Carl Jung (1875-1961) was a Swiss psychiatrist and the founder of analytical psychology. His work on archetypes and myth significantly impacted Anglo-American literary criticism during the 1950s and 1960s, mainly through the influence of Northrop Frye. While Jung’s ideas were less prominent in continental literary criticism, he found support in France, notably from Gaston Bachelard. Gilles Deleuze’s connection to Jung is not widely acknowledged, despite some efforts to explore it.
Jung was born in Kesswil, Switzerland, to a relatively poor clergyman father, and a mother from the wealthy Preiswerk family. His namesake, his paternal grandfather, was a prominent physician and rector of Basel University, with rumors suggesting a relation to the great German author Wolfgang Goethe. Jung pursued a medical degree at universities in Basel and Zurich, focusing on the psychopathology of the occult. Inspired by Richard von Krafft-Ebing’s work, he decided to pursue a career in psychiatry, a field that was not highly regarded at the time. Jung worked at Burghölzli Asylum, attached to the University of Zurich, under the direction of Eugen Bleuler, who coined the term schizophrenia. His affair with his patient, Sabina Spielrein, led to his dismissal from the post.
During his time at Burghölzli, Jung admired the works of Sigmund Freud, particularly “Die Traumdeutung” (“The Interpretation of Dreams”), and sent a book on word associations to Freud as a gesture of homage. This marked the beginning of a close friendship that lasted for six years. Freud even considered Jung as his natural successor and appointed him as the first president of the International Psychoanalytic Association. However, the two eventually broke apart in 1912 due to personal and professional reasons, leading to ongoing disagreements and criticisms in their published works. Jung’s main theoretical differences with Freud revolved around the concepts of libido and the unconscious. Unlike Freud, Jung viewed libido as a life-force, finding Freud’s interpretation too reductionist. Additionally, Jung introduced the notion of a collective unconscious, which encompassed inherited aspects of the psyche.
Jung’s developmental psychology theory centered on the lifelong confrontation between the self (the yearning for realization, also known as individuation) and the unconscious (home to archetypes that constantly seek actualization). Unlike Freud, who focused on childhood and regarded the unconscious as unknowable, Jung believed the unconscious to be ever-present throughout life. The process of individuation was complex and non-linear, with encounters with archetypes leading to various responses in the psyche. These responses, in turn, differentiated people from each other. Jung proposed that individuals could be classified into eight basic psychological types, a concept that significantly influenced management theory.
- “Psychological Types” (1921): In this seminal work, Jung introduces the concept of psychological types, exploring the different ways individuals perceive the world and make decisions. This book laid the foundation for the development of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) and other personality assessment tools.
- “Modern Man in Search of a Soul” (1933): This collection of essays delves into various psychological and spiritual themes, exploring the challenges faced by individuals in the modern world and their search for meaning and purpose.
- “The Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious” (1934-1954): This two-volume work presents Jung’s extensive research on archetypes and the collective unconscious. He explores the universal symbols and themes found in myths, dreams, and cultural expressions, proposing that these are inherited aspects of the human psyche.
- “Psychology and Alchemy” (1944): Jung examines the parallels between psychological processes and alchemical transformations, drawing upon ancient alchemical texts to explore the transformative nature of the individuation process.
- “Aion: Researches into the Phenomenology of the Self” (1951): In this work, Jung explores the concept of the Self as an archetype and the process of individuation, investigating its manifestations in religious and cultural symbols.
- “Man and His Symbols” (1964): Published posthumously, this book is an accessible introduction to Jung’s ideas and the concept of the collective unconscious. It includes contributions from Jungian analysts, making it a comprehensive exploration of Jungian psychology for a broader audience.
- “Memories, Dreams, Reflections” (1963): This autobiographical work provides insights into Jung’s life, personal experiences, and intellectual journey, offering readers a glimpse into the development of his ideas and the challenges he faced throughout his career.
- “The Red Book” (2009): This posthumously published book features Jung’s personal journals and illustrations from a period of intense self-exploration and visionary experiences. It offers a glimpse into the depths of Jung’s psyche and the origins of some of his key ideas.
While Jung’s work found significant traction in certain circles, his influence on literary criticism varied between Anglo-American and continental approaches. Nonetheless, his ideas on the collective unconscious, archetypes, and the process of individuation continue to be significant in psychology, psychotherapy, and other disciplines.