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Dr. May's gentle rebuke to American psychology will be equally unwelcome to behaviorists and orthodox psychoanalysts whose timidity has made the creative process a subject to be avoided as ""unscientific, mysterious, disturbing, and too corruptive of the scientific training of graduate students."" In fact, May owes more to Paul Tillich, Mondrian and James Joyce than he does to Adler or even Freud whose implication that ""talent is a disease and creativity a neurosis"" he emphatically rejects as both reductive and invidious. Nor will he please those ostentatiously Dionysian poets and painters who sit back and wait for inspiration to strike like a divine lightning bolt. May's stress on arduous work and the intensity and authenticity of the encounter between the artist and his world makes the creative process similar to what the patient undergoes in psychotherapy as new insights erupt from the unconscious. Disappointed with the mechanistic bias of science, May places an awesome responsibility on artists: he argues with Stephen Dedalus that they are the forgers of ""the uncreated conscience of the race,"" always and necessarily a threat to society as the harbingers of new symbols, forms and patterns on which the future will be built. Art and imagination according to this valuation are not irrational but suprarational; the moment of creation a sudden, luminous apprehension which at once assumes ""a kind of immutable, eternal quality."" Based on a group of lectures delivered over some fifteen years, this is an important though preliminary exploration of a subject traditionally evaded by contemporary pundits. For all his lack of dogmatism and modesty, May is out on a slender limb and his impressionistic observation of the ""eternally insurgent spirit"" of the artist is vulnerable on many counts--but then by his own criteria, it would have to be.

Pub Date: Nov. 17th, 1975
ISBN: 0393311066
Publisher: Norton