Book Review of “The Dark Enlightenment: Jung, Romanticism and the Repressed Other”

Journal of Jungian Scholarly Studies
Vol. 6, No. 6, 2010
_________________________________________________________________________________
Author contact: susanr183@gmail.com
Book Review
The Dark Enlightenment: Jung, Romanticism and the Repressed Other by
D. J. Moores. Madison, NJ: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press. ISBN
9780838642559
Susan Rowland, Ph.D.
Pacifica Graduate Institute, CA
This book marks an important development in literary criticism and the culture
that sustains it. As well as providing a superb analysis of Romantic literature,
Moores offers powerful new insights into its relations with the Enlightenment,
hence the title, The Dark Enlightenment
Moreover, such a work as The Dark Enlightenment joins recent publications
by innovative scholars such as Terence Dawson, Rinda West and Inez Martinez, in
which Jungian ideas are used creatively to open up the possibilities of the literary
imagination. In the past, Jungian literary criticism has suffered from a not entirely
undeserved reputation for using Jung’s ideas conservatively. Chiefly problematic
has been Jung’s notion of the inherited propensity to certain types of images and
meanings (archetypes). So-called “archetypal” criticism of the past tended to
assume that powerful images in literature transcended historical signification. Such
poor technique is not even Jungian because Jung insisted that archetypal images
were also subject to historical, social and personal coloring.
, where one might expect “Romanticism.”
In doing so much, the book makes a distinct and creative contribution to Jungian
literary criticism. It does so by showing its value for what some might assume are
external issues of cultural studies and historical literary analysis.
For this reason alone, Jung is a gift to cultural theory. For he adds the
potentials of the intrinsically (for him) creative imagination to the ideological
pressures generated in every society. Art is co-created by a psyche that is
indigenously other and engraved by social codes. A truly Jungian literary criticism
welcomes the advent of all forms of historicism, new and old, as well as the
important contributions made to critical theory by movements such as feminism
(on which more later). However, what Jungian criticism also has that other
theoretical approaches do not is fidelity to creativity that can never be entirely
expunged by the demands of the world. The Jungian psyche retains an other that is
Journal of Jungian Scholarly Studies 2
never entirely co-optable or appropriated, and is therefore a methodology of
psychic liberation.
It is unsurprising that the collection of critics mentioned above exhibit both a
common celebration of the imagination while developing diverse and rich scholarly
potential in this fertile field. Dawson adds originality to structuralism to give a new
vitality to works of art. Rinda West has splendidly welded postcolonial theory and
Jung to produce vibrant new readings of literature. Martinez is in turn generating
remarkable depth in her Jungian “readings for psyche.” She is arriving at a new
psychic understanding of literary architectures of feeling via sensitive close
readings of texts.
True to this authentic diversity, The Dark Enlightenment offers something else.
Moores expands upon the notion that the Enlightenment and Romanticism have a
dialogical relationship. He shows how canonical Romantic works deal with the
“other” formed by the structuring of the Enlightenment upon disembodied reason.
Romanticism, therefore, is a vital cultural project of retrieval of projections. These
areas are “dark” because they are repressed or cast out. The Enlightenment hoped
to save modernity from chaos envisaged as bodily or feminine, religious, natural,
or primitive. It achieved new heights of rationality and technological innovation.
Unfortunately, its embrace of the dazzling light of reason was blind to its
complicity with the patriarchal religion that had dominated before. The abstractions
of the Enlightenment are closely related, as Moores shows, to the traditional
Christian God who was held to have created the world separately from it. Hence
nature was not in itself divine. Nor was nature as feminine mother, the feminine
itself, body, sexuality, or cultures that were deemed “other.”
