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Mar 15, 2011

Psychology and Form: Burke

The application of Freudian psychoanalytical technique began to be practiced in the works of art in the twentieth century; the psychoanalytical approach is basically reader-oriented. The chief aim of this approach is to reveal the true content of a literary work lay relating its elements to the unconscious determinants. Burke, read, Northrop Fry and Carl Jung are among those critics who applied this approach in their criticism to literature. Burke begins by saying that a psycho-analytical critic believes in the principle that a writer builds his from through the effect on audience. He uses his contents as pieces of information, which he places one upon the other in ascending order. The reader moves from one fact to the other.

Human psychology works on two opposite impulses, the impulse of repression and the impulse of expression. A great writer like Shakespeare manipulates his work on this psychological tendency of the reader. The diametrically opposite feelings of frustration and satisfaction are involved in the creation of a work of art. The writer also feels a kind of experience in which he feels a kind of frustration and satisfaction.


The author opens the essay by citing the example of a scene of Hamlet. He says that in this scene, the ghost of king hamlet is about to appear and hamlet is waiting for its appearance alongwith his friends. The audience is waiting for the right of the ghost but there is heard a satisfying blare of trumpets. It is the sound of the king’s carousel, for the king is “keeping wassail.” At once the trumpets are silent, and the scene of night again became desolate. Again the attention is drawn towards the three men who are waiting for the ghost on a bare platform. In the darkness of this night, Hamlet discusses the excessive drinking of his countrymen. He points out that this tends to harm their reputation abroad. Immediately, the ghost comes and Hamlet addresses him “Be thou a spirit of health or goblin dammed.” Burke says that there is a transition from the matter-of-fact to the grandiose.

Burke says that this scene from Hamlet illustrates perfectly the relationship between psychology and form. He says that it amply indicated how the one is to be defined in terms of the other. The author says “the psychology here is not the psychology of the hero, nut the psychology of the audience.” He declares: “form is the creation of an appetite in the mind of the auditor and the adequate satisfying of that appetite.”

The author goes on to explain that his satisfaction of the appetite is so complicated that involves a temporary set if frustration. He says that human mechanism is also complicated in the same way. But in the end, the frustrations prove to be a kind of satisfaction. They make the satisfaction and fulfillment more intense. Burke defines the form in the following way:
“in a work of art, the poet says something, let us say, about a meeting,
writes in such a way that we desire to observe that meeting, and then,
if he paces the meeting before is—that is the form.”
this may also be called the psychology of the audience, since it involves desires and their appeasements. Hereafter the critic says that the flourishing of science during the last century has generated a gap between the form and the matter. The scientific criteria are being introduced into the matters of purely aesthetic judgments. Information has hampered the process of creating great literature in the modern age. Psychology has been reduced into a body of information.

The author says that the modern writers are so swept away by the such tendencies that they prefer Freud to James Joyce. Science has thrown upon art a striking derangement of taste. Writers prefer Freud because he provides them more analytical data. No doubt, both Joyce and Freud provide information but the information provided by Freud is explicit whereas the information provided by Joyce is implicit. Freud provides more precise information about human psychology.

Burke, however, states in this essay that Freud provides only the information regarding human psychology but James and Lawrence show the enchantment of this psychology in their works. In scientific information, the matter is intrinsically interesting but it may not necessarily be valuable. But in art the interest is created by the extrinsic use. For instance, Antony’s speech in Julius Caesar that “Brutus is an honourable man” is useful in the sense that it shapes the future of the audience’s desires and not the desires of the Roman public. This is the psychology of information. But the author does not rule out the intrinsic interest out of literature. He says that it is one of the many elements of style, and should be resorted to in it actual proportion as a minor element. The author cites the example of Goethe whose poorly imagined prose is characterized by aphorism is intrinsic whether it is functionally related to the style or not.

Author says that music, the greatest of arts, can be stand repetition more sturdily because it is suited to the psychology of information and it is closer to the psychology pf form. It also deals in the frustration and fulfillments. Music and folk tales are capable of lulling the reader to sleep and can be compared to these waking dreams which we bring to our mind while trying to sleep.

In this write up, burke has coined three terms: from, psychology and eloquence. Art is the conversation of emotion into eloquence—that is simply the end of art. Burke has attempted to shift the focus from the psychology of the hero to the psychology of the audience in Psychology and Form. The approach is basically formalist. It seeks to bring about a synthesis and blame between opposite like repression and expression, frustration and satisfaction in order to create form.

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