In 2014 at a conference at the University of Leuven organized by the Faculty of Arts entitled “Psychology and the Classics: A Dialogue of Disciplines,” speakers presented papers arguing that ancient thinkers, especially among the Greeks and Romans, recognized a human interior that likely pointed to an understanding of the unconscious among the ancients, although that understanding was articulated in ways unfamiliar to modern psychology. This point of view conventionally runs counter to many contemporary assumptions about ancient thought based on the notion that knowledge of an interior world and and unconscious is based on a specific way of articulating that knowledge.
In the course of examining this question presentations attempted to bring ancient texts and ideas into conformity with 21st Century psychology, arguing, for example, that the ideas of the Stoics regarding mental health correlate with contemporary ideas about cognitive behavioral therapy (Christopher Gill, University of Exeter).
Indeed, we are all aware that the idea of a “talking cure” appears as early as Homer, and was alluded to in the Hippocratic canon. Disparaging as he was of emotive rhetoric, Plato felt ‘divine frenzy’ was emblematic of expressive human creativity, and Aristotle’s “Problems” discussed personality in ways that Freudian and Jungian psychology would find familiar.
Crossing these disciplinary lines is only one hurdle in trying to focus on the theme of ancient thought and analytical psychology (whether of ancient Greek, Roman, African or Asian origin). Non-human interiors are spoken of in ‘Aesop’s Fables’ too, and certainly gestures of communication emanate from an ‘inside’ that rhetoricians have traditionally tracked.
The other hurdle is that psychoanalysis, from Freud to Lacan and Kohut, is the mainstay of such disciplinary discussion. Jung is typically only mentioned by speakers in myth or media studies, but not much by classicists. We hope there will be more representation of his work: Jung would have been stunned to learn that he was left out; as a close reader of Plato and Cicero, Jung was convinced of their importance to him regardless of whether he was in agreement with prevailing interpretations of their work or not.
Speakers provisionally committed to present papers include (alphabetically) Dr Emannuela Bakola (Warwick), Dr Paul Bishop (University of Glasgow), Dr Terence Dawson (Nanyang Technological University, Singapore), Dr Richard Seaford University of Essex) and Mark Saban (University of Essex).
Additional papers are welcome that would run for 15-20 minutes plus discussion and that approach the theme of ancient thought and analytical psychology in the broadest terms. We would also welcome additional discussion from Lacanian and Freudian perspectives. The overall theme will be the interior dynamics of healing in ancient thought and modern psychology toward achieving the goal of individuation and wholeness.
The deadline for submitting a brief description (5 to 6 sentences) of a proposed presentation is March 15, 2016. Please also provide a brief note on your personal background and disciplinary base. Speakers selected will be notified by 1 May. Presently we are planning to convene at the Freud Museum in north London.
Please send abstracts to Leslie Gardner, Ph.D.([email protected])