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EN959 Modernism and Psychoanalysis

Professor Daniel Katz


This module will look at the relationship between psychoanalysis and modernist literature in the context of the elaboration of new discourses of subjectivity and culture in the twentieth century. While examining certain clear instances of explicit “influence” between analytic and literary texts, we will also look at modernist literature and psychoanalysis as parallel and at times competing discourses intent on examining similar problems and texts. Recurring questions will include the relationship between subjectivity, sexuality, and language; the mobilisation of the concept of the “primitive” in discussions of sexuality and aggression; the viability of the symptom as interpretative matrix for both individual subjects and group structures; and the emergence of “culture” and ethnicity as central ordering concepts for organising discussion of artistic production in the early twentieth century. This last element leads to an additional concern: the investigation of forms of modernist complicity in totalitarian political projects, and the possibilities and limitations of psychoanalysis as a critical political discourse. Throughout, students will be encouraged to learn to use psychoanalysis as a powerful metalanguage for discussing literary texts, but also to contextualize this metalanguage within the intellectual history of the twentieth century.

Invisible Man and Kangaroo are both long novels, and students might wish to read them over the summer. Prospective students are welcome to contact me by email with any further questions!

Syllabus 2015-2016

Week 1: Introduction: "Modernity" and Europe; The Talking Cure; the individual and society; the question of "culture." (short texts tba).

Week 2: Fundamental methodological questions: Shoshana Felman, Writing and Madness (Chapter 7: "Henry James: Madness and the Risks of Practice") and Henry James, The Turn of the Screw (please read The Turn of the Screw in advance, if you haven't already).

Psychology, Ethnography, and the Semiotics of Cultural Practice

Week 3: Psychonalysis as a Theory of Culture: S. Freud, Totem and Taboo. Secondary Reading: Rubén Gallo, "Freud's Mexican Antiquities: Psychoanalysis and Human Sacrifice" (October, Winter, 2011); Elisabeth Roudinesco, "Freud and Regicide" (American Imago, vol. 68, no. 4, Winter, 2011).

Week 4: Modernism and the Mythic Method: T. S.Eliot, The Waste Land, “Ulysses, Order, and Myth.” C. G. Jung, "Aion: Phenomenology of the Self" (online). Secondary reading: M. Manganaro: "Making Up for Lost Ground" (online).

Week 5: From Ethnographic Symptom to Subject of the Signifier: Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man. Secondary Reading: Douglas Steward, "The Illusions of Phallic Agency: Invisible Man, Totem and Taboo, and the Santa Claus Surprise," Callaloo, vol. 26, no. 2, Spring 2003; Caffilene Allen, "The World as Possibility: The Significance of Freud's Totem and Taboo in Ellison's Invisible Man," Literature and Psychoanalysis 41, 1995: 1-17; James Mellard, Beyond Lacan (SUNY Press, 2006), Chapter 3: "Invisible Man: The Textual Unconscious and a Subject beyond History."

The Discourse of the Analysand and Modernist Narrative

Week 6: Enjoying One's Symptom: Italo Svevo, Zeno's Conscience (use William Weaver's translation); S. Freud, Psychopathology of Everyday Life (excerpts). Secondary Reading: Adam Phillips, "What Zeno Did for Psychoanalysis," Raritan (32.3) Winter 2013.

Week 7: Dreaming/reading/sleeping/slipping: S. Freud, The Interpretation of Dreams: "Dream of Irma's Injection" (that is, the dream of July 23-24, 1895, found in Chapter II); Chapter III; Chapter VI, sections A-D, H, I; Chapter VII, sections C-F. Secondary Reading: Samuel Weber, from The Legend of Freud (University of Minnesota Press, 1982): "The Meaning of the Thallus" (pp. 65-83).

Week 8: What of the Night? D. Barnes, Nightwood. Secondary Reading: Teresa de Lauretis, "Nightwood and 'The Terror of Uncertain Signs.'" Critical Inquiry, vol. 34, no. 5, 2008.

More Lessons of the Master

Week 9: Love, Loss, and Identification: Freud, “The Ego and the Id,” “Mourning and Melancholia,” “Group Psychology and Analysis of the Ego.” Secondary Reading: Judith Butler, from Gender Trouble: Chapter 2, sections iii "Freud and the Melancholia of Gender" and iv "Gender Complexity and the Limits of Identification" (available as an e-book through our library portal).

Week 10: Transference, Politics, Eros: D. H. Lawrence, Kangaroo; selections from "Psychoanalysis and the Unconscious" and "Fantasia of the Unconcsious" (handout). Secondary Reading: J. Spitzer, "On Not Reading Freud: Amateurism, Expertise, and the 'Pristine Unconscious' in D. H. Lawrence," Modernism/Modernity, vol. 21, no. 1, January, 2014.

Set Texts to Buy: 2015-16

1. Shoshana Felman, Writing and Madness: Literature/Philosophy/Psychoanalysis (Stanford UP, 2003 or Cornell UP, any edition).

2. Sigmund Freud, Totem and Taboo, W. W. Norton, 1962 (other editions are acceptable, provided they contain the "Standard Edition" translation).

3. T. S. Eliot, The Waste Land (any edition, but note that the Norton Critical Edition, edited by Michael North, contains a great deal of useful supplementary matieral).

4. Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man (Penguin Modern Classics, 2001).

5. Italo Svevo, Zeno's Conscience (Penguin Modern Classics, 2001, William Weaver, trans. Make sure to get this edition which has the best English translation).

6. S. Freud, Psychopathology of Everyday Life (any "Standard Edition" text, either stand alone or collected)

7. S. Freud, The Interpretation of Dreams (Basic Books, 2010. NOTE: If you do use other editions of Freud, be certain the texts are taken from the so-called “Standard Edition,” translated and edited by James Strachey. All other editions are highly problematic.).

8. Djuna Barnes, Nightwood (Faber, any edition).

9. S. Freud, The Ego and the Id, "Mourning and Melancholia," "Group Psychology and Analysis of the Ego" (the first two works can be found in the Pelican Freud Library, vol. 11, "On Metapsychology: The Theory of Psychoanalysis"; the latter text is available in volume 12 of the same series, "Civilization, Society and Religion." All three are also available in other collections or separately, but again, make sure you use a translation taken from the "Standard Edition").

10. D. H. Lawrence, Kangaroo (any edition fine, but the Cambridge UP edition, edited by Bruce Steele, is the best).

Highly Recommended (but not required): J. Laplanche and B. Pontalis, The Language of Psychoanalysis, Karnac Books, 1998 (also available through PEP; see below).

Essential Resource: Psychoanalytic Electronic Publishing (PEP), available through our library portal