is represented by Emily Brontë and George Eliot.

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