1st Edition

Midlife Transformation in Literature and Film
Jungian and Eriksonian Perspectives

ISBN 9780415666992
Published January 11, 2012 by Routledge
256 Pages

USD $49.95

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Book Description

In this book, Steven F. Walker considers the midlife transition from a Jungian and Eriksonian perspective, by providing vivid and powerful literary and cinematic examples that illustrate the psychological theories in a clear and entertaining way.

For C.G. Jung, midlife is a time for personal transformation, when the values of youth are replaced by a different set of values, and when the need to succeed in the world gives place to the desire to participate more in the culture of one’s age and to further its development in all kinds of different ways. Erik Erikson saw "generativity," an expanded concern for others beyond one's immediate circle of family and friends, as the hallmark of this stage of life. Both psychologists saw it as a time for growth and renewal. Literary texts such Virginia Woolf's Mrs Dalloway, Shakespeare's Antony and Cleopatra, or Sophocles' Oedipus the King, and films such as Fellini's 8 ½ and Campion's The Piano, have the capacity to represent, sometimes more vividly and with greater dramatic concentration than actual life histories or case studies, the archetypal nature of the drama and in-depth transformation associated with the midlife transition.

Midlife Transformation in Literature and Film focuses on the specific male and female archetypal paradigms and presents them within the general context of midlife transformation. For men, the theme of death of the young hero presides over the crisis and the transformative ordeal, whereas for women the theme of tragic abandonment acts as the prelude to further growth and independence.

This book is essential reading for anyone studying Jung, Erikson, or the midlife transition. It will interest those who have already been through a midlife transition, those who are in the midst of one, as well as those who are yet to experience this challenging period.

Table of Contents

Introduction. Jung, Erikson, Midlife Transformation and the Oneiric Text. The Shadow and the Contrasexual Side at Midlife. Oedipus, Mentors and Male Midlife Transformation. Ariadne, Abandonment and Female Midlife Initiation. Homer's Odyssey and Midlife Transformation. Tragedy, Inflation and Midlife Transformation. Modernist Midlife Initiations: Marcel in Proust's Time Regained and Clarissa in Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway. Some Classical Hindu Perspectives on Midlife.

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Steven F. Walker is Professor of Comparative Literature at Rutgers University. He received his Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from Harvard University and has published a number of essays using Jungian perspectives in order to interpret literature and film. His publications include  Jung and the Jungians on Myth (Routledge, 2002).


"Midlife Transformation in Literature and Film is an interesting and highly informative read for anyone interested in Jungian perspectives on literature and cinema and for those studying or experiencing midlife transitions. Possibly part of its value goes beyond its emphasis on the psychological importance of myths to a thought-provoking challenge: that perhaps both personally and on a global scale, we need to enact new ones." - Wendy Cousins, PsycCRITIQUES, 2013, Vol. 58