Craig Stephenson draws on depth psychology to provide an original and profound study of W. H. Auden’s Pulitzer Prize winning poem, The Age of Anxiety. In this dramatic poem, Auden draws on Jung’s psychological typology to explore and develop the themes of identity and integrity in times of war. Stephenson examines Auden’s use of Jung’s critical psychology of type to understand the traumatic effects of war on the individual and collective psyche, as well as the noxious attractions of fascism. In this light, Stephenson also examines Leonard Bernstein’s symphony, The Age of Anxiety (Symphony No. 2 for Piano and Orchestra), inspired by Auden’s poem, and three ballets based on Bernstein’s music, choreographed by Jerome Robbins (New York City Ballet), John Neumeier (Hamburg Ballet), and Liam Scarlett (Royal Ballet, London).
Using all these creative works as points for reflection, Stephenson surveys historically the concept of “anxiety,” from Kierkegaard through five editions of the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). Interweaving Auden’s exploration of the twentieth-century mind with Jungian depth psychology, Stephenson extrapolates forward into our time, with its mounting political tensions and escalating intolerance, and inquires into the sufferings currently diagnosed as “anxiety” and their significance.