Sue Rosenthall's book review of Out of the Shadows, from the Journal of Analytical Psychology June, 2011.
Good dramatic writing is an expression of empathy. The words must carry fellow feeling, inhabiting the various perspectives of individuals in conflict struggling to find a viable foothold in the tumultuous currents of their lives. The play script, Out of the Shadows: A Story of Emma Jung and Toni Wolff, written by Elizabeth Clark-Stern, chronicles the experiences and relationship between two aristocratic Swiss women in the life of Dr. Carl Jung. Throughout forty, often wounding, years of interaction, Emma, Jung's wife, and Toni, his mistress, friend and analyst, suffered the pain of engagement in a triangulated relationship. Therapist and dramatist Clark-Stern offers us a fresh slant on this complex alliance, creating two women characters with strength and resilience, capable of insight, change and growth through the storm of their difficult liaison.
Toni and Emma occupy centre stage and are the focus of the reader/viewer's attention in this two-person drama. They are cast, not as 'Jungian women', the constellation of acolytes who in the first half of the previous century surrounded and bolstered Jung, but as two complex individuals. In this story, the lens has been calibrated to a new setting, now offering the depth of field of an alternative, female perspective.
We first enter the world of C.G. Jung, seemingly tranquil on the surface, set in a paradisiacal garden fronting Jung's residence on the lake at Küsnacht. It is the summer of 1910 and the playwright envisions Toni Wolff on her way to a therapy session with Jung. We meet Toni as Jung's wife might have experienced her at their first encounter: a fashionably dressed young Swiss woman, desperate and sullen, sent to Jung for analysis by her mother because of severe depression. The view has to be provisional. The story, it is important to remember, is a work of the imagination hung on the bones of research, given flesh and life by Clark-Stern, with sufficient artistic licence taken to make the story coherent and accessible.
The reader's first impressions of young Toni come through the sensate and feeling reflections of Emma Jung. 'How many times did I see you Toni Wolff whispering up the path, the pearl buttons of your lace blouse catching the morning light?' Toni, in turn, is introduced to Emma through her most highly developed functions, thinking and intuition. She quotes Shakespeare, challenges Emma, 'Pardon me Frau Jung, but I believe you have not read sufficient Nietzsche', and insists that she, Toni, will not marry. A subtle and effective method of characterization by the storyteller, this introduction to the two women coincides somewhat with prevailing images of wife and lover in Jung's life. Clark-Stern invites us to imagine such a casual meeting between the women most significant to Jung who come to endure the emotional impact of Jung's attachments. She then draws us deeper into the relationship between the two women, envisioning their connection as an
extended active imagination with the female characters in an intense dialogue with each other and the significant male figures in their lives over the span of decades.
The reader can imagine hearing echoes of what might have been for Toni Wolff an unconscious enactment of a primary Oedipal triangle. Elizabeth Clark-Stern suggests that Toni, a father's daughter, is grieving the loss of this significant, ambivalent, male figure in her life. Her father, we learn, valued her intellect yet denied her a university education, and, after his death, consigned her to traditional female role expectations. Toni's transference to Jung could have been that he was the great man who would recognize her gifts, treat her as an intellectual peer, and educate her in his theories and methodology. This is, of course, conjecture, yet by presenting these two characters with such dimensionality, Clark-Stern opens the reader to projection and fantasy beyond the limits of what has previously been known about the women's complicated relationship.
Initially, we see each woman through the eyes of the other as the 'enemy' in a battle for the heart and mind of Jung, each embodying the characteristics of two very different feminine natures. Readers familiar with Jung's biography learn that perhaps what we see and expect to see in these two women are the archetypal, masculine-based, anima projections of Carl Jung: Emma as ballast, anchor, earth mother and Toni as soul mate, muse, mystical partner with an intuitive grasp of the unconscious. Mother and Heteira, opposites in the female psyche, according to Toni Wolff's essay on the feminine, seem to reflect the polarities in Jung's perspective on women. The confines of these projections are ultimately deeply wounding to both. Through the vehicle of dialogue over the passage of years, the reader experiences a transformation in each woman as she steps 'out of the shadows'; that is, out of the shadow projection of the other on her and the anima
projection of Jung, and into a claiming of greater personhood.
What are the stylistic devices Clark-Stern uses to move along the narrative? Toni and Emma first talk with each other, argue, express their pain and hostility; then resentment and, ultimately, understanding and mutual respect. In addressing the audience directly, each woman also confronts the powerful men in her life: Emma in correspondence with Dr. Sigmund Freud and impassioned dialogue with Jung, and Toni by challenging Jung. In this way, parallels and bonds between Toni and Emma are established. Each woman pleads, first, to have her talents and gifts seen and validated by a powerful male figure, then, as her confidence and awareness blossom, each comes forth with piercing de-idealization of and confrontation with Jung. The reader does not know if these are thoughts or bold words of Toni and Emma but such expression becomes a crucial vehicle for each in establishing her female authority. Thus, each woman challenges the idealized and internalized
masculine aspects of her own female self. What is enacted in the second act of this drama are the essential stages of positive female development: moving beyond the negative animus, the culturally sanctioned, often devaluing, male attitude towards women, and toward claiming a solid feminine ground of being. Toni and Emma must come to the awareness of shadow carried by the other, that is, how each has to claim the projected parts of self to become whole. Emma must claim her own intellect and Toni her need to mother and generate. Both then can 'birth' potential in her own psyche: Toni by 'nurturing' analysts in training and Emma through her writing and teaching of classes.
Clark-Stern's story of these two powerful women stands as a convincing narrative. Even without the advantage of viewing the play, the characters come to life for me, embodied, passionate and admirable. Her vision of the women adds essential dimension to both Toni and Emma and certainly to Jung.
Wolff, T. (1956). Structural Forms of the Feminine Psyche. Trans. Paul Watzlawik (privately printed for the C.G, Jung Institute, Zurich.