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Dissertation Title:

The Myth of the Feminine: Problematic Fictions


Leslie Stoupas

Date, Time & Place:

July 23, 2015 at 4:00 pm
South Hall, Lambert Road Campus


This study argues that the veneration, romanticization and projection of the feminine in depth psychology is problematic. Depth psychology claims that the masculine and feminine principles exist as archetypes in the collective unconscious. It also claims that these principles are not attached to men and women, yet it coopts imagery that represents the principles in ways that identify them as such, as well as describing certain modes of thinking or acting as definitively masculine or feminine. Specifically, the claim that the masculine principle dominates conscious life results in positing the feminine as a powerful unconscious force, leading to an interpretation of it as transcendent or numinous, revered as a principle needed to heal psychic damage from the overreach of the masculine in patriarchy. This veneration leads to the feminine being romanticized as a panacea for sociocultural ills and projected onto women as carriers of this healing potential.
This dissertation employs philosophical and depth psychological theories highlighting the relationship between truth, history, myth and fiction to challenge mythopoetic narratives of the feminine and their effect on perceptions of women. Specifically, it uses James Hillman’s concept of healing fiction to demonstrate how narratives that result from mythopoetic collusion between psychological fictions are believed as true, and when applied retroactively, are used to reframe historical personal and cultural experiences. The study critiques the comingling of women and the feminine and the resultant essentializing of women by analyzing depth psychology’s anima theory, matriarchal and Goddess mythology popularized in the twentieth century, the conflation of women, nature and the feminine in the ecology movement, and narratives implying women’s obligation to use the feminine to heal the world.
The findings of this study call for the lived experience and potential of women to be recognized and valued above fantasies about the feminine. They also suggest that depth psychology’s insistence on the masculine/feminine polarization contributes to patriarchal ideology. Finally, they identify the feminine as a psychological fiction that helps the psyche navigate through the sociocultural complexity of patriarchal culture.


All oral defense attendees must shuttle to the Lambert Road Campus from the Best Western Hotel in Carpinteria. Parking on campus is not available.

  • Program/Track/Year: Mythological Studies, Track E, 2007
  • Chair: Dr. Laura Grillo
  • Reader: Dr. Lori Pye
  • External Reader: Robin van Löben Sels
  • Keywords: The Feminine, Healing Fiction, Women, Patriarchy