A Jungian Approach To Literature

I have finally begun to read “A Jungian Approach To Literature” by Bettina L. Knapp. I have owned this book for a long time but I’ve only recently gotten around to reading it. This book includes a few Jungian interpretations of plays. I’ve read the first chapter on Euripides The Bacchants which is a classic example of the shaman archetype. I wanted to read the chapter on William Butler Yeats’ play At The Hawk’s Well but I discovered that my paperback book of Yeats plays did not include that play. So I had to order a book of Yeats’ complete plays. Hmm, I just checked my database and found that I have read At The Hawk’s Well. Maybe it is in one of my many collections of World Drama.

I respect Jungian psychology because you can easily find hundreds of examples of the archetypes expressed in myth, stories, and even popular culture. In other words, the theory seems very sound and genuinely useful for understanding the mysteries of human nature. It is almost frightening to see how consistently certain patterns will play out in the psyche, whether you are aware of it or not. It is no secret that Hollywood uses Jungian psychology to create compelling entertainment. I am also reading "The Writers Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers, 3rd Edition" by Christopher Vogler. This is a popular book for screenwriters because it gives you a formula for writing a story that will have a definite psychological impact upon the audience.

Today I ordered the book “Way of the Actor: A Path to Knowledge and Power” by Brian Bates. I was looking for a book on the psychology of the actor because actors are the gatekeepers of the theater community. Everyone in a position to make a decision in the theater is an actor. The playwright is expected to write for the actor. You might argue that the playwright should write for the audience but the play will never be seen by an audience if the writing is not in service to the actor. I’m being cynical, but I don’t think theaters are interested in what their audience wants. The theater is all about the actor. So it is very important to know what makes the actor tick. What does the actor secretly want? You may think the answer is simple. The actor is an attention whore and just wants to stand in the spotlight and be adored by the audience. But depth psychology tries to get to the fundamental layer of being, the archetypes. The actor may want to appear godlike, a manifestation of the sacred, and be worshiped by the audience. And the audience will indulge the actor because they feel spiritually empty and need something greater than themselves to worship. Greek hero worship was actually a form of religion which raised man to the gods. But I digress, the “Way of the Actor” book sounds really intriguing based on the book description, “Brian Bates believes that this is still the case today—that actors and actresses fulfill an important function in our culture as modern-day seers and shamans. He portrays the actor as a creator of visions who transports spectators out of their habitual ways of being and leads them on a journey of self-discovery.”

I don’t want to be an actor, but an actor stands at the threshold I mean to cross and the way to get by the guardian of the threshold is through cunning. I have to write something for the actor that promises to give him what he secretly desires. Maybe a monologue that can be used for an audition. There is even an app for that! I sometimes think plays are only published to give actors monologues for their auditions. I should probably figure out how to write a killer monologue. Maybe the actor wants a piece of dialogue that is as eloquent as poetry. Then it has to be a poem from the soul of an actor. Maybe the actor wants a part that will make him a star. Then you have to write a role that permits the actor to outshine everyone else.

This is a major challenge because you can’t be too obvious in pandering to the actor. Actors spend all day thinking about the motivations of their character so they are versed in pop psychology. They will easily spot an obvious attempt to flatter the actor. Fortunately Jungian psychology excels in suggesting various ways to express an archetype through symbols.

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