Jung’s Lecture on Gérard De Nerval
A publication of Jung’s 1945 lecture on Aurélia by the French Romantic poet, Gérard de Nerval, with a new translation of Aurélia, together with notes and annotations.
Gérard de Nerval explored the irrational with lucidity and exquisite craft. Like Novalis and Goethe, he rejected the rationalist universalism of the philosophes and privileged instead the individual subjective imagination as a way of descending in order to fathom the divine and to reconnect with what the Romantics called the life principle. During the period of his greatest creativity, he suffered from madness and was institutionalized eight times. He wrote Aurélia at the request of Dr. Emile Blanche, in an ambivalent attempt to emerge from these psychotic episodes.
In his lecture, delivered at the Psychological Club of Zürich at the end of the war in 1945 and after a long personal illness, Jung introduced his listeners to the extraordinary importance of Nerval’s memoir. Contrasting a psychoanalytic interpretation with his synthetic approach to the unconscious, Jung explained why Nerval was not able to make use of his visionary experiences in his own life. At the same time, he emphasized the validity of Nerval’s visions, differentiating a psychology of a work of art separate from the psychology of the artist. This first publication of Jung’s lecture on Nerval will provide historians, psychologists, and readers of The Red Book with a new key for understanding Jung’s argument about the importance of symbolism in modern thought.