ABSTRACT

In choosing to discuss the late works of Eugene O’Neill, Henry James, and Ludwig van Beethoven, I have selected plays, novels, and compositions that, more than being simply later or last works, represent stylistic and aesthetic reorganizations. The life pattern of each of these creative artists follows somewhat similar paths. As adolescents, each showed no great promise as a significantly creative person-Beethoven alone being something of a heavily pushed and pressured prodigy, but as a pianist performer, not as a composer. Each ended up in a field related to his father’s activities-James O’Neill was a prominent actor, Henry James, Sr., a writer of numerous books on religiousphilosophic subjects, and Johann Beethoven, as well as his father Ludwig, were professional musicians. When O’Neill, James, and Beethoven completed their apprenticeships, they each scored striking successes-received sponsorship in intellectual circles and moved steadily toward the highest level of accomplishment of any of their contemporaries in their respective fields. Then, at a point of considerable success, each suffered a trauma that interrupted the flow of this progressive development of their art. The sources of the traumas were varied, but their reactions were similar-a period of paralysis, both personal and creative-followed by an altered organization in both their lives and their works. Each took the very elements out of which he had built his successful works and subjected them to re-examination. Then, using other elements drawn from his personal past and the aesthetic traditions of his art, he reorganized his creative output into a new style-his so-called late works. It is the interplay between life experience, past and present, and creative change that interests a psychoanalyst, and it is to this that I shall largely refer.