Eros and Pathos: Shades of Love and Suffering, by Aldo Carotenuto, trans. Charles Nopar. (Toronto: Inner City Books, 1989.)

Book review by Rob Couteau

 

 

 

 

Published in: The Bloomsbury Review, March / April 1990 (CO: Denver)


The author summarizes this work as a study of "love and hate, pain, creativity, power," and "the need to balance outer life with the knowledge of our inner world." The guidelines are set along traditional Jungian notions: love becomes a catalyst, propelling an encounter with the unconscious. As such, it's intermingled with the shadow archetype and will constellate "negative elements as well." Because it involves such archetypal elements, the polar opposite of love-hatred-is expected to emerge: "The conflict between love and hate is always present in passionate relationships even if it remains unconscious." The unique experience of love positions the lovers against the collective society by virtue of this uniqueness and, therefore, challenges the lovers' notions of individual versus collective life. Yet, there remains the danger of seeking, in the lover, "a lost wholeness." By projecting unrealized aspects of our psyche onto the beloved, we chase after our undeveloped self-image: "the beloved always symbolizes the potential of the lover." While there is a single qualifier to this idea of love as psychic projection ("it is never a question of pure and simple projection ... We cannot say that love is 'nothing but' an illusion"), much of the remainder of the author's presentation is in the vein of the projection / re-collection formula of Jungian individuation: we project parts of our psyche and must re-collect them, and love is no exception.

Although this view has its merits, such a one-sided emphasis inevitably leads to a reductionist approach. After reading about "the image we carry within" in one Jungian study after another, the "inner image" tends to obliterate the image without-in this case, the loved one. The author's statement that "only through love can we really get to know ourselves" exemplifies this focus on the self and not the other: an unintended irony when one considers that the primary subject of this book is that of love.

When dealing with topics such as eros and pathos, one may unwittingly succumb to generalizations that lack the uniqueness the author so admires: "Love makes life intense and meaningful"; "We are what we are thanks to what we have been"; "The power drive can be truly diabolical"' and "Poets have no need to study psychology or psychoanalysis in order to express the profound truths of existence" are some examples. Perhaps as a way of acknowledging the ineffable nature of love and suffering, throughout the text the author includes poems by Dylan Thomas, Rainer Maria Rilke, John Donne, Walt Whitman, and others. Paul Klee's "Love Song by the New Moon" provides a fitting cover illustration, with its motifs of dismemberment and its heart-shaped hieroglyphs.

Of all the issues treated in Eros and Pathos, the psychic function of solitude is the one most clearly articulated: "In solitude we represent a truth that can unmask and denounce the falsity that circulates in the external world. The great figures of the world ... drew their truths from the wells of their solitude." Therefore, a person who upholds creativity as the highest value is the "natural enemy of power." As opposed to those who exist merely to dominate, "the creative act ... represents the possibility of living rather than simply surviving."

Carotenuto concludes with thoughts on how to confront fear and on the development of one's individual pattern as the reality that must be lived.

 

This review is featured in:

Collected Couteau. Poems, Letters, Essays, Interviews
and Reviews by Rob Couteau. (Second, Revised Edition)

 

Related links:

Wounded Healer: A review of Claire Dunne's Carl Jung:
Wounded Healer of the Soul
and Jane Cabot Reid's Jung,
My Mother and I. The Analytic Diaries of Catherine Rush Cabot



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Updated: 3 July 2011 | All text Copyright 2011 | Rob Couteau | key words: literature book reviews of novels jungian psychology literary by Rob Couteau expatriate writers in Paris Eros and Pathos Shades of Love and Suffering Aldo Carotenuto