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Edward Lear and the Play of Poetry$
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James Williams and Matthew Bevis

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780198708568

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2016

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198708568.001.0001

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Edward Lear’s Contribution to British Psychoanalysis

Edward Lear’s Contribution to British Psychoanalysis

(p.339) 16 Edward Lear’s Contribution to British Psychoanalysis
Edward Lear and the Play of Poetry

Adam Phiilips

Oxford University Press

This chapter examines how Learical play was central to the twentieth-century British tradition of psychoanalysis, in particular to the work of D. W. Winnicott. What the ‘absurd’ or the ‘surreal’ were to continental Europe, it argues, ‘nonsense’ was to the British tradition–and it was the absence of self-conscious manifestoes and programmatic self-definitions which lent ‘nonsense’ its particular value and force as an analytic tool. The investment of Lear’s poetic play in the play of childhood was vital for a tradition which placed the child’s experience at the centre of its method. In his essay ‘Playing, a Theoretical Statement’, Winnicott redescribed Freud’s ‘golden rule’ of free-association in terms of play, suggesting that rather than seeking to understand (after Freud) what verbal play is trying to hold at bay, psychoanalysts ought rather to attend to the play itself, even to the point of understanding analysis as a form of nonsensical play.

Keywords:   Edward Lear, D. W. Winnicott, psychoanalysis, nonsense, play

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