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The Apprehension of Beauty: The Role of Aesthetic Conflict in Development, Art and Violence
Donald Meltzer (1922-2004) and Meg Harris Williams
The Harris Meltzer Trust / Softcover / Apr 2018
9781912567065 (ISBN-10: 1912567067)
Klein and the Kleinians
reg price: $48.95 our price: $ 46.50
298 pages
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In this book Donald Meltzer formulates his concept of ‘aesthetic conflict’, at the heart of personality development. Clinical material interdigitates with literary criticism by Meg Harris Williams illustrating the same theme. The revised psychoanalytic model of the mind that results suggests how the aesthetic aspects of just being born can have simultaneously a most violent and a most tender impact upon the human mind. The impact of the aesthetic conflict is investigated by the two authors in work with patients, in creativity and art. They demonstrate how the psychoanalytical process itself stands as an artform; and how clinical material, dreams, artworks, poems and plays can all be connected to the aesthetic conflict.


'Celebrating the twentieth anniversary of its first publication, the re-issue of this book which has become among the most significant and classic contributions to post-Kleinian thought and learning, is surely a welcome and much anticipated event. Aesthetics, beauty, and the aesthetic conflict, have been the building blocks of psychoanalysis, a revised developmental scheme of "love-at-firstsight" mother-child relationship with its consequent good internal object formation, and the critical reading of literature and poetry. This book represents the gems of thought and discovery in the works of Meg Harris Williams and Donald Meltzer.'
- Gilead Nachmani, Psychoanalyst, William Alanson White Institute, New York

'The Apprehension of Beauty comprises in a nutshell the Meltzerian innovations in psychoanalytic thought, in particular his application of Bion's theory of the apprehension aroused by the "new idea" as pointing specifically to the "mystery" at the nucleus of the "aesthetic conflict". The book, assembled by two pairs of hands, reviews various aspects of the aesthetic conflict, alternating clinical essays and those of literary criticism, serving to demonstrate how the process set in motion in analysis and in the coming to fruition of an art work are essentially one.'
- Sandra Gosso, Specialist in Psychology of art, researcher at the Department of Philosophy, University of Pisa

'This beautifully conceived and written book has the power to inspire, both for its passionately-felt insights into the origins of the human capacity to apprehend beauty, and for the sheer breadth of the sources on which it draws. And thanks to Meg Harris Williams' rich and evocative contributions from the world of literature, the book will have wide appeal beyond those privileged through the psychoanalytic encounter to enjoy what Meltzer calls 'the most interesting conversation in the world'. The work they have created between them may be said truly to deliver the 'blow of beauty' of which it speaks.'
- Dorothy Hamilton, Training therapist and supervisor, Association for Group and Individual Psychotherapy

'The book presents a psychoanalytic model of the mind that suggests how the aesthetic aspects of just being born can have simultaneously a most violent and a most tender impact upon the human mind. It elaborates the impact of the aesthetic conflict in work with patients, in creativity and art. The two writers show, in a beautiful way, how the psychoanalytical process itself stands forth as an artform; and how clinical material, dreams, artworks, poems and plays can all be connected to the aesthetic conflict. The interplay between Meltzer's clinical material and Harris Williams's interpretations of Shakespeare and poetry, brings the two minds in the book in juxtaposition and we catch a glimpse of the interactive influence they must have had on one another - an influence that created the great psychoanalytic object that is "The Apprehension of Beauty".'
- Grete Tangen Andersen, Morten Andersen, Trond Holm, Jon Morgan Stokkeland, Lilian Stokkeland, Eirik Tjesem (The Meltzer Study Group, Stavanger, Norway)

Table of Contents:

Meg Harris Williams

Donald Meltzer

1. The apprehension of beauty (1973)
Donald Meltzer

2. Aesthetic conflict: its place in development
Donald Meltzer

3. On first impressions
Donald Meltzer

4. On aesthetic reciprocity
Donald Meltzer

5. The role of the father in early development
Donald Meltzer

6. The problem of violence
Donald Meltzer

7. The undiscovered country: the shape of the aesthetic conflict in Hamlet
Meg Harris Williams
(i) The mould of form
(ii) The lobby of dreams
(iii) The Queen’s arras
(iv) The yet unknowing world

8. The place of aesthetic conflict in the analytic process
Donald Meltzer

9. The retreat from aesthetic conflict: cynicism, perversity and the vulgarisation of taste
Donald Meltzer

10. Recovery of the aesthetic object
Donald Meltzer

11. Holding the dream: the nature of aesthetic appreciation
Meg Harris Williams
(i) Aesthetic appreciation through symbolic congruence
(ii) Beneficence in space: Stokes on Turner
(iii) On Westminster Bridge

12. The shadows in the cave and the writing on the wall
Donald Meltzer

Addendum I: Concerning the social basis of art
Donald Meltzer and Adrian Stokes

Addendum II: Mindlessness – the developmental relation of psychosomatics, hyperactivity, and hallucinosis
Donald Meltzer

Maria Rhode


About the Authors:

Donald Meltzer (1923–2004) was born in New York and studied medicine at Yale. After practising as a psychiatrist specialising in children and families, he moved to England to have analysis with Melanie Klein in the 1950s, and for some years was a training analyst with the British Society. He worked with both adults and children, and was innovative in the treatment of autistic children; in the treatment of children he worked closely with Esther Bick and Martha Harris whom he later married. He taught child psychiatry and psychoanalytic history at the Tavistock Clinic. He also took a special scholarly interest in art and aesthetics, based on a lifelong love of art. Meltzer taught widely and regularly in many countries, in Europe, Scandinavia, and North and South America, and his books have been published in many languages and continue to be increasingly influential in the teaching of psychoanalysis.

His first book, The Psychoanalytical Process, was published by Heinemann in 1967 and was received with some suspicion (like all his books) by the psychoanalytic establishment. Subsequent books were published by Clunie Press for the Roland Harris Educational Trust which he set up together with Martha Harris (now the Harris Meltzer Trust). The Psychoanalytical Process was followed by Sexual States of Mind in 1973, Explorations in Autism in 1975; The Kleinian Development in 1978 (his lectures on Freud, Klein and Bion given to students at the Tavistock); Dream Life in 1984; The Apprehension of Beauty in 1988 (with Meg Harris Williams); and The Claustrum in 1992.

Meg Harris Williams, a writer and artist, studied English at the Universities of Cambridge and Oxford and art at the Accademia di Belle Arti in Florence, and has had a lifelong psychoanalytic education, working closely with Donald Meltzer. She has written and lectured extensively in the UK and abroad on psychoanalysis and literature. She is a visiting lecturer for AGIP and at the Tavistock Centre in London, and an Honorary Member of the Psychoanalytic Center of California. She is married with four children and lives in Farnham, Surrey.

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