Where the wild things are

The Psychologist has an excellent article on the psychology behind the classic children’s book Where The Wild Things Are. It turns out that the author, Maurice Sendak, was heavily interested in psychoanalysis and intended the book to explore the inner life of children.

The article is by psychoanalyst Richard Gottlieb who examines some of the influences on the book and Sendak’s other works, noting that the author was in analysis himself and had an analyst as his life partner.

There is a remarkable thematic coherence to much of Sendak’s work, and this coherence links creative efforts that are decades apart and, additionally, links these works to what is known about his early life and formative years. Sendak himself has commented on his single-minded focus, saying, ‘I only have one subject. The question I am obsessed with is How do children survive?’ But it is more than mere survival that Sendak aspires to, for his children and for himself. He asks the question of resilience: How do children surmount and transform in order to prosper and create? It is tempting to imagine that Sendak conceives of the trajectory of his own life and art as a model for the way he has handled these questions in his works.

By the way, the whole issue of The Psychologist is freely available online, albeit as a slightly unwieldy Flash application.

It’s one of the best issues I can remember for a long time. You may want to check out an excellent article on the default network, an interview with Chris Frith, a piece on the psychology of storytelling or a review of recent discussions on the next big questions in psychology.

Link to The Psychologist on Where The Wild Things Are.

Full disclosure: I’m an unpaid associate editor and occasional columnist for The Psychologist. I read Where The Wild Things Are as a child and loved it.

One Comment

  1. Alison
    Posted September 30, 2009 at 1:05 pm | Permalink

    I thought the article fascinating and showed selected paragraphs (on Sendak’s miserable childhood) to my 13-year-old who was fascinated and sought out the book to read again.


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