Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Women and the archetype of the phallus; engagement with the sculpture of Louise Bourgeois
by Gustafson, Anne, Ph.D., Pacifica Graduate Institute, 2011, 274; 3519791
Abstract (Summary)

This dissertation investigates how phallic imagery in artwork made by a woman can have psychologically healing/individuating effects on the female viewer. Archetypal phallic imagery, as manifested in the sculpture of internationally-recognized contemporary artist Louise Bourgeois, is looked at from the viewpoint of contemporary depth psychology. This view follows a review of the literature that includes consideration of the Freudian opinion of the phallic woman, as well as consideration of early Jungian views of the role of the animus in women's psychology.

The study uses a hermeneutic approach, with heuristic elements based on the Jungian practice of active imagination, to gather data from my investigations of four of Louise Bourgeois's sculptures. The structure of the presentation of the data is three-tiered, inspired by Stephen Aizenstat's (2009) three-fold method of dream-tending (association, amplification and animation). The research is divided into four chapters, each chapter devoted to one of Bourgeois's sculptures: Fillette, Fragile Goddess, Femme Couteau, and Nature Study. The phallic nature of the sculptures is considered throughout each chapter. The three tiers or sections of each chapter focus on first the researcher's as well as Bourgeois's personal associations to the sculpture, secondly on the cultural, historical and mythological amplification of each image, and thirdly on animation of the image.

This study adds to the literature that seeks to understand the place of the phallic in psychological work, especially in regard to women. In addition this study lends a unique perspective on the psychologically therapeutic effects of contemplating artwork, and suggests a form of adjunctive psychotherapy in which the primary relationship is that which exists between image and person, rather than between therapist and client. The image of artist as psychotherapist is suggested. The findings of this study contribute to the collective understanding of the role of imagery in psychotherapy and psychological growth and individuation, to psychotherapy with people struggling with gender role issues and to the fields of art therapy, depth psychology, and archetypal psychology in general.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Nelson, Elizabeth
School: Pacifica Graduate Institute
School Location: United States -- California
Source: DAI-B 73/11(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Fine arts, Art Criticism, Womens studies, Psychology
Keywords: Archetypal psychology, Art therapy, Bourgeois, Louise, Depth psychology, Phallic symbol, Phallic woman, Sculpture
Publication Number: 3519791
ISBN: 978-1-267-50691-7
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