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Romantic Psyche and Psychoanalysis


Joel Faflak, University of Western Ontario

Aside from outlining the historical and critical context within which the volume's paper's situate themselves, Faflak's essay explores more specifically how Romantic psychoanalysis emerges alongside Romantic psychiatry. The latter emerges with greater socio-historical force, specificity, and effect than the former. Yet this clear difference also points to how Romantic psychiatry and psychoanalysis become uncanny reflections of the same cognitive maneuver to find and understand the hiding places of the mind's power, a psyche that remains radically unassimilable and indeterminate. It is perhaps one of Romanticism's most powerful and disturbing legacies to modernity that it signifies the absolute ambivalence between marking the psyche's resistance to symbolization and making its darkness visible to a public sphere increasingly concerned to seek out and neutralize the mind's sepulchral recesses. This essay appears in _Romantic Psyche and Psychoanalysis_, a volume of _Romantic Circles Praxis Series_, prepared exclusively for Romantic Circles (, University of Maryland.

  1. I.

  2. My thoughts here are not meant to preempt the papers that follow. I leave them to articulate their own voices, concerns, and views with far better precision than I could. Not all of the papers herein remain faithful to the volume's emphasis, and in Woodman's final case make a more analogical use of the period's literary concern with the psyche's labours. That said, I found in this difference of approaches something rather powerfully symptomatic about the period's own symptomatic response to the psyche and its meanings, both personal and social. That is to say, Romantic approaches to the psyche tend to be rather heterogeneous themselves because, well, the psyche's resistance to any monolithic interpretation of it was precisely the period's difficult education to us about psychology and psychic reality—a lesson we still find difficult to learn.

  3. I thus want to say something prefatory, yet by no means prescriptive, about the spirit of psychoanalysis that emerges in the Romantic period, to which these essays respond. This volume grows out of a panel entitled "Sciences of the Romantic Psyche," which I organized for the 2006 joint North American for the Society for the Study of Romanticism/North American Society for Victorian Studies Association. The session asked for papers that explored the emergence of psychoanalytical or psychiatric thinking and techniques in Romantic literature and thought, or that explored psychoanalytical approaches to Romantic literature and culture. In truth I was not much concerned about the latter approaches, and was more interested in Romantic psychoanalysis than Romantic psychiatry. At the time I presumed that criticism on Romantic psychiatry was tied to psychiatry's historical origins at the turn of eighteenth century, which were far clearer that those of psychoanalysis, which doesn't emerge until the turn of the next century. This criticism's attachments, I further presumed, were thus stubbornly historicist, reflecting more recent trends in Romantic studies, whereas work on Romanticism and psychoanalysis was more productively dialectical and diacritical. The scholarly genealogy of this latter field played out, if not in the letter, then certainly in the Jungian spirit of Bodkin's or Frye's archetypal criticism or Abrams's natural supernaturalism. It then became symptomatic in the Freudian agon of Bloom's or Hartman's anxieties about Romantic imagination. More recently we can say that it has worked-through these earlier repetitions and rememberings of Romanticism's critical unconscious to the dark phenomenology of poststructuralism's hermeneutics of suspicion, typified by Tilottama Rajan's account of Romanticism as a period of "restless self-examination" (Dark Interpreter 25). Moreover, one could roughly map this evolution onto the twentieth-century theoretical development of psychoanalysis from the split between Freud and Jung to a post-Freudian or post-Jungian complication of both pioneer's insights.

  4. The critical distinction I wanted to make here seemed, to me, productive: Romantic psychiatry needed to be historical and cultural, whereas Romantic psychoanalysis, unmoored from the materialisms of psychiatry's early history, needed to be theoretical. Romantic psychoanalysis was psychiatry's gothic and uncanny other, its political unconscious, the free radical of Romantic identity's otherwise organic chemistry. But the binary was/is, of course, too neat. It tends to re-inscribe precisely the kinds of critical divisions that have sometimes plagued the field. The recent turn toward the cultural or political in Romantic studies has attempted to repair these rifts, yet it sometimes does so without making the more incisive gesture of asking how Romanticism's historical identity was a process of self-theorization, how the theoretical within Romantic historicization is its own most potently self-fashioning gesture, whether as revolution or reaction. To proceed in this direction, I thus take the term 'psycho(-)analysis' to specify the multiple personalities of Freud, Jung, and their aftermaths as the future shadows that Romanticism casts upon our various presents. Yet the term also signifies a more broad-ranging analysis of the psyche that produces Freud and his heirs, while further taking in a more heterogeneous Romantic concern to explore, understand, and classify the psyche (a concern of Matt ffytche's paper, to which we shall return). This matrix encompasses the emergence of psychiatry, which in turn calls forth psychoanalysis as the eventual fulfilment of psychiatry's promise to modernity. But it tracks both identities as (dis)positions of Romantic thought which might help us to re-think the disciplinary boundaries of psychoanalysis, and thus to write against the grain of our histories of knowledge and thus against our knowledge of psychoanalytic history, whether psychiatric or otherwise. The papers herein map versions of a psychoanalysis avant la lettre, then, but also imagine how psychoanalysis before Freud thinks itself differently, as well as anticipating and staging its later concerns, theorizations, and institutionalizations.

