There’s a definite theme behind many of my posts. I am aware of it even if I don’t always make it obvious. The clue lies in this blog’s subheading – Psyche, Eros, Transgression.
I admire the work of Carl Jung. Yes, some of his work is dated, but I still think he has a lot to contribute. Not so much in terms of psychiatry, more in terms of hermeneutics. I think he has a lot to say about the way individuals and cultures construct narrative.
Let me restate that: philosophically I’m inclined towards hermeneutics. Without going into a dense discussion let me say that the mind ‘interprets’ reality and ‘constructs’ narratives to explain what it observes. These narratives don’t necessarily have to be accurate, they just have to be sufficiently useful. That is, adequate to ensure survival. In fact, many of these narratives (what we call culture) can be quite bizarre.
Note: having said that, I still believe in science and ‘knowledge’ (in the epistemological sense). Narrative must eventually give way to the facts, even though our psychological attachment to narrative is strong and resists ‘contrary evidence’. Which is why religions persist.Where Jung is useful is in suggesting that there are certain ‘universal’ archetypes. And the one that is the subject (at the moment) of this blog is that of Kore.
In Greek kore means ‘girl’ or ‘maiden’ (kouros – boy). Sometimes the goddess Persephone is called Kore. In Jung, Kore is an archetype: an aspect of the feminine, or Anima. And as such, she is a symbol of a psychological process.
I understand everything that I have said on this website in regard to the sexualization of girls and the naked child in art in terms of Jungian hermeneutics. I regard these debates to be about narratives about children, not the reality of children. Indeed, I find the current debates frustrating for their lack of insight.
So I thought it was about time to dig deeper and there is no better place to start than the seminal work of Lewis Carroll. There is no person who has redefined the Kore archetype more than Carroll. He created the very influential persona of Alice in both Alice in Wonderland and Alice Through the Looking Glass (who, like Kore, enters a kind of underground). These works continue to fascinate and inspire. Yet at the same time, Carroll inspires deeper fears, that of the new bogeyman: the pedophile.
Again, let me restate that we are not talking about ‘real’ children but about ‘imagined’ ‘archetypal’ children. The West is currently in a furious debate over what is the better ‘image’ of the child. A debate between a ‘conservative’ position that has (historically) recently ‘constructed’ the ‘image’ of the ‘innocent’ child and a ‘progressive’ position that is frankly confused between notions of the natural child and the ‘politically correct’ child. And to declare my hand: I support the notion of the ‘natural’ child.
The conservative ‘image’ of the ‘innocent’ child was first constructed during the Victorian era and Carroll’s Alice plays right into that ideal (along with other Victorian era imaginings like Peter Pan).
However, like all cultural constructs and ‘images’, it is subject to creative reinterpretation. And this is why the ‘Alice/Kore’ archetype is so fascinating, because the story is so rich in psychological meaning that it has had a profound impact on not just Western culture, but on other cultures, Japan in particular.
So let me introduce you to some of these reinterpretations, many of which can be described as transgressive.
Again, let me remind you that we are dealing with an archetype, a product of our imagination, not ‘real’ children.
In other words, the Alice/Kore archetype is a fiction onto which we ‘project’ various psychological desires, including the erotic and violent.