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Hamilton, J.W. (1969). Object Loss, Dreaming, and Creativity—The Poetry of John Keats. Psychoanal. St. Child, 24:488-531.

(1969). Psychoanalytic Study of the Child, 24:488-531

Object Loss, Dreaming, and Creativity—The Poetry of John Keats

James W. Hamilton, M.D.


The poetry of John Keats has been examined to determine if there is a meaningful connection between the early and repeated losses of essential people in his life, his failure to mourn adequately, and his creative output. It is a basic postulate of this paper that

object loss leads to a regressive fusion with the lost object and that the dream becomes an integral part of this process having originally been utilized by the infant to cope with the loss of direct oral gratification from the mother during sleep. Recent developments in ego psychology have demonstrated that the working through of adolescent conflicts is essential before one can come to terms with the death of significant persons, especially parents. When his choice of medicine as a career became too conflictual, Keats resorted to poetry in an attempt to complete the mourning process and to make restitution for the lost object, most importantly his mother, by externalizing his dreams in the form of poems. Because of the intense ambivalence and hypercathexis of the introject, this method was only partially successful and, having to be repeated over and over again, led to one of the richest, most profuse creative efforts in all of literature.

In closing, the following remarks by Mircea Eliade (1967) seem appropriate:

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