Unconscious Mind

by Saul McLeod

published 2009, updated 2015

Sigmund Freud didn't exactly invent the idea of the conscious versus unconscious mind,
but he certainly was responsible for making it popular and this was one of his main
contributions to psychology.
Freud (1900, 1905) developed a topographical model of the mind, whereby he described
the features of the mind’s structure and function. Freud used the analogy of an iceberg
to describe the three levels of the mind.
Freud (1915) described conscious mind, which consists of all the mental processes of
which we are aware, and this is seen as the tip of the iceberg. For example, you may be
feeling thirsty at this moment and decide to get a drink.
The preconscious contains thoughts and feelings that a person is not currently aware of,
but which can easily be brought to consciousness (1924). It exists just below the level of
consciousness, before the unconscious mind. The preconscious is like a mental waiting
room, in which thoughts remain until they 'succeed in attracting the eye of the conscious'
(Freud, 1924, p. 306).
This is what we mean in our everyday usage of the word available memory. For
example, you are presently not thinking about your mobile telephone number, but now it
is mentioned you can recall it with ease. Mild emotional experiences may be in the
preconscious but sometimes traumatic and powerful negative emotions are repressed
and hence not available in the preconscious.
Finally, the unconscious mind comprises mental processes that are inaccessible to
consciousness but that influence judgements, feelings, or behavior (Wilson, 2002).
According to Freud (1915), the unconscious mind is the primary source of human
behavior. Like an iceberg, the most important part of the mind is the part you cannot
Our feelings, motives and decisions are actually powerfully influenced by our past
experiences, and stored in the unconscious.
Freud applied these three systems to his structure of the personality, or psyche – the id,
ego and superego. Here the id is regarded as entirely unconscious whilst the ego and
superego have conscious, preconscious, and unconscious aspect.

Unconscious Mind

the goal of psychoanalysis is to reveal the use of such defence mechanisms and thus make the unconscious conscious. The unconscious mind contains our biologically based instincts (eros and thanatos) for the primitive urges for sex and aggression (Freud. and believed such information was locked away in the unconscious mind.While we are fully aware of what is going on in the conscious mind. The unconscious mind acts as a repository. and a primary assumption of Freudian theory is that the unconscious mind governs behavior to a greater degree than people suspect. we have no idea of what information is stored in the unconscious mind. The unconscious contains all sorts of significant and disturbing material which we need to keep out of awareness because they are too threatening to acknowledge fully. a ‘cauldron’ of primitive wishes and impulse kept at bay and mediated by the preconscious area. Freud believed that the influences of the unconscious reveal themselves in a variety of ways. Freud argued that our primitive urges often do not reach consciousness because they are unacceptable to our rational. 1915). and in slips of the tongue. includingdreams. conscious selves. now popularly known as 'Freudian slips'. For example. Freud (1920) gave an example of such a slip when a British Member of Parliament referred to a colleague with whom he was irritated as 'the honorable member from Hell' instead of from Hull. People has developed a range of defence mechanisms (such as repression) to avoid knowing what their unconscious motives and feelings are. This can happen through the process of repression. Indeed. Freud (1915) found that some events and desires were often too frightening or painful for his patients to acknowledge. . Freud (1915) emphasized the importance of the unconscious mind.

Indeed. For example. such as procedural memory (Tulving. psychology was sceptical regarding the idea of mental processes operating at an unconscious level. Freud (1915) has underestimated the importance of the unconscious. and the modern notion of an 'adaptive unconscious' (Wilson.Critical Evaluation Initially. sophisticated processing to the unconscious. self-referential aesthetic object. 1995). the free encyclopedia New Criticism was a formalist movement in literary theory that dominated American literary criticism in the middle decades of the 20th century. Separate to this module is our ability to recognize faces quickly and efficiently. Such empirical findings have demonstrated the role of unconscious processes in human behavior. and in terms of the iceberg analogy there is a much larger portion of the mind under the water. The work of English scholar I. The movement derived its name from John Crowe Ransom's 1941 book The New Criticism. and is extremely difficult to objectively test or measure. To other psychologists determined to be scientific in their approach (e. the modern view of the adaptive unconscious is that most information processing resides outside of consciousness for reasons of efficiency. 1972). thus illustrating how unconscious modules operate independently. which offered what was claimed to be an empirical . universal grammar (Chomsky. A. especially his Practical Criticism and The Meaning of Meaning. while Freud believed that primitive urges remained unconscious to protect individuals from experiencing anxiety. Finally. cognitive psychology has identified unconscious processes. 1999. rather than repression (Wilson. and social psychology has shown the importance of implicit processing(Greenwald & Banaji. However. automatic processing (Bargh & Chartrand. New Criticism From Wikipedia. particularly of poetry. and the notion of the unconscious is now an important focus of psychology. 2004). behaviorists) the concept of the unconscious mind has proved a source of considerable frustration because it defies objective description. Whereas Freud (1915) viewed the unconscious as a single entity. 2004) is not the same as the psychoanalytic one. Stroop. empirical research in psychology has revealed the limits of the Freudian theory of the unconscious mind.g. the gap between psychology and psychoanalysis has narrowed. 1972) is an unconscious language processor that lets us decide whether a sentence is correctly formed. 1935). to discover how a work of literature functioned as a self-contained. Richards. It emphasized close reading. The mind operates most efficiently by relegating a significant degree of high level. However. psychology now understands the mind to comprise a collection of modules that has evolved over time and operate outside of consciousness. For example.