  5. To this end I didn't mean 'science' in the sense of its strictly disciplinary, regulative, or empirical nature, for the ambiguity of such distinctions is partly what makes Romantic thought at once modernity's Symbolic, imaginary, and Real. As David Knight notes, in Romanticism's time the sciences still "lacked sharp and natural frontiers," and disciplinary boundaries were as yet indistinct. Instead, "the realm of science, governed by reason," was distinguished from "practice, or rule of thumb; and apostles of science hoped to replace habit by reason in the affairs of life" (13-14). This regulative desire, however, is undone precisely by the time's confrontation with the evasions and anxieties of desire itself. To paraphrase Rajan in this volume, with reference to Schelling's 1815 Ages of the World, there can be no science of nature without a detour into nature's history, at which point we are in the laboratory of a psychoanalysis whose history makes history impossible, or rather, a psychoanalysis that withdraws from history itself to think the human otherwise. In this sense something like literature itself becomes the traumatic core of Romanticism's confrontation with itself, the means through which Romanticism discovers human identity's traumatically literary nature. Or to cite Julie Carlson, (Romanticism's) phantasy is our reality test, which she provocatively refers to as the in/fancy of Romantic (self-)writing. This "'wandering fancy' welcomes imaginative life and unleashes what the 'development' in romantic imagination represses: delight in errancy, death-in-life, fits-and-starts of inspiration."

  6. Ildiko Csengei figures this delight through her readings of the faints/feints of eighteenth-century sensibility, whose 'novel' developments "critique the blind spots of Freud's interpretations." Fainting stages the hysterical symptom as a scene of resistant self-elaboration, a mode of "unconscious female protest" through which women escape the forced social repression of the novel of sensibility's plot. In such pockets of resistance the unconscious lies couched as a force that knows no "no." However transgressive this scene of gender, its triumph, left at the level of the unconscious, seems rather pyrrhic when read against the gendered social revolutions of the 1790s. However, Csengei's analysis, like Mary Jacobus's, suggests that there is a different confrontation with this specter of failure, an uneconomized and uneconomical feeling that doesn't locate itself within a binary structure of productivity vs. uselessness, but rather thinks feeling in ways we have only begun to understand. Such a process, Jacobus suggests, produces new ways of seeing and feeling—or more specifically, new ways of seeing feeling and of feeling what we see. In what Jacobus provocatively explores as Romantic autothanography, the valence of seeing, feeling, and thus being is a narrative of being in one's own death. This existence marks the interminable register of one's missed encounter(s) with the real of the world, which nonetheless has an all-too-real terminus. So, if something like psychiatry emerges in the period to provide for the care of wayward souls or psyches, it is equally confronted by a diagnosis without cure. This pathology is the contagion or stain produced by the cognitive business of feeling and thinking about the world, which business halts with traumatically abrupt force, the world's nature lingering far past it and caring nothing for it, like the blind triumph of Schopenhauer's will.

  7. One point of these papers, then, is to ask how Romantic psychoanalysis and psychiatry emerge as uncanny reflections of the same cognitive maneuver to find and understand the sources of the mind's power and affinities, knowing these things to be, as ffytche argues, irredeemably indefinite and obscure. And more often than not, this search ends up with specters that the future history of psychiatry and psychoanalysis would rather set aside, but whose powerful hauntings are constitutive of the Romantic psyche's confrontation with itself. This is the implicit point of Ross Woodman's paper, which investigates alchemy as the occult or spectral half-life of psychoanalysis, further reminding us that psychoanalysis and its often more radical investigations of the psyche haunts psychiatry and vexes its social productivity. Alchemy figures how the psychic machinery by which being is transformed into feeling and thinking looks rather like a black magic whose radically unknown speculative power has us perpetually within its spell, human genome projects, neuroscience, and pharmacological wonders to the contrary. Or rather, such attempts at physiological and psychological, or more properly psychosomatic, rationalization are symptomatic of how far we haven't come in our understanding of the psyche. By taking us back to Jung's and psychoanalysis' future in Blake and Shelley, giving historical precedence to neither, Woodman reminds us that we've been looking at things in the wrong way all along. We turn sideways toward the confidence of rationality, without looking into the uncanny work of understanding and imagination. Coleridge seemed already to know this when he coined the supernatural work of cognition as a willing suspension of disbelief constituting poetic faith, or coined the term "psycho-analytical" (Notebooks 2:2670) while attempting to theorize how we come to put our faith in the unknown.[1] Despite his later philosophical conservatism, he could never leave behind his own startling accounts of the human mind's mesmerizing powers in Rime of the Ancient Mariner, Christabel, or Kubla Khan. To borrow Woodman's parlance, these are as radically alchemical in their accounts of the empirical and phenomenological process of the imagination as we yet have in literature.

