This essay is about what psychology might learn from the literature that preceded it. Specifically, it is about how two characters from Joseph Conrad's great novel, Lord Jim, prefigure what later in the century became the figures of the psychoanalyst and patient. Usually, when psychology engages with literature it applies insights gained from the clinic to works of literary art. Taking the opposite approach, this rich and evocative study reflects the soulfulness that psychology has largely forfeited in our time (though it is supposed to be the logos of the soul) in the "case" of the chief ship's mate, Jim, who in Conrad's novel abandons his ship in dereliction of his duties. Long before psychology "dreamt of the courtroom" (the allusion, here, is to an earlier book of this essay's author), it anticipated the psychoanalytic version of itself in the story of a mariner's inquest. Attending at this inquest, the narrator of the novel, Captain Marlow, becomes interested in how it came to pass that the young ship's officer made such a ruin of his life and career and in the question of how he will subsequently come to terms with his difficult fate. These, of course, are interests and concerns with which contemporary analysts and psychotherapists can easily identify. Reading of Jim, patients and situations from our own practices are bound to spring to mind, and moments from our own lives, too, less for what they indicate clinically, than for the bearing each may have had, as the descendants of that literary figure, with respect to the continuing provenance of psychology itself. No previous familiarity with Conrad's Lord Jim novel is required.
About the Author:
Greg Mogenson is a registered psychotherapist and Jungian psychoanalyst practicing in London, Ontario, Canada. He is the editor of The Studies in Archetypal Psychology Series of Spring Journal Books as well as a founding member and Vice-President of The International Society for Psychology as the Discipline of Interiority. The author of numerous articles in the field of analytical psychology, his books include Psychology's Dream of the Courtroom; A Most Accursed Religion: When a Trauma becomes God; Greeting the Angels: An Imaginal View of the Mourning Process; The Dove in the Consulting Room: Hysteria and the Anima in Bollas and Jung; Northern Gnosis: Thor, Baldr, and the Volsungs in the Thought of Freud and Jung, and (with W. Giegerich and D. L. Miller) Dialectics & Analytical Psychology: The El Capitan Canyon Seminar.