Heather Dubrow notes that the prevailing focus of literary scholarship was on "the study of ethical values and philosophical issues through literature. which limited itself to pointing out the "beauties" and morally elevating qualities of the text. and moralistic bias from their analysis. and the biographical circumstances of the authors. they aimed to exclude the reader's response. These goals were articulated in Ransom's "Criticism.scientific approach. aesthetic concerns. tended to distract from the text and meaning of a poem and entirely neglect its aesthetic qualities in favor of teaching about external factors. they aimed for newer. the author's intention. and the study of modern poets was the province of non-academic essayists and book reviewers rather than serious scholars. Though their interest in textual study initially met with resistance from older scholars. such as his condemnation of Milton and Shelley.[2] It was felt. On the other hand. Condemning this as a version of Romanticism. the . was disparaged by the New Critics as too subjective and emotional. Eliot. which. systematic and objective method. . in which Eliot developed his notion of the "objective correlative". But the New Criticism changed this. influenced by nineteenth-century German scholarship. political criticism". comparative sources.[3] New Critics believed the structure and meaning of the text were intimately connected and should not be analyzed separately. and . In order to bring the focus of literary studies back to analysis of the texts. focused on the history and meaning of individual words and their relation to foreign and ancient languages. his liking for the so-called metaphysical poets and his insistence that poetry must be impersonal. the tracing of literary history. the literary appreciation school. Inc. greatly influenced the formation of the New Critical canon. Literature was approached and literary scholarship did not focus on analysis of texts." and Allen Tate's "Miss Emily and the Bibliographers. Contents [hide]       1History 2Criticism 3Important texts 4References 5Sources 6Further reading History[edit] New Criticism developed as a reaction to the older philological and literary history schools of the US North. S. such as "Tradition and the Individual Talent" and "Hamlet and His Problems". historical and cultural contexts. that the special aesthetic experience of poetry and literary language was lost in the welter of extraneous erudition and emotional effusions. but in the United States.[1] Also very influential were the critical essays of T. Eliot's evaluative judgments. especially by creative writers and by literary critics outside the academy." Close reading (or explication de texte) was a staple of French literary studies. it was felt. were important to the development of New Critical methodology. . These approaches.

