Is There Life Without Mother?
Psychoanalysis, Biography, Creativity
Routledge – 2000 – 224 pages
Routledge – 2000 – 224 pages
In this richly textured study of personal growth and creativity hemmed in by childhood disaster, Shengold compares the differing gifts and differing solutions of extraordinary talents as they seek to negotiate a universal longing to refind the mother without sliding back into neglect, abuse, and despair. In the foreground of his analysis are moving portraits of Jules Renard and Anthony Trollope and the densely packed traumatic legacy of their respective childhoods, the one limned in sustained psychological torture, the other framed by neglect and abandonment.
Long acknowledged as a master of the literary-biographic genre within psychoanalysis, Shengold does not view the study of creative individuals as the occasion to make pontifical pronouncements about the nature of creativity. Rather, he sees such study as affording the opportunity to borrow from genius, insofar as the gifted writer who is psychologically astute often captures the challenges of life and the nuances of suffering in language that "ordinary" patients would use, if only they could. By integrating literary analysis with biographical data, Shengold arrives at an appealingly direct, demystified approach to great literature as a vehicle for apprehending the intricacies of enduring psychological dilemmas. For the solutions of truly creative individuals not only reflect an artistic temperament wed to extraordinarily gifts; they illuminate the solutions we are all in search of.
Elegantly sparing in language and judicious in presenting source material, Is There Life Without Mother? is abundantly generous in the wealth of understanding it provides and the deeper reflection it provokes. From the subtleties of identification as a means of consolidating identity in the face of neglect to the return of the traumatic as a fate that even a writer's "literary revenge" cannot circumvent, this work takes the reader deeper into the wellsprings of personality change than that it is usually possible to go.
"Leonard Shengold revisits Soul Murder once more with rich rewards for the reader. Training his psychoanalytic acumen on the study of biography and literary creativity, he explores the pathogenic effects of inadequate parenting and the efforts at recovery among a group of writers destined to wrestle with 'life without mother.' With the Victorian novelist Anthony Trollope as his main 'patient,' Shengold intrigues us with the story of how Trollope rescued himself from a miserable, nearly devastating childhood and adolescence through creativity, sublimation and adaptation to the culture of his time. All the while, and quite appropriately so, Shengold remains in awe of the mystery of creativity."
- Samuel Ritvo, M.D., Clinical Professor of Psychiatry, Yale Child Study Center
"Better than anyone writing today, Leonard Shengold combines extraordinary clinical skills with his creative capacity for fascinating us with analytic perspectives. Is There Life Without Mother? will stimulate many readers' interest in exploring creativity and its complex, challenging relationships with childhood traumas. Shengold thoughtfully carries to new heights the process of extrapolating analytic meanings from the creative writings and biographies of several remarkable writers. Throughout, as he brings writers and concepts to life, he wisely includes bridges to his own earlier and relevant clinical and theoretical observations."
- Paul Gray, M.D., Supervising and Training Analyst Emeritus, Baltimore-Washington Psychoanalytic Institute
"Shengold offers us a well-reasoned study combining psychoanalysis, biography, and the link with creativity…The author's life experiences are convincingly related to plot lines and narrative development in their novels, and mental representations of self and object are carefully related to characters who populate these fictional worlds."
- Harry Trosman, Psychoanalytic Quarterly
1. Another Impossible Profession
2. Artistic Creativity
3. Clinical and Literary Examples
4. The Primal Parent: A Patient's Cry
II. Literary Lives
5. Jules Renard: Soul Murder in Life and Literature
6. Trollope: His Life and Creativity
7. School Days and After: disorder and Early Sorrow, and Recovery
8. Trollope's Writing Method
9. Daydreaming in the Service of Creativity and of Sexuality
10. Identity and Fiction: Father and Son
11. Identity and Fiction: The Nuances of Resentment
12. What Was Trollope Like?
13. Trollope's Love for His Characters
14. Trollope's Death
15. Trollope with Mother
III. Conclusion and Epilogue
16. Conclusion and More Literary Examples
Epilogue: Multiple Personalities
Leonard Shengold, M.D., making use of literary works and lives to illustrate his clinical observations, has written extensively on clinical subjects such as incest and child abuse(soul murder), on historical subjects such as Freud biography, and on literary subjects such as Shakespeare, Dickens, Chekhov, and Orwell, among others. Dr. Shengold is a Clinical Professor at New York University Medical School and a Training Analyst and former Director of the NYU Institute for Psychoanalysis. He is a recipient of the Sigourney Award for Distinguished Contributions to Psychoanalysis.