Archetypes and Creative Imagination in ‘Ode to Psyche’: A Jungian Analysis

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Imdad Ullah Khan

Abstract

John Keats’ ‘Ode to Psyche’ is steeped in mythology and dream symbolism, which encourages us to understand it from the perspective of depth psychology/archetypal criticism. The odes of John Keats have been studied from historicist, feminist, and biographical perspectives. This paper aims to complement these perspectives by elaborating the mythical dream imagery of the poem as referring symbolically to the process of psychic integration and poetic creativity. The paper also views the poem as exemplifying the need for a complementary ongoing communication between the conscious and the unconscious aspects of the mind to maintain a holistic psyche. Archetypal theory is used to frame the figurative structure of the poem as a symbolic mythical variant of the process of poetic creativity. The paper employs three theoretical constructs, namely syzygy or complementation of opposites; active imagination; and individuation, as a framework to analyze the poem from an archetypal perspective. Employing a depth psychological perspective to understand poetry enhances the aesthetic pleasure derived from reading poetry and enhances the 'healing effect' of poetry by illuminating the psychological connotations of the poem. The paper concludes by attempting to answer two research questions explored in the analysis. First, does archetypal perspective contribute to enhancing readers' aesthetic pleasure derived from reading poetry? Second, what are the theoretical contributions of the current analysis towards contemporary Jungian literary theory?

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