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EN918 Psychoanalysis and Cultural Production

This year the course will be studying the concept of Fantasy in psychoanalytic thought and its function in relation to a range of psychic processes and literary texts. Fantasy will be considered as it first emerged in Freud’s thought in relation to trauma and to memory, and then as ‘primal fantasy’ i.e. an unconscious structural model or template for later identifications and sexual object choices. Particular attention will be paid to the form that unconscious fantasy takes, as an arrested or frozen scene or scenic sequence, to which the subject is bound or fixated, and which generates a range of repetitions and variations. Fantasy is here understood as the point of interface between unconscious processes and cultural production. The role of fantasy in extreme conditions will also be studied, such as the literature of mourning and melancholia and the problem of the continuing relation to the dead.

It is strongly recommended that students who take this course also take - or at least audit - Freud’s Metapsychology: Trauma, Sexuality, and the Death Drive in term 1 in order to acquire a good grounding in the some of the fundamental concepts and theoretical models of psychoanalysis. For the detailed week-by-week syllabus on this site, click Detailed syllabus in the right hand column.

Students considering taking the course should read over the summer Freud’s Five Lectures on Psychoanalysis, which is an exellent introduction to Freud's ideas and their developments and is available in an early out-of-copyright translation as a free download from

The first of these lectures covers the question of trauma with which the course begins.

An excellent, reader-friendly introduction for beginners is Josh Cohen's How to read Freud, Granta Books, available for only a few pounds on the internet (Amazon etc).

The Freud selections are taken from:

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 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 listed above. Its great advantage is that it groups material thematically (i.e. all the sexuality or literature material in the same volume) rather than chronologically as the SE does. This makes it cheaper and more convenient.

Unfortunately the PFL is now out of print, replaced by new individual 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 terms! So stick to the Strachey translation in SE or PFL where you can find them (try or Abebooks, and similar websites). Copies of all set Freud texts both SE and PFL editions are available in the library in Short Loan Collection and the Grid. They have also been scanned and are available to download and print off for private study by students registered for the course from the scanned course extracts section of the library website that will be set up at: .

However printing off scanned texts can be expensive, especially if you do it on campus (6p per page and rising). It often proves cheaper to buy some of the SE or PFL volumes, where this is a longer set text or a number of set essays from the same volume. You also end up with other related Freud essays and material in the same volume, rather than just a set of gradually deteriorating photocopies.