Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in English



First Advisor

Wilfred Dvorak


Otto Rank, more than just psychologist, psychiatrist, and psychoanalyst, was a compassionate human being. The humanity reflected in his work is the subject of this dissertation and I have shown how his ideas can illuminate historical figures and fictional characters in literature and film.

Chapter one examines Rank's "fine line" in order to outline the difficult path that all must travel in life, and some of the methods that are chosen to cope with experience. To Rank, this is a balancing act between acts of creative will and choices influenced by anxiety, guilt, and fear of life and death. Rank claims that the only vital factor in life is the human factor and that human understanding is more important than intellectual knowledge, because it is emotional and cannot be programmed.

Chapter two examines the search for Rank's idea of fear as the dominant force influencing experience, love, life, and death. This is the fear of life and the fear of death that is part of our inner being and that can push us toward the elusive goal of immortality or can hold us back with some form of neurosis.

Chapter three focuses on Rank's ideas about neurosis. He approaches the subject from a very human point-of-view, noting that it is a very private affair, because each person molds his own peculiar stylistic reactions to life.

Chapter four examines Rank's thoughts about sexuality. He bases the idea of sexuality on the spiritual beginnings of primitive man rather than physical relations with the opposite sex. Views of "perversion" or sex other than heterosexual man-woman, intercourse-baby, are elaborated upon with the idea of narcissism and a sense of guilt being involved in the process. Rank suggests that homosexuality could well be seen as a protest against standardization.

Chapter five deals with Rank's ideas of the emotions and how our feelings dominate attitudes toward life and experience. Rank believes that painful feelings such as guilt, anxiety, and hate are separating or isolating, while joyful feelings of love, hope, and pleasure are uniting and binding.

Chapter six examines Rank's ideas about the artist and the hero. Rank's theories about creativity and the search for immortality are investigated in the forging of some highly motivated personalities who often leave their imprint upon society.

Finally, chapter seven examines Rank's most important and often most conroversial contribution to psychoanalysis- the "will" as the catalyst and prime mover for freedom of choice, and the force that so powerfully influences the course taken along the "fine line" in conjunction with fear, neurosis, sexuality, and the emotions which we all experience.



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