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EN970 Psychoanalysis and Creativity

Module Tutor: Dr Emma Francis  

Not running 2017-18

This course examines the concepts of creativity which inspired, informed and troubled the work of psychoanalytical thinkers based in Britain during a key part of the 20th century. The figures studied all worked (according to their own lights) in the Freudian tradition. The British context of this period provides a uniquely fertile ground for examination of this question. Whereas Freud’s aim was to establish psychoanalysis firmly as a scientific discipline, the British Society during this period saw the rise to prominence not only of a significant number of ‘lay’ analysts (those without medical training, like his own daughter Anna). Among them, some came from significant prior study or practice of literature or art. This period and location of the psychoanalytic project was also preoccupied with children to a significant intensity and extent. It was frequently within the analysis or psychoanalytically informed care or education of children that the debates and techniques invoking creativity came into view most sharply. ‘Creativity’ is not a transparent, consistent or secure concept on this module. Theories of creativity invoked range from neo-Leavisite accounts of the morally uplifting and socially redemptive power of ‘good’ art, to radical accounts of artistic and creative experiment as a means to revolution.


1. Introduction - After Freud: Introduction to the development, conflicts and institutionalisation of psychoanalysis in Britain 1929-1993.

2. Work (and Play) I - Melanie Klein, extracts from Love, Guilt and Reparation and Other Works 1921-1945 (1975)

3. Work (and Play) II - Melanie Klein extracts from Envy and Gratitude and Other Works 1946-1963 (1975)

4. Losing and Finding - Anna Freud, ‘About Losing and Being Lost’ (1953), ‘A Form of Altruism’ (1936), Infants Without Families: A Report on the Hampstead Nurseries (1944)

5 Dancing and Singing - Ella Sharpe, Dream Analysis: A Practical Handbook for Psycho-Analysis (1937), ‘Psycho-Physical Problems Revealed in Language: An Examination of Metaphor’ (1940)

6. Performing - Joan Riviere ‘Womanliness as a Masquerade’ (1929), ‘Magical Regeneration by Dancing’ (1930), ‘A Contribution to the Analysis of the Negative Therapeutic Reaction’ (1936).

7. Drawing and Painting - Marion Milner, extracts from The Hands of the Living God (1969) and On Not Being Able to Paint (1957)

8. Play (and Work) I - D.W Winnicott, Playing and Reality (1971)

9. Play (and Work) II - D.W.Winnicott, The Piggle: An Account of the Psychoanalytic Treatment of a Little Girl (1977)

10. Mysticism and Meditation - R.D. Laing The Politics of Experience and the Bird of Paradise (1967); Nina Coltart, ‘Slouching Towards Bethlehem’; ‘Sin and the Superego’, ‘The Practice of Psychoanalysis and Buddhism’ (1993)

Key literary, dance, theatrical and visual texts will act as touchstones for our thinking about the relationship between psychoanalysis and creativity, during the module (students will be required to read/see these texts - filmed, in the case of the dance texts, via reproduction in the case of most visual texts - in the early weeks of the module). They will alter from year to year, and will include texts which preoccupied the psychoanalytic writers studied and texts produced contemporaneously and sometimes in dialogue with psychoanalytic thinking in Britain.

Indicative list

Henrik Ibsen, The Master Builder (1892)

Lindsay Kemp, Flowers (performed 1982)

Lascaux Cave Paintings (c. 14,000 BCE)

William Shakespeare, Hamlet (1601)

Indicative secondary reading 

Mary Jacobus, The Poetics of Psychoanalysis in the Wake of Klein (OUP: 2005)

Melanie Klein, Paula Heimann and R.E. Money-Kyrle (eds) New Directions in Psychoanalysis (Tavistock: 1955)

Adam Phillips, Winnicott (Penguin: 1988)

Hanna Segal, Dream, Phantasy and Art (Routledge: 1990)

Janet Sayers, Mothering Psychoanalysis (Penguin: 1991)

Lindsey Stonebridge, The Destructive Element: British Psychoanalysis and Modernism (Macmillan: 1998)

Elizabeth Young-Breuhl, Anna Freud (Summit: 1988)