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EN901: Critical Theory Mini Modules

(Module not running in 2013-14)

(NB unlike Feminist Literary Theory and Postcolonial Theory, the two mini modules cannot be taken as a 10 week option module)

Psychoanalysis: Dreams, Jokes and the Question of Language (Term 1, weeks 1-5)


Convenor: John Fletcher

Lecture: Tuesday, 5-6pm (H542)

Seminar: Wednesday, 4.30-6pm (H542)

This 5-week mini-module is designed to introduce students to psychoanalysis. No previous knowledge of psychoanalytic theory is assumed. We will begin in weeks 1-3 with two forms of symbolic production that Freud analyzed in relation to unconscious processes: dreaming as a private and involuntary production of fantasies and narratives, and joking as a social process addressed to another person. This will include a week on Wilhelm Jensen’s novella, Gradiva and Freud’s detailed analysis of its narrative presentation of the process of dreaming. We will also look at the controversial claim made by the French psychoanalyst, Jacques Lacan, that the “unconscious is structured as a language”, elaborated in a lecture addressed to students of literature. We will conclude with a consideration of some of the critiques - by Jean Laplanche and Jean-François Lyotard – that Lacan’s claim has provoked.

There will be a weekly lecture and a seminar led by student introductions. All students will be expected to give one seminar presentation in the course of the 5 weeks.


Dreams, Language and the Unconscious


Outline of the Course


Week 1: The Dream and the Dream-Work

Freud, The Interpretation of Dreams (1900):

chapters 2, 3, 4, 6 (sections A,B,C,D, I).

Dream texts: the dream of Irma’s injection (ch. 2) and the dream of the botanical monograph (ch. 5,A).


A compact of overview of this material can be found in

Freud, “On Dreams” (1901), The Essentials of Psychoanalysis, ed. Anna Freud, (Penguin).


Week 2: Narrating Dreams

1. Wilhelm Jensen, Gradiva: a Pompeian Fantasy (1903), trans. Helen M. Downey, Green Integer, 2003. This includes Freud’s essay on Gradiva.

2. Freud, “Dreams and Delusions in Jensen’s Gradiva “ (1907), reprinted in the above and also in either SE vol. 9 , Art and Literature, Pelican Freud Library vol. 14).


Week 3: Jokes as a social practice

Freud, Jokes and their Relation to the Unconscious (1905), esp. chapters 1-5. SE vol. 8; PFL vol. 6.


Week 4 Language and the Unconscious

1. Jacques Lacan, “The Instance of the Letter in the Unconscious, or Reason since Freud”, Ecrits (1966), trans. Bruce Fink, Norton, 2006.

2. Muller and Richardson, Lacan and Language, chapter 5: “The Agency of the Letter in the Unconscious, or Reason since Freud: Thematic Overview; Map of the Text; Notes to the Text”.




Week 5 Language versus the Unconscious

1. Jean-François Lyotard, “The Dream-work Does not Think”, The Lyotard Reader, ed. Andrew Benjamin, Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1989.

2. Jean Laplanche, The Unconscious and the Id, London: Rebus Press, 1999, (Lectures: 24th Jan. 1978-14th February, 1978), pp.83-120.



For Freud, texts will be selected from the relevant volumes of the two editions below:

SE - The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud, trans. and ed. James Strachey, vols 1-24. London: The Hogarth Press, 1953-74. This is the authoritative, classical translation and edition of Freud’s psychoanalytic works (with full apparatus, notes, index etc.) and is now available in Vintage Paperback.

PFL - The Pelican Freud Library, vols. 1-15, Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1975-86. This is a paperback selected version of the Standard Edition of the James Strachey translation. Its great advantage is that it groups material thematically (i.e. all the sexuality or literature material in the one dedicated volume) rather than chronologically as the SE does. It is cheaper and more convenient to buy your Freud texts in this format where possible.

Unfortunately the PFL is now out of print and replaced by new translations commissioned by Penguin. These do not have an editorial or explanatory apparatus (no notes or index) and the different translators have not agreed a common translation for the same term! So stick to the Strachey translation in SE or PFL where you can find them. Copies of both SE and PFL editions are available in SRC for photocopying.

This situation makes the buying of texts more tricky than usual. I advise buying the PFL volumes where you can (this will be mainly second hand from specialist websites,, Abebooks,, or just google the relevant volume which often turns up online book sites with it for sale). It’s cheaper to buy The Interpretation of Dreams in one PFL volume than in the SE where it takes up two volumes, but you may be able to get them second hand from the above websites. Jokes and their Relation to the Unconscious is one volume in both SE and PFL.

Freud wrote a number of overviews of psychoanalysis and you can download free his Five Lectures on Psychoanalysis (1910) in an early out-of-copyright translation from the following website: Students with little or no knowledge of Freud should look at this very reader-friendly introduction. The key reference book for the course is the great theoretical dictionary of psychoanalytic concepts The Language of Psychoanalysis, Jean Laplanche and J.-B. Pontalis, (1967) which is indispensable for any study of psychoanalysis. Copies available in the library and in paperback from Karnac Books.

John Fletcher





Modernity, Modernism & Marx (Term 1, weeks 6-10)

Convenor: John Fletcher

Lecture: Tuesday 5.30-6.30 (H542)

Seminar: Wednesday 4.30-6 (H542)

This module is concerned with the debates about modernity as a new historical condition entailing a new understanding of time and history and with the attempts to place the various modernisms as responses to the experience of modernity. The theorists are drawn mainly from the traditions of Western Marxism or engage with that body of work.

