Hamlet and Narcissus
"Since Ernest Jones published Hamlet and Oedipus in 1949, psychoanalytic thinking has changed profoundly. This change, however, has not yet been adequately reflected in Shakespeare scholarship. In Hamlet and Narcissus, John Russell confronts the paradigm shift that has occurred in psychoanalysis and takes steps to formulate a critical instrument based on current psychoanalytic thinking. In his introduction, Russell clarifies Freud's assumptions concerning human motivation and development and then discusses, as representative of the new psychoanalytic paradigm, Margaret Mahler's theory of infant development and Heinz Kohut's theory of narcissism. Using these theories as his conceptual framework, Russell proceeds to analyze the action of Hamlet, focusing on the play's central problem, Hamlet's delay." "Previous psychoanalytic approaches to Hamlet have failed convincingly to explain the cause of Hamlet's delay because they failed to recognize the profound connection between Hamlet's pre-Oedipal attachment to his mother and his post-Oedipal allegiance to his father. By placing Hamlet's conflict with his parents in the new psychoanalytic framework of narcissism, Russell is able to show that Hamlet's post-Oedipal allegiance to his father and his pre-Oedipal attachment to his mother are driven by the same archaic and illusory needs. Though on the surface seeming to contradict one another, at bottom Hamlet's two attachments, to mother and to father, complement one another and work together to produce in Hamlet a conflicted ambivalence that propels him to his self-induced destruction. By clarifying the origin and effects of Hamlet's archaic narcissism, Russell is able to solve the problem of Hamlet's delay and forge a new and fruitful instrument of literary criticism."--BOOK JACKET.Title Summary field provided by Blackwell North America, Inc. All Rights Reserved
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As a graduate student pursuing an English MA with a concentration in Shakespeare and Renaissance Studies, I find this book very insightful. There's endless material in libraries and academic journals on Hamlet and melancholy, but I've been very hard pressed to find sufficient publications on Hamlet and narcissism. Kudos to John Russell for covering the territory.
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