by Nancy Cater
Electra represents the first sustained attempt to articulate from a Jungian perspective the relevance of the Greek mythic figure of Electra to the psychology of contemporary young girls and women. Describing Electra as a dark puella identified with Saturn, trapped in mourning for her lost father and hatred of her mother, Cater explores how this myth may appear in the lives of women today and how they may deepen their understanding of it.
Cater uses the life and work of the American confessional poet Sylvia Plath to provide a detailed example of how the Electra myth can manifest and describes how desperately Plath struggled during the last few months of her life to let the part of herself identified with Electra die and to give birth to a new identity - drawing upon Plath's own poetry, fiction, letters, and recently published diaries, and on the poems about their marriage published by her husband, Ted Hughes, shortly before his own death. While Plath's story is a tragic one, hope animates the book: the hope that going into a myth can help us perhaps move beyond it and discover that there are other myths which might help dethrone the unchallenged power of this one.
"In persuasive fashion, Nancy Cater treats one of the least appreciated aspects of Jung's archetypal theory, namely, that disturbances in the archetypal field produce profound changes in the personal psyche and contaminate relational dynamics. The combined loss of the father and betrayal of the mother activates a dark puella - with grief in her heart and blood on her mind. Unable to redeem father or imitate mother, she remains suspended between grief and revenge, unable to enter an appropriate womanhood. The torturous story of Sylvia Plath is cautionary, revelatory of the poems, and illustrates her desperate effort to write her way out the of the Electra imago." - James Hollis, Jungian Analyst, Executive Director, The Jung Center of Houston
"Like a detective with ancient and modern microscopes, Nancy Cater has circumnabulated the Electra myth. Her discoveries and her consequent analyses make fascinating reading, especially for father's daughters and the men who love them." - Marion Woodman, Jungian Analyst, Author of Bone
"Never before have I been so taken with mythology. Nancy Cater's spirit and scholarship prevail throughout the book, enabling the reader to clearly see the mythological and archetypal underpinnings of human experience. Her portrayal of Sylvia Plath as a modern day Electra is stunning and brilliant, and captures the original spirit and respect for the archetype as found in Jung's original writings. Her book is a treasure for anyone interested in seeing how our temporal experiences are influenced and intermixed with these eternal, mythological stories." - Michael Conforti, Jungian Analyst, Author of Field, Form and Fate
Nancy Cater, J.D., Ph.D., is the editor of Spring Journal, and the Assistant Director of the Assisi Foundation, which studies Jung and the new sciences. She has a Ph.D. in Mythological Studies with an Emphasis in Depth Psychology from Pacifica Graduate Institute in Santa Barbara, California and lives in New Orleans.