C. Jung Theory Of Unconscious And Literary Text


The article discusses the process of creating and analyzing a literary text, developed by Swiss psychologist, psychiatrist and cultural studies expert Carl Gustav Jung. Jung believes that art is expressed through a separate individual in the form of a work of art. This article deals only with literary works. The emphasis is placed on the mandatory interaction of factors between consciousness and the collective unconscious. Two ways of creating literary texts are described from the point of view of C.G. Jung. The concept of "creative person" as introduced by Jung is considered. The scheme of the artwork analysis through the mythological image and the installation of archetypal connections is presented. It is revealed how the knowledge of the Jung’s archetypal theory can serve for creating artistic works. Main components of the Jung’s theory – consciousness, unconscious, possibility of their use in creating and analyzing a work of art are considered. An example of the writer's individuation in the process of creating a work of art is considered. The authors of the article conclude that the interaction of the conscious and unconscious, the inner and outer worlds of man is important for the quality of a work of art. Unconscious gives a more expansive and original view on the hero and his life. Unconscious, engaging in the process of creativity, expands the possibilities of the creator. To some extent, people can create due to the unconscious. In general, Jung's theory directs us to work with the man’s inner world.

Keywords: Collective unconsciouspersonashadowanimaanimusindividuation


Scientists and philosophers of different eras productively use works of art to express their philosophy. At the same time, there are different methods for analyzing works of art.

Hennequin (1892), the author of the aesthetic analysis method, thought that a work of art should be understood “as a symbol, as a mark, as an exposure of the author’s spiritual organization and the organization of the whole society” (p. 201). The distinctive feature of his method is the interpretation of signs as manifestations of the author’s or his readers’ spiritual organization.

Vygotsky (1925), the author of the objective-analytical method, sought to study pure and impersonal psychology of art. “Analyzing a literary piece, to reveal the psychological law that underlies it, the mechanism through which the work operates” (Vygotsky, 1925, p. 34). He believed that researchers “have the right to eliminate the psychology of a particular type of artwork from its specific action” (Vygotsky, 1925, p. 34). Vygotsky believed that it was impossible to switch to the author’s psychology from the interpretation of signs from literary texts.

Jung's (Jung & Neumann, 1996) method is based on analytical psychology. According to Jung & Neumann (1996), Jung's method in the analysis of works of art “Starts from deep transpersonal, archetypal factors / interpretations”.

From the 19th century the process of artistic creativity as a result of conscious human activity is considered as traditional. The problem of the relationship between consciousness and the unconscious in the process of artistic creativity became relevant after the introduction of psychoanalysis in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

But the practitioners of psychoanalysis did not have a common opinion on this issue. For the founder of psychoanalysis Sigmund Freud (1856-1939), the process of creativity is identified with the mechanism of sublimation. In his work “Leonardo da Vinci and his childhood memories”, through the theory of libido, Freud tries to prove that the author’s sexuality and mental complexes influence the creative process. For Freud, it is important to find the “mental” diagnosis of each author through discovering signs and symbols in his artistic works.

The founder of analytical psychology, Jung (1875-1961), proposed a radically new approach to the study of the creation process. Jung did not support the Freud’s idea about the influence of the author’s sexual complexes on his works.

Jung (1969) believed that the birth of a work of art is connected with the influence of collective unconscious. He wrote: “Art is a kind of innate system that takes possession of an individual and makes it his tool” (Jung, 1969, p. 37). Therefore, from the Jung’s point of view, works of art express the content of the collective unconscious.

Half a century has passed since the publication of Jung's work, but his idea is timeless. Modern philosophers and psychologists rely on his ideas in research. For example, Jung's theory is effectively used, supplemented by “ideas and factual data of folklore studies and anthropology” (Russo, 2000, p. 258) for the analysis of works of literature.

Problem Statement

Is a work of art a product of the interaction of the author’s consciousness and unconscious? (on the material of literary texts).