  8. So, in the various Romantic precedents we find here, we can name Romantic psychic organization as the site of a profoundly productive ambivalence, at once foundational and proleptic. Here we are in the realm of science, but one whose critical, cultural, and literary articulation is radically beside the point of its own rationally organized disciplinary other. For this reason, I want to set one primal scene of this volume in Coleridge, not his coining of the term "psycho-analytical," but one of its symptomatic outbreaks.


  9. In 1804 Coleridge left England for Malta, presumably to regain some sense of physical and psychological balance—that is, to overcome his opium addiction and recover his creative focus and purpose. In a notebook entry dated "Sunday Midnight, May 13th, 1804," Coleridge, still at sea, writes:

    O dear God! Give me strength of Soul to make one thorough Trial—if I land at Malta spite of all horrors to go through one month of unstimulated Nature—yielding to nothing but manifest Danger of Life!—O great God! Grant me grace truly to look into myself, & to begin the serious work of Self-amendment—accounting to Conscience for the Hours of every Day. Let me live in Truth—manifesting that alone which is, even as it is, & striving to be that which only Reason shews to be lovely—that which my Imagination would delight to manifest!—I am loving & kind-hearted & cannot do wrong with impunity, but o! I am very, very weak—from my infancy have been so—& I exist for the moment!—Have mercy on me, have mercy on me, Father & God! omnipresent, incomprehensible, who with undeviating Laws eternal yet carest for the falling of the feather from the Sparrow's Wing.—(Notebooks 2:2091)

    Such desperate confessions usually accompany one's night-thoughts, when the moon casts its ghostly illumination over the shape of things, though given the inclement conditions endured by the convoy in which Coleridge was sailing, it seems that even that enlightenment was unavailable. Nonetheless, as Wordsworth reminds us in his "Poem on the Formation of his mind" (2:2092), the five-book version of which Coleridge had taken with him to Malta, "when the light of sense / Goes out," other presences and articulations emerge in a "flash" to fill the gap, an "invisible world" or other life of things (Wallace Stevens calls it "ghostlier demarcations") that it was the particular business of Wordsworth, Coleridge, and their age to express. More often than not, this presence opened from the "mind's abyss / Like an unfathered vapour," which rift Wordsworth was prone to sublimate as the site where "greatness make[s] abode" (Prelude 6.594-602).

  10. Of course, these passages from what would become Book Six of The Prelude were not part of the manuscript Coleridge carried with him to Malta. For that he would have to wait until January 1807, after his return to England, when he listened to Wordsworth recite his expanded thirteen-book version over a fortnight, at which point Coleridge also realized the full extent of Wordsworth's rather patronizing psychoanalysis of Coleridge's decline. We read the effect of Wordsworth's transference onto Coleridge in "To William Wordsworth," in which Coleridge experiences the Great Man's diagnosis as "flowers / Strewed on my corse, and borne upon my bier, / In the same coffin, for the self-same grave!" (79-81). With the echo of his analyst's "deep voice" (110) still hovering in the air, Coleridge, "Scarce conscious, and yet conscious of its close" (115), finds himself "Absorbed, yet hanging still upon the sound" (118). In the ambivalence of "hanging still" as both lingering cathexis and deadly suspension we see the darker, interminable yearning of Wordsworth's experience of the "mind's abyss" as a "hope that can never die, / Effort, expectation, and desire, / And something evermore about to be" (Prelude 6.606-8). No wonder that, at the end of hearing Wordsworth's poem, Coleridge, in ironically reverent Dora drag, "found [himself] in prayer!" ("To William Wordsworth," 119).

  11. What compels us here is how the two men proceed in one another's absence, and how this absence stages in their respective writings a dialogue with the unconscious as a missed encounter ("the hiding-places of man's power / Open; I would approach them, but they close," Wordsworth writes in The Prelude [12.279-80]). Such latencies compel us to read the evidence of Romanticism always symptomatically rather than definitively. For instance, the indolence plaguing Coleridge's creative will also took its physiological toll. Writing to his wife on June 5, 1804, describing the voyage from Gibraltar to Malta, Coleridge explains that he was "wretchedly unwell; oppressed, uncomfortable, incapable of the least exertion of mind or attention, tho' not sick, in the intervals of eating; and the moment, I eat any thing, I became sick and rejected—at length, my appetite wholly deserted me; I loathed the sight of Food . . . " The result "made [him] neglectful of taking an opening medicine –.– O merciful God! What days of Horror were not that . . . Body & Being," though the next day he reports being "comfortable, only a little feverish," and, eventually, for "the remainder of the Voyage enjoyed a lightness, health, & appetite, unknown to me for months before" (Letters 1136). The rather quick recovery has to do with two openings: one in the manuscript of Coleridge's letter, which was subsequently mutilated (at the point of the ellipsis), the other in Coleridge's bowels, for one of the more unwelcome side effects of repeated opium use is constipation. For an account of both, we must go to Wordsworth, who got news of the letter firsthand from Mrs. Coleridge, and reported its contents to George Beaumont in a letter dated August 31, 1804:

