Emergence of the bipolar cultural complex in Walt Whitman
Author: Herrmann, Steven B.
Source: Journal of Analytical Psychology, Volume 52, Number 4, September 2007 , pp. 463-478(16)
My main hypothesis in this paper 1 is that America's seminal poet, Walt Whitman, was trapped—like so many of his contemporaries—in ‘cultural complexes’ ( Singer & Kimbles 2004) that he internalized, but that he found a way to transcend the splits inherent in these ‘bipolar’ (Perry 1970) organizations through his art. One way he accomplished this was through his aesthetic method of ‘holding the opposites’ between two poles of a slavery is wrong/white supremacy is justified cultural complex. In my paper, I provide evidence for some of the contradictions inherent in Whitman's character by examining the political splits of his times and explore how various Self symbols he produced through his poetry, particularly the figures he called ‘Black Lucifer’ and the Deus Quadriune—a quaternity symbol—facilitated his personal and cultural transformation. Finally, I demonstrate the relevance of my hypothesis to contemporary racism during the pre-Civil Rights period in the South through a clinical example, and I show how the Jungian method of ‘holding the opposites’ can be effectively practised in the transference/countertransference field of psychotherapy in general.
Document Type: Research Article
Affiliations: San Francisco, CA
Publication date: September 2007