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January 2022

Creativity and the boundaries of the self: Separation and engulfment anxiety in Keats and Poe

Journal/Book: Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry. 1985; 19: 355-361.

Abstract: Discusses separation and engulfment anxiety in Keats and Poe as they illustrate creativity and boundaries of the self, or more specifically, enmeshment and self-object loss. The child's emergence of a self involves a never fully completed separation from the mother figure; this requires the mother's empathic fueling and the child's capacity to contain his/her gradual disillusionment with the mother. The potential for anxiety over threatened disintegration can range along a continuum from separation anxiety (loss of the object) in a relatively cohesive self, to engulfment anxiety (loss of the self) in the less cohesive self. The creative artist draws on personal sensitivities to these anxieties, and speaks to the unconscious of the audience. Specific examples of artists' works in art, music, and especially literature illustrate how this sensitivity to the cohesiveness or fragmentation of the self in its self-object matrix moves individuals in any work of art. (16 ref)

Note: separation & engulfment anxiety as illustrated in enmeshment & self object loss; writings of J. Keats & E. A. Poe

Keyword(s): Literature ; psychoanalytic interpretation; separation anxiety; separation individuation; object relations; artists


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