    [Coleridge] then gives a most melancholy account of an illness which held him during the whole of his voyage from Gibraltar to Malta except the last four or five days, a languor and oppression, and rejection of food, accompanied with a dangerous constipation, which compelled the Captain to hang out signals of distress to the Commodore for a surgeon to come on board. He was relieved from this at last after undergoing the most excruciating agonies, with the utmost danger of an inflammation in the bowels. All this appears to have been owing to his not having been furnished with proper opening medicines. (Letters 498)

    Coleridge's own relief is, as it were, palpable: "every thing depends on keeping the Body regularly open.—" (Letters 1137).

  12. When Woodman pointed out to me in conversation the temporal proximity of this episode and Coleridge's September 1805 notebook entry which coins the term "psycho-analytical," I howled with laughter. Yet "keeping the Body regularly open" signifies in several possible ways, for staying open means staying receptive to oneself, the world, and others, a peculiarly regular attention of the senses that by the Romantic period becomes an acute dilemma, the psychosomatics of thinking and feeling vexing creation to the extent that 'regularity' itself becomes problematic, a symptom in turn for what Orrin Wang calls a Romantic sobriety that feeds upon its own desire for self-control, self-discipline, self-containment. That is to say, we can read the rather alarming symptoms of Coleridge's constipated body for the potential psychoanalysis of a mind not quite at one with itself, or rather of a mind and body whose incommensurate relationship with one another indicate the troubling conjunctions of affect within and between subjects, the staging of a (dis)embodied intra- and inter-subjectivity, the syntax of which it is difficult to parse. ffytche examines how the Romantic soul or psyche is neither divine power nor archetypal reality but a different mediation between psychology and ontology, offering a "basis of the self and its imagined processes of production [as] conveyed via metaphors of obscurity, oblivion or abrupt and inexplicable transition," a self "radically self-caused by a logic which belongs wholly to itself . . ." Via such "resistance to rational conceptions of causal process, the self has acquired a certain inalienable freedom."

  13. This freedom can be rather vertiginous, however. In Kubla Khan Coleridge speaks of a "deep romantic chasm" (12) that fills the poet with a sense of "holy dread" (52) about the unknown. Shelley sees this dread in the ravine of the River Arve from which the subject's entire phenomenological universe emerges and into which it threatens to evaporate. In the post-empiricist mindset that informs their writings, one is tempted to read these tropes as figures for the mind's tabula rasa re-cast as the sublime potentiality of imaginative power. As Kant was to write, however, as if to ventriloquize Locke's own anxiety about the "violence" (Essay 2:161) of the mind's tendency to find alternate paths of cognition, "The point of excess for the imagination . . . is like an abyss in which it fears to lose itself" (Critique 1:107). Such ideas constellate the image of a mind whose cognitive power the age at once esteemed and feared, especially at a time when the increasingly rapid dissemination of thought and thoughts in the public sphere was becoming an activity of some socio-political concern. Goya's monster-breeding sleep of reason suggests that just as soon as one confronts the mind's ability to breed pathologies, one also fears such Malthussian replications and reproductions (De Quincey's rabidly racist, imperialist, and classist confession of the nightmarishly baroque intricacies of his opium dreams being one of the most potent symbolizations of this anxiety).

  14. We have come to call this locus of subjectivity the unconscious. Yet naming the power is rather beside the point, for what seems to mark the Romantic encounter with it differently is this power's psychologically estranging and gothic effects. As ffytche or Rajan remind us, Freud's wasn't the only form of the unconscious with which the Romantics contended. Or as Carlson notes, "Shelley's psychical reality indeed is not Freud's but wilder." In his Prospectus to The Recluse (first drafted in 1800), which according to Coleridge in Biographia Literaria was to have been the "FIRST GENUINE PHILOSOPHIC POEM" (2:156) in British literature, Wordsworth speaks of how nothing, not "The darkest Pit of lowest Erebus, / Nor aught of blinder vacancy, scooped out / By help of dreams—can breed such fear and awe / As fall upon us often when we look / Into our Minds, into the Mind of Man" (36-40).[2] Something about confronting the work of the individual mind produces anxiety. It's not that the Romantics seemed compelled to prove the existence of this something, for that seemed more the province of science, philosophy, natural philosophy, medicine. Rather, they were at once haunted and fascinated by what power this power might hold for and over human consciousness and imagination, haunted and fascinated by its effects on human minds and bodies. As Jacobus reminds us by taking us back to the future of modernity's dislocating phenomenology (Philip Larkin's unease at seeing wet leaves on a road), the effect on our psyche of encountering a speck of glass on the ground of a ruined cottage can be—is—profound. Everything depends upon how we see it.

