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Ages of Anxiety
Jung’s Types as Inspiration for Poetry, Music, and Dance

by Craig E. Stephenson

ISBN: 978-1-935528-75-3
162 pp.

Craig Stephenson draws on depth psychology to provide an original and profound study of W. H. Auden’s Pulitzer Prize winning poem, The Age of Anxiety. In this dramatic poem, Auden draws on Jung’s psychological typology to explore and develop the themes of identity and integrity in times of war. Stephenson examines Auden’s use of Jung’s critical psychology of type to understand the traumatic effects of war on the individual and collective psyche, as well as the noxious attractions of fascism. In this light, Stephenson also examines Leonard Bernstein’s symphony, The Age of Anxiety (Symphony No. 2 for Piano and Orchestra), inspired by Auden’s poem, and three ballets based on Bernstein’s music, choreographed by Jerome Robbins (New York City Ballet), John Neumeier (Hamburg Ballet), and Liam Scarlett (Royal Ballet, London).

Using all these creative works as points for reflection, Stephenson surveys historically the concept of “anxiety”, from Kierkegaard through five editions of the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). Interweaving Auden’s exploration of the twentieth-century mind with Jungian depth psychology, Stephenson extrapolates forward into our time, with its mounting political tensions and escalating intolerance, and inquires into the sufferings currently diagnosed as “anxiety” and their significance.
Praise for Ages of Anxiety
An original and profound study of how war shaped Auden as a poet: how he used Jung’s psychology to understand the turmoil and dread provoked by war, to organize morally and aesthetically the responses of the individual psyche and society to Fascism, and to probe the poet’s responsibilities in time of war. Today, as we again face wars, rising nationalism and huge populations hungry for a Leader to make them feel strong and safe, this nuanced, beautifully researched discussion is a contribution not only to literary scholarship but to understanding our own world.
Ruth Padel, author of Darwin – A Life in Poems, In and Out of the Mind, On MigratioN, And Tigers in Red Weather
A bold and multi-faceted re-visioning of Auden’s neglected poetic drama of the mid-20th-century mind. Stephenson analyzes The Age of Anxiety in light of Auden’s use of Jung’s psychological types and assesses its impact on the Symphony that Leonard Bernstein based on Auden’s poem and three ballets set to the Symphony. The author then weaves this impressive body of creative work into the history of the idea of ‘anxiety’ from Kierkegaard through successive editions of the DSM. A startling achievement.
Austin Clarkson, author of On the Music of Stefan Wolpe: Essays and Recollections, and “My Mind a Beautiful Thing:” Imagination, Art, Creativity in Elementary Education
In the current time of mounting political tensions, with dark echoes of escalating intolerance, Craig Stephenson gives us an erudite and reflective reconsideration of one of the 20th century’s most gifted poets, W. H. Auden, through an exploration of his WWII poem, The Age of Anxiety. The central but subtle use of Jung’s views of the psyche, especially his typology, are shown to be woven through the poem, informing its deepest vision. This influence then ripples out through the musical and dance productions of the poem created by major artists. Internal and cultural worlds interpenetrate in this marvelous study that Stephenson deftly brings to life, not only in the post World War 1940s and early 1950s, but in contemporary adaptations, thereby initiating us to Auden’s prophetic gift. Stephenson’s own creative brilliance manifests through the lightness of his touch.
Joe Cambray, PH.D., Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs at Pacifica Graduate Institute. He is Past-President of the International Association for Analytical Psychology, former US Editor of the Journal of Analytical Psychology, and is the author of several books and numerous papers
List of Figures
Chapter 1: Auden, War Poet
Chapter 2: Auden’s Use of Jung’s Typology
Chapter 3: Creative Extrapolations
Chapter 4: Conclusions
Appendix: An Archetypal Mapping of a Soldier’s Post War Anxiety in Grimm’s “Bearskin”
About the Author:
Craig Stephenson, Ph.D., is a graduate of the C. G. Jung Institute Zürich, the Institute for Psychodrama, Zumikon, and the Centre for Psychoanalytic Studies, University of Essex. He is a Jungian analyst in private practice in New York City. His books include Possession: Jung’s Comparative Anatomy of the Psyche (Routledge, 2009) and Anteros: A Forgotten Myth (Routledge, 2011). He edited a collection of essays, Jung and Moreno: Essays on the Theatre of Human Nature (Routledge, 2014) and a previously unpublished lecture by Jung: On Psychological and Visionary Art: Jung’s Lecture on Gérard de Nerval’s “Aurélia” (2015) for the Philemon Foundation and Princeton University Press. He is Director of Training of the Jungian Psychoanalytic Association, New York City.