Research Questions

How is an artwork created? Is a work of art a product of the interaction between author’s consciousness and unconscious? The main questions of the study arises problematic questions like: How does the unconscious affect the artistic creativity? Can it expand the possibilities of creativity? Under what conditions can the unconscious be used positively, and when is it dangerous and should it be limited? How goes the process of artistic creativity? How productive are the elements of the collective unconscious in artistic creation? What arsenal gave Jung for the author’s creative work of and how does it affect the development of the author's personality?

Purpose of the Study

The purpose of this study is to show how the elements of the collective unconscious affect the author’s creations and are expressed in literary texts.

Research Methods

The methods of analysis and synthesis were used to study the works of C. Jung and other researchers to identify the distinctive features of their position. The use of the hermeneutic method made it possible to understand the authors’ creativity and the essence of the content expressed in the characters of artistic works. The dialectical method helped to reveal the development of the authors’ creative works.


According to Jung (1969), the most important factor for creating of a work of art is the interaction of consciousness and the unconscious (p. 61) (Figure 01 ).

The figure shows how some kind of fusion, a combination of consciousness and the unconscious, plus the individual characteristics serve as a source for creating works of art. To quote Jung, “the unconscious is a bottomless source of creative ideas, the expression of which flashes in works of literature, painting, music, in dance compositions, in fairy tales, in myths, in primitive, ancient and modern religions and so on” (Hanna, 2016, p. 46).

Figure 1: Figure 01. The interaction between factors of consciousness and the unconscious (compiled by the authors)
Figure 01. The interaction between factors of consciousness and the unconscious (compiled by the authors)
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Jung (1969), attracting attention to the collective unconscious, writes:

Great poetry draws its strength from the life of humanity, and we cannot understand its content at all if we proceed only from personal factors. Whenever the collective unconscious becomes a living experience and is brought to a conscious court of time, this event is an act of creativity, important for an entire era. A work of art can be justly called a message to generations of people. (p. 61)

Thus, a work of art is a source of information from the unconscious.

Describing the process of creating a work of art, Jung draws attention to the fact that the process of creation itself can go two different ways (Figure 02 ). Source: modification of (Jung, 1969, p. 62). In one case, the author of the work is the head of the creation process. He deliberately controls it. In another case, the artistic work takes the lead, the creative process itself controls the author.

In his lecture “On the attitude of analytical psychology to poetry” Jung (1969) said that “a work of art can be described as an almost living being that uses a person as a nutrient medium, using its abilities at its own discretion and shaping itself according to its own creative plans” (p. 62).

Figure 2: Figure 02. The process of creating a literary piece (complied by authors)
Figure 02. The process of creating a literary piece (complied by authors)
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Jung (1969) draws attention to the fact that during work, in both cases, it becomes unimportant who is in charge - “intentions and abilities cannot be discerned from the act of creation” (p. 158).

In his works, Jung introduces the concept of “creative personality”, defining it as a synthesis of two contradictory qualities (Figure 03 ). Source: modification of (Jung, 1969). "On the one hand, it is still a person with his personal life, and on the other - an impersonal creative process" (Jung, 1969, p. 159).

Figure 3: Figure 03. Creative personality (complied by authors)
Figure 03. Creative personality (complied by authors)
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The creation of a literary work is a kind of self-expression that naturally and visibly relies on the writer's inner world. Jung offers an interesting interpretation of the author’s identity. The author “is not a person of good will who follows his goals, but a person who allows art to achieve its goals through himself” (Jung, 1969, p. 109). Jung writes that the author of literary piece, as a creative personality, is ““a man” in a higher sense — he is a “collective man”, the engine and blacksmith of the mankind’s unconscious mental life” (Jung, 1969, p 109).

One of the Jung's theory advantages is the method of literary analysis through the identified symbols that he developed himself (Figure 04 ). Source: modification of (Jung, 1969).

Figure 4: Figure 04. Literary analysis scheme according to Jung (complied by authors)
Figure 04. Literary analysis scheme according to Jung (complied by authors)
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This technique helps to search for implied meaning through a mythological image or universal human symbolism, that have roots in the unconscious.