  15. Yet the dislocation doesn't come with the observation itself, as Jacobus is quick to add. Like the effects of Mesmerism, gravity, and a host of other phenomena through which post-Enlightenment culture was beginning to encounter its own uncanny nature, the point of post-Baconian scientific observation or post-Lockean associationism, of turning the world over to man's ability to witness it and his place in it, was that the empirical evidence from which we construct our bodies of knowledge was, in fact, merely symptomatic of the world's latency. The power of electricity or of galvanism wasn't as important as their galvanizing aftereffects, the startling fact that these effects staged the human as a radical dis-placement in the world. In that displacement emerged the unconscious as the radically disjunctive effect of man's consciousness upon the world, or more particularly the world of his own making, which in turn produced the idea that the human, by the very nature of its being human, was rather beside the point. Romanticism is filled with such uncanny encounters with otherness (think of how many times something like the Specter of the Brocken appears in Romantic literature). In this respect the unconscious was discovered, not as something that the human had missed about the world, but as an effect of discovering the unconscious, an effect of confronting how consciousness is always beside itself.


  16. In returning to the passage we started with, two points should arrest us: Coleridge's desire to achieve the momentary respite of an "unstimulated Nature" and the gesture toward faith. The former would allow Coleridge to "live in Truth—manifesting that alone which is, even as it is, & striving to be that which only Reason shews to be lovely—that which my Imagination would delight to manifest!" Coleridge wants to still the perpetually disruptive psychosomatic body of evidence that is specifically tied to his constipated and opiated condition. Yet one also senses a yearning to put the evidence of the senses altogether into some coherent form, to gain what Wordsworth calls the "genuine insight" of "the individual Mind that keeps her own / Inviolate retirement, subject there / To Conscience only, and the law supreme / Of that Intelligence which governs all" (Prospectus to The Recluse 88, 19-22). At the end of the penultimate stanza of his Intimations ode Wordsworth calls this the "philosophic mind," though he is quick at the end of the final stanza to note how such "Thoughts . . . do often lie too deep for tears" (184, 203). This isn't so much a sublimation or transcendence as a recognition that thought itself, when confronting its own nature, lies beyond the cognition of either intellect or feeling. If thought is a shape all light, its illumination, as Shelley will acknowledge with not a little tragic insight, tramples the mind's labour into dust. Confronting one's mind breeds such fear and awe that the mind becomes paralyzed, annihilated, the dark side of the suspension of disbelief which produces the confirming illusions of poetic faith, of the light of sense going out in order for the invisible world, which is the senses' after-staging of the world, to reveal itself.

  17. No wonder, then, that Coleridge calls out to God, "omnipresent, incomprehensible, who with undeviating Laws eternal yet carest for the falling of the feather from the Sparrow's Wing." Coleridge is asking for a certain philosophical clarity, and thus appealing more broadly to thought to sober or correct itself, to bring to enlightenment that within itself that won't make itself known. Here, as ffytche's or Rajan's papers again remind us by turning to German science and idealism, both potent pharmakons for a British philosophical tradition that couldn't remain immune to its influence (Wordsworth and Coleridge returning from Germany in the late 1790s is rather like Jung and Freud bringing the plague of psychoanalysis into New York Harbour in 1909), thought becomes the very pathogen it seeks to root out, thus giving the time's appeal to thought's power a certain feverish fervency. By the time of the high Anglicism of Coleridge's later philosophical writings, such incipient evangelicisms secure the otherwise heterogeneous and aberrant wanderings of his early thoughts as the internalized "Ideas" of church and state by which the clerical imagination is guided toward its higher social and moral purpose, insuring a cultural stability that the Victorians will find so useful. The turn inward in Coleridge, that is to say, is at once radically transgressive and opportunistically salutary. When Coleridge asks for the strength to "look into" himself and "begin the serious work of Self-amendment—accounting to Conscience for the Hours of every Day"—he is re-staging the disciplinary regime of spiritual exercise as a psychological call to duty, thus deploying psychological ritual as religious practice. Coleridge's unpublished writings, while on one hand demonstrating the often arcane and restlessly alternative cast of his thought, are also filled with repeated calls to "Self-amendment" similar to that of his Mediterranean letter.