Week 6: Modernity and the Movement of History I

1. Matei Calinescu, Five Faces of Modernity (Duke University Press, 1987), Chapter 1, “The Idea of Modernity”. 

2. Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, The Communist Manifesto (1848) in Revolutions of 1848, Pelican Marx Library, or ed. Eric Hobsbawm, Verso. Sections I, II and IV, and the Engels 1888 Preface.

3. Peter Osborne, “Remember the Future: The Communist Manifesto as Historical and Cultural Form”, in The Socialist Register: 1998, Merlin Press, 1998.

Secondary reading:

Marx, “Preface to a Contribution to a Critique of Political Economy”(1859) in Marx: Early Writings, Pelican Marx Library, Penguin.

Week 7: Modernity and the Movement of History II

1. Marshall Berman, All that is Solid Melts into Air (1982), Verso pb, Introduction and chapter 2, “Marx, modernism and modernisation”.

2. Walter Benjamin, “Theses on the Philosophy of History” (1940), Illuminations, ed. Hannah Arendt, Collins/Fontana pb.

Secondary reading:

Michael Löwy, Fire Alarm: Reading Walter Benjamin’s “On the Concept of History”, Verso, 2005. This contaims a new translation of the ‘Theses’ and a brilliant commentary on them.

Week 8: Cultural Modernity I: The Enlightenment and the Public Sphere

1. Immanuel Kant, “What is Enlightenment?” (1784), in On History, ed. Lewis White Beck. (Also available as download)

2. Jürgen Habermas, The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere (1962), (MIT Press, Mass., 1991), chapters 1 and 2.

3. Joseph Addison and Richard Steele, The Spectator, nos.1, 2, 10, 409 (available as downloads). 

Secondary reading:

Terry Eagleton. The Function of Criticism, Verso, 1984, chapter I.

Peter Stallybrass and Allon White, “The Grotesque Body and the Smithfield Muse: Authorship in the 18th Century”, in The Politics and Poetics of Transgression, Methuen, 1986.

Week 9: Cultural Modernity II: the Flaneur and the City, The Beginnings of Modernism.

1. Charles Baudelaire, “The Painter of Modern Life” (1863), in The Painter of Modern Life and other essays, ed. Jonathan Mayne. A short version is reprinted in From Modernism to Postmodernism, ed. Calhoun. 

2. E.T.A Hoffmann. “My Cousin’s Corner Window”(1822) in The Golden Pot and other Tales, trans. Ritchie Robertson, World’s Classics, OUP.

3. Edgar Allan Poe, “The Man of the Crowd” (1845), Selected Writings, Penguin. 

4. Walter Benjamin, Charles Baudelaire: A Lyric Poet in the Era of High Capitalism, Verso, selections.

Secondary Reading:

Berman, All that is Solid, chapter III “Baudelaire: Modernism in the Streets”.

Week 10: Cultural Modernity III: The Geopolitical Location of Modernism 

1. Perry Anderson, “Modernity and Revolution”, New Left Review, no.144, 1984, reprinted in Zones of Engagement (1992) with an important Postscript on the concept of ‘Revolution’, and in Marxism and the Interpretation of Culture (1988) ed. Nelson and Grossberg with a Discussion.

2. Raymond Williams, The Politics of Modernism, Verso, 1989, chapters 1-3.

Secondary Reading: Tony Pinkney, “Editor’s Introduction: Modernism and Cultural Theory’ in Williams above.

“The Geography of Modernism” in Modernism: a Guide to European Literature; 1890-1930, ed. Malcolm Bradbury and James McFarlane, Penguin,1991.

Fredric Jameson, “Modernism and Imperialism”, in Nationalism, Culturalism, and Literature, ed. Eagleton, Jameson and Said, U of Minnesota Press, 1990.

Many of the above texts are in paperback and can be ordered from the bookshop. All will be placed in the Short Loan Collection in the main library or the Learning Grid in University House (open on a 24 hour basis).

NB. If you do not own a copy then you should take photocopies of the set sections for your own private study and bring them to the lecture and seminar.

Further Reading

As a 5 week ‘mini-module’ the course has to be extremely selective. If it were to continue following through the issues and themes pursued here, the works below would feature and so constitute a useful ‘Further Reading’ list. As well as the secondary reading above:

Louis Althusser, “Outline for a Concept of Historical Time” in Reading Capital, Verso, 197

Perry Anderson, The Origins of Postmodernity, Verso, 1998.

Walter Benjamin, “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction” (1936), Illuminations, ed. Hannah Arendt, Collins/Fontana pb.

Jurgen Habermas, “Modernity’s Consciousness of Time and its need for Self-Reassurance”, in The Philosophical Discourse of Modernity, Polity Press, 1987.

David Harvey, The Condition of Postmodernity, Basil Blackwell, 1989.

Fredric Jameson, Postmodernism: or the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism, Verso, 1991.

Fredric Jameson, “Modernism and Imperialism”, in Nationalism, Culturalism, and Literature, ed. Eagleton, Jameson and Said, U of Minnesota Press, 1990.

Immanuel Kant, “ Idea for a Universal History from a Cosmopolitan Point of View” (1784), On History, ed. Lewis White Beck.

Reinhart Kosselleck, Futures Past: On the Semantics of Historical Time, MIT Press, 1985.

Peter Osborne, chapter 1, ”Modernity: a different time”, The Politics of Time, Verso, 1995. A slightly shorter version appeared in New Left Review, no. 192, 1992.

Robert B. Pippin, Modernism as a Philosophical Problem, Basil Blackwell, 1991.