Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Have you destroyed anything lately? ("The Creative Feminine and Her Discontents", Juliet Miller)

I came across Juliet Miller's book The creative feminine and her discontents: Psychotherapy, art, and destruction when I read Michèle Roberts' review of it in the Guardian. I went ahead and bought the book, and have since thoroughly enjoyed reading through the thoughtful, provocative and stimulating chapters.

One of Miller's central themes is that "to bring something new into being something else has to be destroyed" (p. 12), and I like the way she discusses different ways in which destructive and aggressive drives can productively be given more room in our lives (and especially, in terms of her argument, in women's lives) - not in order to act out the violence against others, or to turn it against oneself, but rather to use it in order to gain freer and more creative expressions.

Quote for today:
When Marion Milner discovered in A Life of One's Own that she was terrified of the force of her internal patriarchal God, this cannot all be explained by her introjects of patriarchy but also, as with Matisse and Freud, as an expression of her fear of the creative archetype in all its uncertain raging power. Dionysus, as the embodiment of energy and new life, can also be raving, fearsome, and out of control. However, to be creative the archetype has to be engaged with. For women, disobedience of the patriarchal strictures against creating may be a beginning. Disobeying God, as Eve did, could be understood as part of the powerful side of the feminine archetype that comes into play when one point of view is too rigid. (p. 14)

I like the ambiguity of this brief passage. Miller seems to be drawing connections between the Christian patriarchal image of God on the one hand, and a powerful creative archetype on the other - and then the tricky question is whether this powerful divine creativity can actually be engaged with.

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