Andy McCormack

Dramatising the Inherited and Cultural Complex: Re-reading Fiction Through the Lens of Effective Protagonism

Inspired by Terence Dawson and Susan Rowland, Andy McCormack responds to their call for a new way of ‘doing’ Jungian literary research by re-reading contemporary fiction through the lens of ‘effective protagonism’ (Dawson, 2004). In this lecture, Andy seeks to contextualise the relationship between the construction of childhood and children’s literature in the cultural imagination with Jung’s theories pertaining to the constellation of personal and cultural complexes in children. Andy will do so through case studies of three novels: The Children’s Book (A.S. Byatt, 2009), The Bluest Eye (Toni Morrison, 1970), and Gone Girl (Gillian Flynn, 2012).

Writing in response to charges summed up by biographer Frank McLynn that C.G. Jung ‘never wrote anything significant on child psychology [and] always found the subject a bore’ (1996: 517), in these texts Andy locates significant contributions by Jung to how we conceptualise the relationship between children, their families, and the cultures in which they are raised in the development of personality. Andy considers cultural texts as sites in which Jungian concepts can be dramatised, challenged and explored, opening up space for consideration as to how these concepts have become embedded in the contemporary collective psyche. Andy’s research focusses on the intergenerational impact of emotion on the inner world of individuals, and the immediate, familial as well as local and national cultures in which they live. He traces literary examples of Jung’s conviction as to the burden faced by many children who must ‘re-enact under unconscious compulsion the unlived lives of [their] parents’ (CW 6: 307). This conviction is of heightened relevance in the wake of recent social upheaval, and provides a context through which parallels between the constellation of individual and cultural complexes can be drawn.


Andy McCormack is a PhD candidate at the Centre for Research in Children’s Literature, University of Cambridge, and a graduate of the University of Oxford (BA Hons, English Language and Literature) and University College London (PGCE, Early Years). Andy participated in the Jung Institut’s Winter Intensive Course (2019) and undertook research in the Library of Congress, Washington DC’s Jung Collection as a visiting Fellow (2022). Andy is Secretary and Trustee of the Cambridge Jungian Circle, and a member of the International Research Society for Children’s Literature.


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