Later in this article we observe the main components of the Jung’ collective unconscious theory (archetype, persona, shadow, anima and animus) and reveal how they work in the process of creating a literary piece. We analyze what arsenal Jung gave authors for the creative work and how these components can influence the development of the author’s personality. Let us start with the component of consciousness - the ego.


Jung wrote that the ego "forms the center of the consciousness field of sort; and includes the empirical personality, the ego-subject of all personal acts of consciousness” (Jung, 1969). Researcher Stein (1982) believes that the flow between ego-consciousness and the unconscious "brings with it an influx of energy and vitality, as well as more creativity" (p. 18). This interaction with the unconscious increases the creative component.

Ego plays an important role in human life. It provides him with an awareness of the norms, rules, traditions in society, and controls over their observance. In this case, there are several variants of the interaction of consciousness and the unconscious. First, the ego is so strong that a person does not even suspect the existence of the unconscious and has no interaction with it. Such a writer may create works recognized and approved by society. But the next generation will forget about them and about him. Secondly, the power and power of the unconscious can be so strong that, when interacting with the consciousness, it sweeps away its control. In this situation, the creative process dominates, turning the author into a “tool”. The wealth of society are new ideas, ideals, images of new heroes.

It is important for a writer to realize his ego-consciousness as interacting with a vast area of the unconscious. Then he productively works as a person and creates original creative works.

The process of introspection enhances the ego power. Ego through tough positions can limit the originality of the writer. It interferes with the creative process. Apparently, therefore, Gogol burned the 2nd volume of Dead Souls.


Jung wrote that any creativity draws its strength from the life of mankind. Whenever the collective unconscious becomes a living experience and brings a new view to a conscious level, this event is a creative act that is important for an entire era. He emphasized that a work of art can be called a message to generations of people.

In the collective unconscious Jung singled out the components that he called archetypes. Jung has several definitions of archetypes. Archetypes are “a class of psychic contents, the events of which do not have their source in a separate individual. The peculiarity of these contents lies in them belonging to a type that carries within them the properties of all humanity as a whole” (Zelensky, 2000, p. 218). The archetype is “eternal, it is timeless” (Jung, 2015a). “If in the history of nations archetypes are found in the form of myths, then they are in each individual and act most strongly there (or, in other words, they most strongly anthropomorphize reality), where consciousness is most cornered and weakened, where, therefore, fantasy can drown out the reality of the outside world ”(Jung, 2015b, p. 71). It is significant that in the beginning. 19th century A. Pushkin managed to express the archetype of the Russian woman so well that in the middle of 20th century A. Akhmatova stated that all of us (Russian women) are descendants of Pushkin’s Tatyana.

In a literary text, the writer captures the cultural and historical features of his own ego. He expresses them not only through his heroes, but also seeks to follow them in his life. This contributes to the development of the personality of both the writer himself and the readers. Leo Tolstoy in his works reflected the archetypical features of the Russian people through the images of his heroes. And in his live tried to embody them. As a result, he had a lot of followers, and a movement - “Tolstoyism” was formed.

A person

Jung defined the person as “an arbitrary segment of the collective psychic, often formed very painfully and with great difficulty” (Jung, 2013, p. 94). Person arises as the adaptation of an individual to life in a particular society.

A person is a mask that we use; a kind of mediator between the ego-consciousness and the external world, the specific society in which we live. Person helps us in our interaction with other personalities. Person is our roles that we play in society.

But on the other hand, a person is a kind of deception. A person seems to be an element of an individual, but in fact expresses the collective unconscious. This is a kind of compromise between the individual and society.

Writers in their work often use stereotypical symbols - characters. These characters can be researched and transformed through the person’s understanding..


Shadow as a component of Jung's theory has many aspects. Shadow consists of those negative qualities and traits that a person has rejected in himself as condemned by society (for example, greed, rage and hatred). From an early age, children in society are taught to consciously suppress these feelings. Negative qualities, suppressed by consciousness, become unconscious, are no longer recognized as parts of our self.

