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Descent into the abyss of the unconscious : a Jungian approach to E.T.A. Hoffmann and Fyodor Dostoevsky Loy, Coral Pauline Stenmark

Abstract

The mythological writings of C.G. Jung provide the basis for a comparative study of two nineteenth-century authors — E.T.A. Hoffmann and Fyodor Dostoevsky. The hero myth is the main interpretive tool, although other aspects of Jungian theory are also included in order to expand the concept of psychic growth. The introductory section sets forth Jung's basic ideas, as well as those of his follower, Erich Neumann. The second chapter offers an analysis of Hoffmann's Der Sandmann. The traumatic experience of the young Nathanael is shown to be the original projection of his psychic dilemma. His development is characterized by a feeling of impotence, as manifest in his fear of losing his eyes. This psychic impotence finally wins the struggle for control when Nathanael commits suicide. Crime and Punishment is also examined in light of the hero myth. Raskolnikov's crime is discussed as a psychic necessity, shifting his motivation from his outer deprivation to his inner impotence. He, too, is plagued by threatening archetypes, but unlike Nathanael he is able to overcome them; he finally recognizes his psychic situation and through this recognition draws closer to a state of psychic wholeness. The final chapter explores the advantages and disadvantages of a Jungian approach to literature, as seen in the analyses of the two works.

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