  18. That is to say, we also see in Coleridge's personal encounter with the unconscious a desire for reparation and the therapeutic, a socially ameliorative gesture that allays fears about these effects in the name of what Wordsworth, in his own way always quick to move past the individual and the personal, speaks of as the collective "Mind of Man." The ideological tenor of this desire to organize the potential disorganization of thought and feeling was, by the turn of the century, well-established. As John Barrell writes,

    aesthetics was anxious to pass the concept [of imagination] over to psychiatry; for when the imagination slipped the lead of the will or judgment, often when "heated" by the overwhelming power of the passions, it became "disordered," and produced elaborate structures of ideas associated on accidental rather than on substantial grounds. The relation between insanity and the imagination had been a subject of a famous dispute in the late 1750s . . . (7)

    One is reminded here of mid-century works such as Akenside's Pleasures of Imagination, Joseph Warton's "The Enthusiast," or Thomas Warton's "The Pleasures of Melancholy," which make a spectacle of the mind's spectacular capacity to re-envision our environment. They typologize a feeling disposition toward the world and others. In the late eighteenth century the sense of sensibility embodies the exulting solitude of one's communion with nature as a dynamic economy of exchange, which psychiatry as well as psychoanalysis at once originates in and originates.

  19. Csengei's paper accounts for the later eighteenth century's powerful resistance to such developments by marking the novel's staging of sensibility as a novel development in sensibility's otherwise conserving and conservative evolution. Csengei reminds us that we need to be reminded of such evolutions, for such is how histories tend to write out of themselves that which might write them otherwise. Psychiatry emerges concurrently with what French psychiatric pioneer Philippe Pinel, in his 1801 Traité médico-philosophique sur l'aleniation mentale; ou la manie (first translated into English in 1806), termed the 'moral treatment' or 'moral therapy,' earlier instituted as part of the founding regime of the York Retreat (1796), which pioneered the humane treatment of the mentally ill after the blight of what in his History of Madness Foucault calls 'the great confinement.' Yet this otherwise benign and empathic transformation of sensibility also plays out the not-so-benign coercion of sympathy and its desire to bring the other within the sphere of one's influence, and thus to tame the 'wildness' of unconscious exchange in the name of political economy and discursive surveillance. One can locate Romantic psychoanalysis on either side of such developments: either its radical confrontation with the effects of the unconscious is cause for psychiatry's careful observation, or it reacts against such disciplinary effects, radicalizing and unsettling their normalizing imperatives. One remembers that when the pleasure of imagination turns to pain (a distinction that De Quincey further exploits when structuring his opium confessions), the confrontation begins to look less welcoming, even threatening, a point that Rajan's paper makes with reference to Mesmerism and its compulsive cultural repetition of the political specters of the 1790s, or Woodman makes via alchemy as psychoanalysis's matrix of transformational possibility (as Carlson notes with reference to Mary Shelley's first novel, Victor Frankenstein's "active fancy [is] drawn initially to books of alchemy").

  20. As I have suggested, the historical contours of psychiatry's emergence in the Romantic period are much more clearly defined than those of psychoanalysis—the numbering, segregation, and treatment of the insane in asylums such as the York Retreat; the development and dissemination of medical knowledge in a number of fields from philosophy to natural philosophy to medicine; etc.[3] But we can imagine this psychiatry ambivalently, for it emerges from a Romantic public sphere whose spirit of post-Enlightenment scientific, philosophical, and cultural enquiry informs Romanticism's forming and re-forming bodies of knowledge, which are at once interdisciplinary and cosmopolitan, local and general, radical and conservative, national and transnational. Much scholarship attends to German Romantic psychiatry, for instance, and it was Johann Christian Reil who in 1808 coined the term "Psychiaterie," only three years after Coleridge coined the term "psycho-analytical," and whose Rhapsodien über die Anwendung der psychischen Curmethode auf Geisteszerrüttungen (1803) is one of the rather more exotic examples of psychiatry's often anti-scientific origins. As Allen Thiher notes, Riel's text "proposes various therapeutic procedures while it theorizes that the self has hidden depths hiding the fantasies that erupt in madness," and the German Romanticism from which psychiatry partly emerges evokes a "moment during which medicine and literature looked upon each other as complementary discourses, and this moment was continued on, perhaps unknowingly, in the development of psychoanalytic discourse" (169, 167).

  21. A similar conjunction exists in Britain at the same time, as Michelle Faubert has argued. Yet Faubert is also quick to add that this conjunction speaks in resistance to what is, more often than not in psychiatry's British inflection, a common sense concern for the effective classification and discipline of feeling and thinking bodies, especially when such human economies turn pathological, as I have already suggested.[4] Emerging from the alchemy of German, Scottish, and French, as well as English thought, British Romantic Psychiatry, like the hybridization of British imperial identity from the discrete strands of other nationalities, forges from this philosophical and scientific melting pot an identity that, when it eventually ends up in the hands of an American psychiatric culture industry (and here I am thinking of Lacan's critique of American ego psychology), turns the enlightened self-examination of feeling into the nearly evangelical (which is also to say rabidly ideological) imperative to feel well and not to worry: to be or get happy. Here the meeting of Romantic psychoanalysis, and its radical encounter with the unconscious, and Romantic psychiatry, and its desire to economize this encounter, produces an epistemological and ultimately socio-political payoff whose paradigms of management, utility, development, and progress set the stage for a later nineteenth-century consolidation of psychiatric power.

