Diving Deeper: Dynamic Psychology and British Literature



By 1924, the year the first two volumes of Freud’s Collected Works were published, satires and parodies of dynamic psychology, such as Leacock’s, proliferated, reflecting not only that dynamic psychological discourses were widely disseminated in popular culture and provided good fodder for ridicule, but also, perhaps, that they aroused anxiety. That this cultural anxiety was deep-rooted is further intimated when one realizes that parodies and satires accompanied dynamic psychology throughout its evolution, from the time of Grant Allen’s parodies of psychical research in “Our Scientific Observations on a Ghost” (1878) and “The Mysterious Occurrence in Picadilly” (1884) through Lytton Strachey’s early Freudian parody, “According to Freud” (c.1914),1 Rose Macaulay’s satiric novel Dangerous Ages (1921), and Aldous Huxley’s Crome Yellow (1921). Both parody and satire typically engage irony, a distancing technique, and yet they also incorporate and repeat the subject of the attack, thus in some sense demonstrating complicity with it. These satirists would well repay investigation since they point up most dramatically that ambivalence, betraying anxiety, towards dynamic psychology that has been expressed by the writers under study here. The most striking case is Aldous Huxley, who savaged believers in the self’s extended powers, from automatic writing to mediumship to telepathy, in his first novel Crome Yellow. Mr Barbeque Smith, for instance, pontificates about “h-piritual truth” and practises automatic writing, enabling him to connect his “Subconscious with the Infinite” (Crome 50) — and to produce 3800 (presumably facile) words a day (Crome 46). Yet Huxley himself became convinced that telepathy, clairvoyance, and prevision existed (Ends and Means 259–260) and ultimately championed Myers’s dynamic psychology.


Literary History Diving Deep Mental Power Striking Case Dynamic Psychology 
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  1. 1.
    Grant Allen. Strange Stories. London: Chatto and Windus, 1884.Google Scholar
  2. Lytton Strachey. The Really Interesting Question and Other Papers. Ed. and Intro. Paul Levy. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1972: 111–120.Google Scholar
  3. 2.
    W.L. Myers also makes the point that what he calls extra-realism was not deemed proper subject matter for fiction. The Later Realism. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1927: 17.Google Scholar

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© George M. Johnson 2006

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