doubtless because it offered a relatively straightforward and politically uncontroversial approach to the teaching of literature. an important inspiration was the teaching of John Crowe Ransom of Vanderbilt University. This fallacy would later be repudiated by theorists from the reader-response school of literary theory.[4] In his essay. and plot were used to identify the theme of the text. ambiguity. Although the New Criticism is no longer a dominant theoretical model in American universities. Fish criticizes Wimsatt and Beardsley in his essay "Literature in the Reader" (1970)." meaning that there was no clearly defined "New Critical" manifesto. a Professor of American Studies at Trinity College. Studying a passage of prose or poetry in New Critical style required careful. For Wimsatt and Beardsley. Brooks and Warren's Understanding Poetry and Understanding Fiction both became staples during this era. Cleanth Brooks. Wimsatt and Monroe Beardsley published a classic and controversial New Critical essay entitled "The Intentional Fallacy"." Cleanth Brooks notes that "The New Critic. for Paul Lauter. underpinning a number of subsequent theoretic approaches to literature including poststructuralism. Ironically. importation of meanings from outside the text was considered irrelevant. Although the New Critics were never a formal group. Indeed. a number of writings outline inter-related New Critical ideas. In another essay. meter. or "intended meaning" in the analysis of a literary work. some of its methods (like close reading) are still fundamental tools of literary criticism. Formal elements such as rhyme. one of the leading theorists from this school.[6] The hey-day of the New Criticism in American high schools and colleges was the Cold War decades between 1950 and the mid-seventies. or stance. the New Critics also looked for paradox. whose students (all Southerners). and Receptions studies followed. exacting scrutiny of the passage itself. and Robert Penn Warren would go on to develop the aesthetics that came to be known as the New Criticism. Criticism[edit] . the words on the page were all that mattered. William K. and potentially distracting.[5] Nevertheless. the New Historicism. deconstruction theory. "The Affective Fallacy. is a very elusive beast. "The New Criticism.Allen Tate. including. was himself trained by New Critics.characterization. In 1946. In addition to the theme. like the Snark. and reader-response theory." which served as a kind of sister essay to "The Intentional Fallacy" Wimsatt and Beardsley also discounted the reader's personal/emotional reaction to a literary work as a valid means of analyzing a text. New Criticism is a reemergence of the Southern Agrarians. Stanley Fish. setting. Other schools of critical theory. irony. and tension to help establish the single best and most unified interpretation of the text. in which they argued strongly against the relevance of an author's intention. school. poststructuralism. and deconstructionist theory.methods of the New Critics rapidly predominated in American universities until challenged by Feminism and structuralism in the 1970s.

"to put meaning and valuation of a literary work at the mercy of any and every individual [reader] would reduce the study of literature to reader psychology and to the history of taste." [9] Another objection to the New Criticism is that it is thought to aim at making criticism scientific. His criticism was revolutionary ." However. "If some of the New Critics have preferred to stress the writing rather than the writer. and that its practitioners were “uninterested in the human meaning.” which is attributed to the New Critics who are “accused of attempting to disguise the interests at work in their critical processes.René Wellek points out the erroneous nature of this criticism by noting that a number of the New Critics outlined their theoretical aesthetics in stark contrast to the "objectivity" of the sciences (although Ransom. in his essay "Criticism. the social function and effect of literature.S. Inc. Terence Hawkes writes that the fundamental close reading technique is based on the assumption that “the subject and the object of study— the reader and the text—are stable and independent forms. a critic ought to be considered to “[create] the finished work by his reading of it." an assumption which he identifies as the "ideology of liberal humanism.”[7] However. in his essay "The New Criticism" (1979). pointing out that. rather than products of the unconscious process of signification. He is essential for 'realizing' any poem or novel.[7][10] At times.” [7][8] Indicative of the reader-response school of theory. Eliot as a critic Eliot is one of the greatest literary critics of England from the point of view of the bulk and quality of his critical writings. and [not to] remain simply an inert consumer of a ‘ready-made’ product. . or at least “bringing literary study to a condition rivaling that of science." did advocate that "criticism must become more scientific. he stated.It was frequently alleged that the New Criticism treated literary texts as autonomous and divorced from historical context. His five hundred and odd essays occasionally published as reviews and articles had a far-reaching influence on literary criticism in the country.”[8] In response to critics like Hawkes. so have they given less stress to the reader—to the reader's response to the work. Wellek defended the New Critics in his essay “The New Criticism: Pro and Contra” (1978).”[8] For Hawkes. ideally. Brooks tempers his praise for the reader-response theory by noting its limitations. For instance. Yet no one in his right mind could forget the reader.Reader response is certainly worth studying. T. argued that the New Criticism was not diametrically opposed to the general principles of readerresponse theory and that the two could complement one another. Cleanth Brooks. or precise and systematic"). .

