Journal Article Review

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Larissa J. Taylor-Smither. Elizabeth I: A Psychological Profile. The Sixteenth Century Journal, Vol. 15, No.1 (Spring, 1984), pp, 47-72 Larissa J. Taylor-Smither’s article, Elizabeth I: A Psychological Profile, researches into which factors determined Elizabeth’s position as an effective leader and how she achieved success in her reign, despite the odds stacked against her. The text seeks to understand why male attitudes towards ruling women still remained negative despite this successful reign of Elizabeth I. Moreover, it looks into her childhood and analyses how events shaped her development to make her into a confident woman ruling a man’s world. The key argument, maintained throughout the text, is that Sigmund Freud’s theory of the Oedipus complex was not fully completed by Elizabeth and so Larissa J. Taylor-Smither suggests that this led to unresolved issues therefore the subconscious psychological issues are what made her rule with masculine traits. Overall, I found it a simplistic article that doesn’t consider other psychological factors or theories that may well provide more substantial evidence to the findings as well as allow the reader a more balanced analysis of Elizabeth’s psychological profile. Taylor-Smither begins her argument by evaluating Elizabeth’s childhood between the Oral (0-2 years) and Anal (2-3 years) developmental years. It combines the events of Anne Boleyn’s death and the consequential lack of love from her father as the key reasons why Elizabeth could not complete her Oedipus complex development. In Freud’s interpretation of the theory he links it the development of the superego “which uses guilt to prevent continuation of incestuously oriented relationships.” Taylor-Smither then relates this to Elizabeth in that her being unable to complete the process she constantly uses the said guilt as a way of remaining out of conjugal relationships.

It also looks into other aspects that played into the Oedipus complex being unresolved such as the change Lady Bryan’s (Elizabeth’s carer) attention when Edward was born. It is suggested that Elizabeth learnt the lesson: maleness is what counts, through this change in Lady Bryan’s responsibilities. Furthermore, the complex is unresolved as Elizabeth no longer has a satisfactory female model and therefore she is only left with masculine identification. The article also includes Karen Harney’s theory that without a suitable female role model Elizabeth developed a dread of pregnancy and childbirth as well as Anna Freud’s ‘identification with the aggressor’ theory; Freud suggests it could be a normal aspect of development in Elizabeth’s character or it could well be the outcome of unresolved Oedipal conflicts. The article continues to take interest in key aspects of Elizabeth’s life such as the Seymour scandal which, is said to have come about because when he married Katherine Parr, Elizabeth felt personal disappointment and was outraged by propriety, particularly as he proposed to her before the marriage. This became her first tentative exploration of male to female relationships however it led Elizabeth to disgrace as well as Seymour’s death. This had repercussions of her childhood and therefore it must be from this event that the article argues Elizabeth’s attitudes on marriage and childbearing had been decided. Mary I’s accession marked a great period of personal change for Elizabeth as Mary’s mistakes reinforced her humanism beliefs as well as her attitude on marriage. Elizabeth’s imprisonment in Mary’s reign proved beneficial as she turned to her studies and learned a cautious and dissembling approach to politics and diplomacy. Therefore, Taylor-Smither suggests Elizabeth ruled as the only way she knew how: as a man. Taylor-Smither also puts forward ideas that Elizabeth had an attachment to Henrican models as well as having intentions to restore religion as her father left it. There are also implications that she enjoyed her position of being in control...
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