Wlliam Gilmore Simms
The Simms Review (Vol 7: No 2) >> Guy Rivers's Self-esteem Deficit and the Psychological Prescience of William Gilmore Simms >> Page 10

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Secondary Scholarship | 1999
Transcription is not the sort of self-loathing that it seems a murderer ought to have. Instead, it is
the nadir of the same self-esteem deficit complex with which Simms depicts him
throughout: not fully his fault, perhaps, but as much a part of his character as his
brooding manner and his practiced erudition.
Simms's depiction of the causes and effects of Rivers's self-esteem deficit
reflects his prescient awareness of principles in the study of the psyche that had
not yet been formulated when he was writing. That awareness, embodied with too
much precision to be called accidental or trivial, preceded not only the
psychological study of self-esteem deficit, but the field of psychology itself. Early
twentieth century German psychologist Hermann Ebbingaus said that his
discipline "has a long past, but a short history" (qtd. in Branden). The present
study identifies Simms as a minor public figure in the late pre-history of
psychology. The history of literature, though, is its past. As such, Simms ought
to be recognized as a forerunner of the twentieth century modernist authors whose
often-obsessive awareness of the psychological state of their characters was a
defining point of the period. Finally, Simms's prescience reinforces the post-
modern tenet concerning the nature of knowledge itself: that the facile making of
lists that definitively ascribe a given intellectual development to a given scholar
psychology to Sigmund Freud, for instance—can be misleading.

Works Cited

Branden, Nathaniel. The Psychology of Self-esteem. New York: Bantam Books.
Coppersmith, Stanley. The Antecedents of Self-esteem. San Francisco: W.H.
Freeman and Company. 1967.
Frey, Diane, and C. Jesse Carlock. Enhancing Self Esteem. Muncie, IN:
Accelerated Development, Inc. 1989.
Simms, William Gilmore. Guy Rivers: A Tale of Georgia. 1834. Ed. John
Caldwell Guilds. Fayetteville: The University of Arkansas Press. 1993.
Swann, William. Self-traps: The Elusive Quest for Higher Self-esteem. New
York: W.H. Freeman and Company. 1996.
Wells, L. Edward. Self-esteem: Its Conceptualization and Measurement. Beverly
Hills, CA: Sage Publications. 1976.