powerful liberty of mind to identify and interpret its own values and category of admiration for their generation. he does not judge all by the same standards. At times he assumes a hanging-judge attitude and his statements savor of a verdict. in our own day. except Russian. He says: “From time to time it is desirable. Still. Moreover. John Hayward says: “Matthew Arnold was such a critic as were Coleridge and Johnson and Dryden before him.” Such critics are rare. that some critic shall appear to review the past of our literature. startles and arrests attention. is Eliot himself.” Eliot’s criticism offers both reassessment and reaction to earlier writers. and set the poets and the poems in a new order. The credit for the renewal of interest in the Jacobean dramatists goes to Eliot. He called himself “a classicist in literature”. such faults do not detract Eliot’s greatness as a critic. His vital contribution is the reaction against romanticism and humanism which brought a classical revival in art . His essay on Dante aroused curiosity for the latter middle ages. His recognition of the greatness of the Metaphysical poets of the 17th century resulted in the Metaphysical revival of the 20th century. The novelty of his statements. reservations and qualifications. the end of criticism is to bring readjustment between the old and the new. hidden in sharp phrases. besides ability for judgment.” As a critic Eliot has his faults. for they must possess. According to Eliot. John Hayward says: “I cannot think of a critic who has been more widely read and discussed in his own life-time. Often his criticism is marred by personal and religious prejudices blocking an honest and impartial estimate. There is didacticism in his later essays and with the passing of time his critical faculties were increasingly exercised on social problems. His criticism has revolutionized the great writers of the past three centuries. and such. He has restored Dryden and other Augustan poets to their due place. Critics have also found fault with his style as too full of doubts. but in almost every language. and not only in English.which inverted the critical tradition of the whole English speaking work.

and points out that the function of criticism is to turn attention from the poet to his poetry.” Poetry was an expression of the emotions and personality for romantics. Eliot rejects this view and says that poetry is not an expression of emotion and personality but an escape from them. emotions and experiences. Perfect poetry results when instead of ‘dissociation of sensibility’ there is ‘unification of sensibility’. respect for order and authority is central to Eliot’s classicism. He sought to correct the excesses of “the abstract and intellectual” school of criticism represented by Arnold. He sought to raise criticism to the level of science.and criticism. G. Eliot’s views on the nature of poetic process are equally revolutionary. fragmentary”. Eliot most closely resembles Aristotle. for Eliot the greatness of a poem is tested by the order and unity it imposes on the chaotic and disparate experiences of the poet. The poetic process fuses these distinct experiences and emotions into new wholes. a critic must follow objective standards and must conform to tradition. the ordinary man’s experience is chaotic. it is organization. Wordsworth said that poetry was an overflow of powerful emotions and its origin is in “Emotions recollected in tranquility”. stressed the doctrine of the original sin and exposed the futility of the romantic faith in the “Inner Voice”. Wimsatt and Brooks are right in saying: . The emotional and the rational. In “The Metaphysical Poets”. The poet is only a catalytic agent that fuses varied emotions into new wholes. A. it is constantly amalgamating disparate experiences. According to him. irregular. faculties must work in harmony to produce great work of art. George says: “Eliot’s theory of the impersonality of poetry is the greatest theory on the nature of the process after Wordsworth’s romantic conception of poetry. Critics stressed that the aim of poetry is to give pleasure or to teach morally. He rejected the romantic view of the individual’s perfectibility. The poet’s mind is like a vessel in which are stored numerous feelings. he writes: “When a poet’s mind is perfectly equipped for its work. the creative and the critical. poetry is not inspiration. In his objectivity and logical attitude. He distinguishes between the emotions of the poet and the artistic emotion. However. Instead of following his ‘inner voice’. A sense of tradition.

” Eliot devised numerous critical concepts that gained wide currency and has a broad influence on criticism. ‘Unification of sensibility’ are few of Eliot clichés hotly debated by critics. George Watson writes: “Eliot made English criticism look different. . of impersonality of poetry. He gave a new direction and new tools of criticism. constant. It is in the re-consideration and revival of English poetry of the past. confirmed it in its increasing contempt for historical processes. He offered it a new range of rhetorical possibilities. To conclude. Even if he had written no poetry. ‘Objective co-relative’.“Hardly since the 17th century had critical writing in English so resolutely transposed poetic theory from the axis of pleasure versus pain to that of unity versus multiplicity. His dynamic theory of tradition. ‘Dissociation of sensibility’. He has corrected and educated the taste of his readers and brought about a rethinking regarding the function of poetry and the nature of the poet process. and yet reshaped its notion of period by a handful of brilliant institutions. his assertion on ‘a highly developed sense of fact’ tended to impart to literary criticism catholicity and rationalism. he would have made his mark as a distinguished and subtle critic. fruitful and inspiring.” His comments on the nature of Poetic Drama and the relation between poetry and drama have done much to bring about a revival of Poetic Drama in the modern age. These are the overview you have to write these and also co relate with your text. Eliot’s influence as a critic has been wide. but not in a simple sense.