Literary Approach - Jungian Criticism

The Norton Introduction to Poetry
Editor: J. Paul Hunter, University of Chicago
(Norton & Company, 1999)

The Norton Introduction to Poetry: Jungian Criticism

University of Chicago professor emeritus J. Paul Hunter defines critical approaches to evaluating poetry and prose in this excellent text published by Norton & Company. The book is now in its ninth edition with contributing editors Alison Booth, University of Virginia, and Kelly J. Mays, University of Nevada.

“Based on the work of Carl Gustav Jung (1875-1961). The Jungian critic assumes that we all share a universal or collective unconscious (as well as having a racial and individual conscious). According to Jung and his followers, in the collective and in our individual unconscious are universal images, patterns, and forms of human experiences, or archetypes. These archetypes surface in art in an imperfect, shadowy way, taking the form of archetypal images.”

Jung asserts that artistic endeavors lead to creation of stereotypes—images or characters manifested in universally familiar forms. Appealing to the innovative and analytical, his work emphasizes shared human experience. His concept of a collective unconscious may be disputed, yet the presence of archetypes in literature and poetry cannot be denied. From virtuous paragons to evil embodiments, similarities exist across the centuries, evident in all civilizations.