Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

Phillip Sipiora, Ph.D.


Lawrence, Eliot, Yeats, Culture, Psychoanalysis


Otto Rank is a significant but generally overlooked figure in the early history of psychoanalysis, and his work provides an illuminating context for the study of subjectivity and modernist culture. The "modernist identity" of my title is intended to represent, first, the concept of the individual self identified and expressed during this period and, secondly, the unique identity of modernist culture developed by artists through creative acts and emanating as the intellectual ambiance of the era. Through an examination of Rank's later theories and the work of prominent modernist artists, including Lawrence, Yeats, and Eliot, this dissertation will show that Rank's expository writings emerge as psychoanalytic and cultural inquiry expressing essentially the same intellectual and social precepts presented by prominent modernist writers in substantially different ways. Rank's work therefore exists as a cotextual statement of the grand themes of those artists and of that era.

I also show that Rank's perception of the modernist landscape, whether literary, social, or cultural, at once illuminates and refutes the concept of modernism consciously constructed and advanced, as a poetic manifesto, by artists generally associated with the traditional modernist temperament. The diverse voices of modernism, in fact, often represented Rankian irrationality over the Freudian unconscious, a personality capable of reconstructing the fragmented self over one acquiescing to disintegration, and the spiritual or magical over the rational constructs of a progressively more scientific and technological age. I will demonstrate that Rank's theories provide not only a method for reading literature but a means for addressing issues critical for our time, including subjectivity, the process of individuation, diversity, and the empowering exercise of creative will.

The work of Eli Zaretsky and other contemporary cultural theorists, although never mentioning Rank or his work, presents the duty of criticism and psychoanalysis in our time as remarkably consistent with Rank's notion of psychoanalysis and the place of the individual in culture. Rank's ideas, originally founded upon nineteenth-century science and psychoanalysis, ultimately provide a context for understanding twentieth-century modernist culture as well as a rationale for developing a new concept of humanism and for advancing twenty-first century post-theory literary studies.