  22. So, when Coleridge appeals to God to guide the properly productive labour of illuminating his inwardly pathological self and root out its mutating effect, we need to be aware, simultaneously, that this is the man who coined the term 'psycho-analytical' in an effort to explain the conjunction of psychology, myth, and faith. There was much to pray for when confronting the mind's heart of darkness, which seemed to know only interminable growth and transformation. This thought's sublime dimensions were a source of wonder and terror, awe and threat, diagnosis and contagion. In terms of Romanticism's own thoughtful response to such vertiginous dualities, this is not to read the Romantic as open critique without ideological borders. There was also much to pray for when one witnessed how even the radically incisive epistemological gestures of psychoanalysis could be turned to aesthetic and ideological profit, as Coleridge learned only too well in hearing Wordsworth's account of his "friend's" pathology of psychological and creative despondency.

  23. The papers in this volume, then, speak both implicitly and explicitly to a psychoanalysis haunted by its own specters, one that eventually produces Freud and permits us to recognize how the compulsive repetition of institutional power tends to feed upon its own failed enlightenment. This is also to say that the papers herein address how Romanticism emerges from this failure, to which it responds with considerable theoretical acumen, however much it also produces a fundamental split between a psychiatric consciousness, which attends to the socio-political management of psychosomatic causes and effects, and a psychoanalytical consciousness, which stages this management's feeling impossibility, the one intervolved in the other as what Schelling might call rotary drives whose productivity is at once the body politic's cure and pathogen. Perhaps we can frame things differently, however, by noting instead the emergence of a kind of psychiatric or psychoanalytic consciousness through which one can trace, not the invention of either psychiatry or psychoanalysis, but the imagining and imagination of their terms and dispositions of thought, feeling, and action. Together these gestures constellate the habitus within which the various theories, doctrines, and practices of either field could materialize themselves, but against which the period writes with some resistant force.

  24. The contributors to this volume account for this resistance by returning to Romantic literature and thought as expressions of the poetic forces of a burgeoning public sphere imbued with the desire at once to solidify and challenge itself. In short, these papers contribute to a kind of psychosomatic literary history of psychoanalysis, one that traces in Romantic literature, through its shifting textual forms, a cultural symptomatology that marks the affective and affecting influence in literature of an emerging consciousness mediated by both its psychiatric and psychoanalytic tendencies. Negotiating between the psychiatric within the psychoanalytic and the psychoanalytic within the psychiatric, the Romantic psyche becomes a productively bipolar cultural dis(-)order which it is the particular business of the psychology of Romantic literature and thought to work out and against, if not to work through.

  25. Taken together via their repetitions, transferences, and unconscious desires, these papers evoke what Deborah Britzman might refer to as Romanticism's difficult education. As Carlson notes, this trauma is the work of literature itself: "For [Shelley], the value of creative writing is in 'preparing' readers for the inability to be prepared. This preparation includes a fundamental lack of clarity regarding the coherence of that 'me.'" Books merely objectify the textualization of reality that conditions the formation of the Lockean identity from the traumatic tabula rasa of its core self. In short, books and literature traumatize, because that's what they're meant to do. Through them—like the gestures of those still insurmountable and inscrutable texts of Romanticism's thought-ful and difficult encounter with itself—Blake's Milton, Keats's Hyperions, Shelley's The Triumph of Life—exploits the confrontation with thought and feeling for all it's worth, an exploitation that subsequent years and thinkers will take in unimagined and unthinkable ways, in order to make all kinds of cultural profit, yet also to confront the incommensurability of thought itself, the place where our embodied experience of the world becomes the site of an uncanny, traumatic, apparitional encounter. Only by acknowledging such disconcerting psychic realities can we get on with the business of living on.

Works Cited

Barrell, John. Imagining the King's Death : Figurative Treason, Fantasies of Regicide, 1793-1796. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2000.

Britzman, Deborah P. After-Education: Anna Freud, Melanie Klein, and Psychoanalytic Histories of Learning. Albany, NY: State U of New York P, 2003.

Burwick, Frederick. Poetic Madness and the Romantic Imagination. University Park, PA: Pennsylvania State UP, 1996.

Coleridge, Samuel Taylor. Biographia Literaria; or Biographical Sketches of My Literary Life and Opinions. Ed. by James Engell and W. Jackson Bate. Princeton: Princeton UP, 1983.

---. Coleridge's Poetry and Prose. Ed. Nicholas Halmi, Paul Magnuson, and Raimondo Modiano. New York: Norton, 2004.

---. Collected Letters of Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Ed. by Earle Leslie Griggs. 6 vols. Oxford: Clarendon P, 1956-1971.

---. The Collected Notebooks of Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Ed. by Kathleen Coburn and Merton Christensen. 4 vols. New York: Bollingen Series: Pantheon Books, 1957-1990.

Ellenberger, Henri. The Discovery of the Unconscious: The History and Evolution of Dynamic Psychiatry. New York: Basic Books, 1970.