According to the Jungian personality model, shadow content regresses, and acquires a special kind of power in the psyche that can overwhelm the mind.

In the literary works there are examples that describe how the character controls its own shadow. These stories seem unrealistic and unrelated to the author’s conscious life and world. But they resonate as true stories about the true human psyche of the characters.

Very often the literary works that describe the shadow are presented as being unreal. But analyzing such works of art, we approach the understanding of the human shadow, the many and varied ways of its manifestation (Korkunova & Bushueva, 2017). Authors of works with the help of this personality component can create a mentally authentic situation in a work of art.

Thus, the shadow gives the writer a deep understanding of the human psyche and, in a way, makes it possible to reproduce reality through the most fantastic story.

Working with the Jungian shadow concept can be compared to a black and white palette. There are very dark negative villains and very bright good characters.

Anima and Animus

Jung stated a hypothesis that the soul of every man has an inner feminine aspect (which he called "anima") and that the soul of every woman has an inner masculine aspect ("animus"). Both of these aspects, according to Jung, are the archetypes of the collective unconscious. They can express both personal and collective traits, which contain functions and characteristics opposite to a conscious personality. Animus and anima can be projected into consciousness. Then characters appear in the works of art, in which they are strongly pronounced. For example, Vassa Zheleznova in Gorky’s (2014) work. Knowing this allows you to identify the motives of the characters’ behavior, as well as to be more productive in the works. After all, anima or animus acts as an internal critic.


Jung (2013) introduced the concept of individuation. Individuation from Jung’s (2013) point of view is “a process of differentiation, with the goal to develop an individual personality” (p. 97). He describes individuation as “the process of psychological development in which the innate individual qualities are carried out; in other words, it is the process by which a person becomes the specific, unique being that he actually is” (Jung, 2013, p. 99). Jung suggested that people naturally move towards their own integrity, they exist in a constant state of formation. For individuation, the interaction of consciousness and the unconscious is very important.

Thus, the writer, as a person who is in the process of individuation, can express the unconscious in his work. As a result, the work may turn out to be more profound. In the children's fairy tale "The Golden Key, or the Adventures of Pinocchio" A. Tolstoy described the process of individuation. It is believed that this is due to his serious illness during the writing of the work, when the control of consciousness weakens and the unconscious manifests itself.

Distinctive feature of Jung's approach

Jung found that literature describes the typical, clearly manifested features of time and epoch. And this is achieved by the interaction between consciousness and the unconscious.

Jung analyzed popular literary pieces related to the best of world literature. This increased the importance of his analysis, allowed to show how his ideas work. Analyzing the figure of Nietzsche, he created a psychological portrait of the author, showed the problems of his development.


We have shown the importance of the unconscious role in the creative process from Jung's theory point of view. The quality of the artwork depends on the interaction between conscious and unconscious in a person. Unconscious gives the original vision of the hero and his life. Unconscious involvement in the process of creativity increases the possibilities of the author in artistic creation. Jung's theory directs us to work with the inner world of man. In our opinion, for most authors of literary works, it is important to identify the problems of the contemporaryy personality, its development, and also to predict “changes in the conscious worldview of its time” (Jung, 1969, p. 334). Without the manifestation of the unconscious any creativity is impossible.


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28 December 2019

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Korkunova, O., & Bushueva*, T. (2019). C. Jung Theory Of Unconscious And Literary Text. In D. Karim-Sultanovich Bataev, S. Aidievich Gapurov, A. Dogievich Osmaev, V. Khumaidovich Akaev, L. Musaevna Idigova, M. Rukmanovich Ovhadov, A. Ruslanovich Salgiriev, & M. Muslamovna Betilmerzaeva (Eds.), Social and Cultural Transformations in the Context of Modern Globalism, vol 76. European Proceedings of Social and Behavioural Sciences (pp. 544-553). Future Academy. https://doi.org/10.15405/epsbs.2019.12.04.74