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Hand-out 3: Working with the Psyche

Psychoanalysis: Freudian and Lacanian
“The Nosey Critics”


Psychoanalysis: from treating “the crazies” to analyzing literature
 At the beginning was not meant to be a critical school;
 Developed by Sigmund Freud in the early 20 th century as a form of treatment of
mentally ill patients;
 Also called “the talking cure” (“free association” and the famous Freudian couch);
 Different form either psychiatry or psychology;
 Relationship with literature: Freud uses many references to and analyses of
 Before Freud: human mind seen as being split between reason and feeling;
Freudian Titles
“The Interpretation of Dreams,” “The Ego and the Id”, “The Psychopathology of Everyday
Life”, “Civilization and Its Discontents,” “Beyond the Pleasure Principle”

Freudian Big Concepts
 The unconscious (dynamic and topographical classification): conscious,
preconscious, unconscious (qualities), id, ego, superego (regions of the psyche);
 Defense mechanisms (repression, sublimation): also called ego defense
mechanisms; the ego’s way of protecting us from the forces of the id; Repression:
pushing things down in the unconscious; Sublimation: transferring the psychic
energy of the instinct onto a more acceptable activity (like reading, writing);
 The Return of the Repressed: Freud says that nothing can be fully repressed so
that what we push into the unconscious may suddenly return (in the form of
symptoms) in amplified forms;
 The Freudian Slip: saying one thing, but meaning your mother...oops, I meant
another. From his book “The Psychopathology of Everyday Life”. There is an
unconscious reason for most things that seem to be purely accidental like losing
things, saying some words instead of others, misreading titles, etc.
 Transference: the analysand (patient) projects authority figures (maternal or
paternal) onto the analyst and “acts out” feelings, sensations associated to those
figures; In simpler terms, we treat our therapist, unconsciously, as our “mommy” or
 “Acting-out”: reacting to a certain person unconsciously as if it were a maternal or
paternal figure as in “acting-out” the feelings attached to a father in a romantic
 Instincts: the Pleasure Principle (the id demands pleasure) and the Reality
Principle (the ego must check if that pleasure can be fulfilled in society);
 Instincts: The Life Instinct (the sexual instinct, creation) and the Death Instinct
(longing to return to the pre-birth, inorganic state);
 Trauma and the Compulsion to Repeat: developed in his later “Beyond the
Pleasure Principle”; human existence begins with the trauma of birth; traumas are
unconsciously repeated throughout life;

plot compared to life a death instincts).  The Law of the Father: basically the Oedipus complex in Freudian terms. Cat in the Rain. it has rules. a logical structure. the beginning of subjectivity. fullness. deconstructive and reader-response criticism. Sense of completeness. Risk: treating the work as nothing more then a symptom. Ex: Hemingway. Applying Freudian Theory to Literature & Culture Author analysis: analyzing an author as if he were a patient (psychobiographies). 55/56. unity.academia. Character Analysis: psychoanalyzing characters as if they were real people (character pathology. Ex: Poe’s “murder tales” or detective fiction as competition between the need to tell (to express) and the need to conceal (to repress) or Peter Brooks’ (in Reading for the Plot. The Life and Works of Edgar Allan Poe.  The Symbolic order (linguistic): corresponds to the child’s entrance to the linguistic stage. pre-linguistic): contains the mirror stage. The Oedipus Complex: from Sophocles’ tragedy “Oedipus Rex”. For a superb combination of psychoanalytic.  The Imaginary (pre-Oedipal. of the “I”. Problem: characters are not people. Design and Intention in Narrative: Desire analysis of the dynamic structures of narrative forms. Discussing the unconscious forces that makes them act the way they do.  Notorious for his hard to read writing style. Latent content vs. Displacement and condensation. siblings).edu/8558505/Turning_the_Screw_of_Interpretation_Shoshana_Fel man Jacques Lacan  Combines psychoanalysis with structuralism: “the unconscious is structured like a language. (Esp. see Shoshana Felman’s “Turning the Screw of Interpretation” (Yale French Studies. the way multiple forces in it (like instincts) compete for control. father. patriarchy (Law of teh Father) . “The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis” Lacanian Big Concepts  The Mirror Stage: 6-18 months children start to recognize their image in the mirror.  Displacement (metonymy). rules. Marie Bonaparte. condensation (metaphor). 1977): https://www. combined with reader-response): Psychoanalyzing readers: Re-examining a critic’s interpretation of a work and identifying the unconscious forces that he/she projects onto that particular interpretation or psychoanalyzing ourselves as readers (Norman Holland). similar to Freud’s idea of the supergo. combined with deconstruction) Psychoanalyzing form: Analyzing a text’s instabilities. this is what Freud does with Hamlet). disrupts the stage of the Imaginary and marks the child’s entrance into the Symbolic. manifest content. living according to norms. the infant or child does not perceive himself as being different from the others (mother. no.  Dream Theory: dreams are the gateway to the unconscious.” (Lacan) It’s not just a disorganized and entangled mess. The unconscious wish to posses the mother and take the father’s place. Lacanian Titles “Ecrits: the First Complete Edition in English”. How is the form of the text similar to the forces of the psyche? (Esp.

We cannot experience the real except through our own subjectivity and our own subjectivity is already immersed in language. cannot be fully satisfied). we can never see the other as it is. The Real (outside linguistic): different from reality. we only see him/her/it from our own subjectivity: “you never look at me from the place from which I see you” (Lacan). recognition. love. demand (Symbolic order. the analyst must seek out in search of this desire. etc. . nature from which we have been severed and to which we can never return. Can be fulfilled). desire (more abstract concept. the uncanny feeling of being looked back at when we look at someone.  Need (mirror stage: for milk.  The gaze: in the mirror stage the child discovers the gaze. transference is essentially a “dead desire” that continues to live on). the desire of the unconscious.