It took a new body of practices, today known as Romanticism or
Romanticisms, to begin to explore what the Enlightenment had rejected. This is one
great achievement of Moores’s book. For not only is it an original historical
argument about cultural change, it is also a profound exploration of literature and
psychology — or, literature as psychology. For it is a real strength here that Moores
is deeply aware of the historical nature of his task in arguing that what
Romanticism does in art, Jungian psychology of a century later has the best
language to describe. Indeed, his book gets very exciting towards the end when he
comments that postmodernism is, in many ways, a return of Romanticism.
Characterised by the erosion of barriers between art and theory that arguably got a
big impetus in Romanticism, Moores’s work impinges upon the way Jung’s socalled
psychology is as much a “literature.”
Of course, the heart of The Dark Enlightenment is an argument about cultural
change hinging upon collective psychic compensation. Here is Moores’s most
elaborated critical contribution. Jung saw art as profoundly cultural when it drew
upon and suffered the energies of the collective unconscious. Hence while an
artist’s psyche was inevitably complicit, what is most significant about a work may
3 Rowland
be its relationship to the collective. Here is the immense untapped potential of a
Jungian literary criticism that is also cognizant of other modern critical approaches.
Moores superbly taps just this potential and offers exemplary readings of work by
Wordsworth, Whitman, Coleridge, Melville, Keats, Byron, Hawthorne, Poe, Mary
Shelley and P. B. Shelley.
The consequence of these beautifully crafted readings is first of all the
strongest possible evidence for his core argument that Romanticism explored and
retrieved what the Enlightenment had thrown into the dark. Secondly, these
readings will stand by themselves in the canons of Romantic criticism as strong
voices in the ongoing critical debates. Thirdly, Moores’s grasp of Jungian theory is
detailed and precise. His use of it is nuanced and historically sensitive. Therefore,
this book represents an excellent example of Jungian literary criticism for students
wanting to learn to use this type of literary theory, not just students of Romantic
and Enlightenment art. I will recommend The Dark Enlightenment to anyone
wanting expert help in using Jung with creative work.
I will end by making some observations that are designed to further elucidate
this splendid book. Moores’s adherence to Jung’s concepts is praiseworthy, but it
does exact a price. For example, at the suggestive final section when bringing in
postmodernism, quantum physics et al., Moores equates Jung’s ideas with
contemporary neurobiology “making a forceful case for inherited gender
characteristics in their work on the influence of sex hormones as determinants of
behavior” and “innate brain differences” between men and women (188).
While, on the one hand, the Jung we know would probably have signed up to
all of the above, on the other hand, I would argue that Moores’s comparisons here
do not fully work for Jung’s “anima” and “animus.” That is to say, Jung was an
essentialist on gender and also he was not. This incoherence in his work (which I
have written about extensively) is in part a consequence of his unique combination
of social conservatism and cultural radicalism. Put simply, while he assumed a
straightforward correlation between sexed bodies and gender characteristics, also
for him true gender identity lay in the individuation process. Since individuation is
so deeply oriented around coming to terms with the “opposite” gender, so that it is
no longer opposite, it is hard to assert wholehearted essentialism on his part.
Moreover, what is essential in Jung’s ideas is the potency of the creative
unconscious as source of being. Given that intrinsic challenge to the ego embedded
in Jung’s ideas, the ego and its ready adoption of social gender norms must be
continually thwarted. The problem with neurobiology, it seems to me, is the same
problem as those critical theories that miss out on the psyche, as Moores elsewhere
argues. Sex is inherited in bodily shape and that shape will influence psychic
gender. However, a Jungian need not agree with a neurobiologist on
Journal of Jungian Scholarly Studies 4
“determinants” of behavior because the creative psyche will always offer “other”
possibilities. To do Jung credit, despite a number of sexist remarks in his work, his
notion of anima and animus does at the core celebrate psychic possibility.
The Dark Enlightenment is an excellent book of cultural analysis, of Romantic
revisionism and exemplary literary criticism. In its pushing at the epistemological
questions surrounding using psychology as literary theory, it opens up further
possibilities. I look forward to them.

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