Faflak, Joel. Romantic Psychoanalysis: The Burden of the Mystery. Albany, NY: State U of New York P, 2008.

Faubert, Michelle. "Cure, Classification, and John Clare." Victorian Literature and Culture 33 (2005): 269-91.

Foucault, Michel. History of Madness. Ed. Jean Khalfa. Trans. Jonathan Murphy and Jean Khalfa. New York: Routledge, 2006.

Ingram, Allan. The Madhouse of Language: Writing and Reading Madness in the Eighteenth Century. New York: Routledge, 1991.

Kant, Immanuel. The Critique of Judgement. Translated by James Creed Meredith. Oxford: Clarendon P, 1992.

Knight, David. "Romanticism and the Sciences." Romanticism and the Sciences. Ed. Andrew Cunningham and Nicholas Jardine. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1990. 13-24.

Locke, John. An Essay Concerning Human Understanding. Ed. Peter H. Nidditch. Oxford: Clarendon P, 1975.

Macalpine, Ida and Richard Hunter. George III and the Mad Business. New York: Pantheon Books, 1969.

Porter, Roy. Mind-Forged Manacles: A History of Madness in England from the Restoration to the Regency. London: Athlone P, 1987.

Rajan, Tilottama. Dark Interpreter: The Discourse of Romanticism. Ithaca: Cornell UP, 1980. Scull, Andrew. "Psychiatry and its historians." History of Psychiatry. 2 (1991): 239-50.

Shorter, Edward. A History of Psychiatry: From the Era of the Asylum to the Age of Prozac. New York: John Wiley and Sons Inc., 1997.

Thiher, Allen. Revels in Madness: Insanity in Medicine and Literature. Ann Arbor: U of Michigan P, 1999.

Wang, Orrin N. C. "Romantic Sobriety." Modern Language Quarterly 60.4 (December 1999): 469-94.

Wordsworth, William. The Letters of William and Dorothy Wordsworth. Ed. Ernest de Selincourt. 2nd ed. Vol 1. The Early Years, 1787-1805. Rev. Chester L. Shaver. Oxford: Clarendon P, 1967.

---. Poetical Works. Ed. Thomas Hutchinson. Rev. ed. Ernest de Selincourt. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1988.

---. The Prelude: 1799, 1805, 1850. Ed. Jonathan Wordsworth, M. H. Abrams, and Stephen Gill. New York: Norton, 1979.


1. I analyze this passage at some length in my Romantic Psychoanalysis 31-36, and again in my Afterword to a forthcoming book, co-written with Woodman, entitled Revelation and Knowledge. Woodman also reminded me of the startling affinity between this episode in Coleridge's life and Blake's mythologization of the psychosomatics of Milton moving at once inspirationally and with painful apocalyptic dread through Blake's bowels ("Bowlahoola") in that poem's remarkable scene of psychoanalysis.

2. I quote here from the published version of the poem, appended as part of preface to Wordsworth's 1814 publication of The Excursion. In the original manuscript Wordsworth speaks of the "fear and awe" that "fall upon me often when I look / Into my soul, into the soul of man – ," turning toward the collective, yet via a psychoanalysis whose confrontation with the unconscious is as much threateningly personal and idiosyncratic as consolingly universal, the latter clearly taking precedence by the time of the 1814 version, in which the more obscure work of the soul (to borrow Ffytche's term) is sublimated, intellectualized, and allegorized as the collective social work of the universal "Mind." See my discussion of the differences between version of the Prospectus in Romantic Psychoanalysis 91-97.

3. For histories of this emergence in the period, see Ellenberger and Shorter. The 1980s and 1990s saw a surge in work on the history of psychiatry in the wake of Foucault, but also the foundational research of McAlpine, Hunter, Porter and others. A 1990 article by Andrew Scull schematizes this work in terms of a tension between history and historiography–the way psychiatry writes its own history. Proceeding on what Scull calls the "firm and neutral ground of value-free natural science" (239), it produced "sanitized" histories of the field in which the spirit of progress guides psychiatry's move toward its own absolute knowledge: the cure of souls in the name of the public good and scientific fact. Foucault's Madness and Civilization radically challenged the rules of this game, though his historiography came under attack, a problem redressed, Scull argues, through the more "comparative" (242) approach of recent psychiatric historiography, which proceeds in the spirit thought not always the letter of anti-psychiatry. Writing psychiatric history otherwise, it combines Foucault's hermeneutics of suspicion with a firmer grasp of socio-historical specificity. Call it the New Psychiatry. Part of this effort is to nuance how later eighteenth-century culture produces psychiatry from its own desire to naturalize its citizenship among the disciplines. Scull links this desire more to the nineteenth century, whereas I would locate it earlier in the eighteenth century.

4. Here I want to mention the work of Shorter, again, but also Ingram, Faubert, Burwick, and of course Porter, whose Mind Forg'd Manacles is in many ways the ur-text of Romantic psychiatric historiography.

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