Alexander J. Nemeth is an independent scholar.
Voltaire's Tormented Soul: A Psychobiographic Inquiryby Alexander J. Nemeth
Voltaire's extraordinary mind and pivotal role in the Age of Enlightenment induced writers of over two-and-a-half centuries to analyze his works and ponder confounding inconsistencies, bound in both his behavior and his writings. Why have numerous biographies and countless literary essays on this historic figure failed to uncover the root cause of the perplexing… See more details below
Voltaire's extraordinary mind and pivotal role in the Age of Enlightenment induced writers of over two-and-a-half centuries to analyze his works and ponder confounding inconsistencies, bound in both his behavior and his writings. Why have numerous biographies and countless literary essays on this historic figure failed to uncover the root cause of the perplexing contradictions? The answer, as elucidated in this volume, lies in the elaborate characterologic superstructure he had constructed (subconsciously) to shield his mind from intolerable memories and feelings associated with emotional trauma sustained in childhood and adolescence. A desperate effort to flee from his inner self was on some occasions openly confessed by the poet.The self-protective, self-sustaining character mechanisms (described in the fourteen chapters) became, then, a blinding and misleading obstacle to the untutored observer in search of the real Voltaire. In penetrating the overt, social-behavioral layer, psycho biographic research was greatly assisted by spontaneous and effusive expression of concerns, frustrations, anxieties, etc., abundant in the poet's voluminous correspondence, and also by conspicuous omissions, distortions, and rationalizations in his Memoirs. Methods of depth psychology, as applied for interpreting the material, are described and illustrated.
- Lehigh University Press
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Although dead for 230 years, Voltaire continues to intrigue, entertain, and enlighten people from all callings. Where did his aggressive attachment to Reason and determination to fight for individual freedom arise from, and what was within the writer that compelled him to perceive the world so critically and then comment so sharply on it? The tendency has been to refer to Voltaire¿s position in society, to his intelligence, and to historical factors that led to the Age of Enlightenment. But the essence of Man lies within his soul, mind, and personal experiences, the various foundations of his psychological make-up and subsequent reactions, and not in historical conditions and movements. It is this personal and psychological essence of Voltaire that Alexander Nemeth astutely perceives and closely analyzes in Voltaire¿s Tormented Soul: A Psychobiographic Inquiry. It is a detailed view of Voltaire, the person, which, first, presents a clear idea of what the poet/philosophe accomplished with his satire socially, philosophically. But, then the inquiry takes readers deeply and intimately into a consideration of how his mind worked in response to personal relationships, experiences, and inner needs. In essence we are in the analyst¿s clinical office observing Voltaire on the ¿couch.¿ This is a fascinating book for all sorts of people¿scholars of literature, history, French culture, and, of course, psychology. But the clarity of the presentation makes it also a lively and accessible read for non-academics. Voltaire, himself, as well as the various personalities he associates with 'family, love interests, political figures, royalty, members of various societal strata' come to life, and the events make for a compelling narrative. All are thoroughly and scientifically scrutinized in a fashion that lifts the analysis well above the realm of casual speculation and places it on the plateau of convincing conclusions about the workings of Voltaire¿s mind. Nemeth, an eminent clinical psychologist, uses his eclectic knowledge of psychology and history to ferret out the nuances of Voltaire¿s mind. He employs the writings of Voltaire, as well as extensive commentary by his contemporaries, reports of events, and studies by historians and other scholars. Included, also, are definitions of the terminology, theory, and practice of psychological analysis which add clarity to the study.