Patrick White: Misconceptions about Jung’s Influence

Many critics of Patrick White, noting the obvious archetypal content of his works, have claimed that the novelist has made conscious use of Jung's ideas and archetypes. A. P. Riemer, for instance, has said that both The Tree of Man and Riders in the Chariot rely heavily upon Jungian material and that the recognition of this is important for the comprehension of White's intentions.1 Having moved to this conclusion he even goes so far as to add that 'a novelist's use of such arcane material will inevitably involve questions of propriety: but I prefer to leave this problem of artistic licence to be fought out elsewhere, as I have no doubt it will be'. However putting this question to the novelist I find that Ricmcr's assertion is, apparently, quite incorrect. White claims not to have even read Jung at the time of writing his first five novels- and these works, to be sure, are his most 'Jungian'. I had written to White specifically in relation to The Aunt's Story, which demonstrates an almost uncanny relation to Jungian thought, and he replied in a letter of 1975 to say that he 'had not read any Jung till about the time when [he] was writing The Solid Mandala'. 'Then', White continued, 'I can honestly say he became an influence. But anything Jungian in The Aunt's Story can only have come out of the unconscious.'

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Published 1 October 1979 in Volume 9 No. 2. Subjects: Literary influences, Literary inspiration & creativity, Writer's works.

Cite as: Tacey, David J.. ‘Patrick White: Misconceptions about Jung’s Influence.’ Australian Literary Studies, vol. 9, no. 2, 1979, doi: 10.20314/als.3d2c53f165.