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EN335 Literature & Psychoanalysis: Trauma, Fantasy, the Death Drive

This information is relevant for 2015-16 (please note that there will be significant changes to the texts for 2016/17, and different tutors--do not buy books until the new syllabus is posted) 

This is a Pathway Approved Option for the Theory Pathway and an option module for the English, North American and World Literature Pathways.

2015-16 Seminar Times

Frisdats 2:-3:30, H107, with Christian Smith

Mondays 13:30-15:00, H542, with Christian Smith

Wednesdays 9:30-11:00, H501, with John Fletcher

Wednesdays, 11:30-13:00, H501, with John Fletcher

Students should notify the seminar tutor via email of their seminar choice.


The module aims to introduce students to some of the main concepts of psychoanalysis – trauma, repression, the unconscious, the sexual and death drives, the ego and unconscious fantasy, etc. In 2015-16 the course will be devoted, in particular, to what I call Freud’s ‘scenography’: his mapping, like a dramatist or film scenographer, of scenes that have the power to dominate the life of an individual. Freud first encounters these scenes in the treatment of trauma and hysteria, and especially in the drama of the hysterical attack as decsribed by the great 19th C neurologist, Charcot, with whom Freud studied briefly in Paris. We will trace the development in Freud's thought as he struggles to formulate the power of unconscious scenes, especially certain so called ‘primal scenes’ and their compulsive repetition in trauma, memory, dreams, fantasy, the death drive and their determining force in both individual psychic life and works of art.

The course will also look at some post-Freudian psychoanalytic developments (Anna Freud, Didier Anzieu, Jean Laplanche, Nicholas Abraham and Maria Torok). As well as his theoretical works we will be looking at some of Freud’s clinical case studies (‘Little Hans’ and the cases in Studies on Hysteria)) and his readings of works of art: Sophocles’ Oedipus the King and Shakespeare’s Hamlet, the paintings of Leonardo da Vinci, Wilhelm Jensen’s Gradiva and the dark novellas of E. T. A. Hoffmann (such as ‘The Sandman’ and ‘Mlle. de Scudery’), all of which play a key role at important turning points in Freud’s theoretical development. We will also be looking at examples of the literature of melancholia (Keats and Poe) and various psychoanalytic models of mourning and melancholia. The course closes with a consideration of Freud's essay on the aesthetics of the uncanny and teh compulsion to repeat and their relation to his late theorization of the death drive.

NB. Prospective students should note that the course has a strong theoretical component and students will be expected to engage seriously with psychoanalytic theory, its development and internal debates.

I will be sending out suggestions for preparatory reading over the summer, so when you have been accepted onto the course, please send me an email address at which I can contact you.

Teaching Methods

1. One seminar per week for 2 x 9 weeks.

2. Preparing regular weekly presentations of set texts for the seminar, which will be posted on the course Moodle before each seminar, so all students can read them in preparation for the seminar discussion.

3. Advice on the choice and formulation of a topic for the assessed essays and on the relevant reading.

4.The course has been put into a Moodle format and once you have been formally registered for it you can access this.

The Moodle assembles together in one place, the weekly emails, the weekly podcast lectures, saccess to some of the set texts that are available on the database PEP (Psychoanalytic Electronic Publishing) plus a forum for goup discussion, together with student presentations for each seminar group.

There are also podcast lectures from previous years and versions of the course, available to listen to or download on each weekly topic with a theoretical dimension (see link above right on this page).


100% assessed (A) - Two 5,000 word essays that address some of the theoretical issues studied in the course through a close textual presentation and analysis of the relevant texts, both literary and theoretical.

The deadlines for essay submissions will be given in the 2015-16 Undergraduate Handbook.


The Library has recently acquired the PEP (Psychoanalytic Electronic Publishing) database and many psychoanalytic texts including all of Freud are available on it. You will be able to access PEP via the course Moodle. While you will be able to download and print out the weekly set texts from PEP, I strongly recommend that you buy some of them in paperback, so that at the end of the course you will have more than just a pile of curling and yellowing photocopies. With the longer texts it is cheaper to buy them online (often clean second hand copies) than to print them out.

The Freud texts are selected 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. It is now only available secondhand on various websites and secondhand bookshops.

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.

Printing off downloaded texts can be expensive, especially if you do it on campus. It often proves cheaper to buy some of the SE or PFL Freud volumes, where there 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.

 Recommended Purchases

SE volume 2 Studies on Hysteria which gives youb all the case studies, the initial text by Breuer and Freud and Freud's long final chapter on psychotherapy and his emerging models of the structure of the unconscious system.

SE volume 10 (Vintage Paperback) – Analysis of a Phobia in a Five-Year-old Boy (the case of “Little Hans”), also in PFL volume 8 (Case Studies I: Little Hans and Dora);

SE vols. 14 and 17 both have a number of set essays (the advantage of buying them is that you also get a number of other important Freud essays along with them that are not set texts but relevant to the course).

The PFL vol. 14 Art and Literature contains a number of substantial set texts, if you can get it secondhand.

The Interpretation of Dreams: the Vintage paperback version of the SE stretches this across two volumes making it rather expensive to purchase and less convenient to use than a single volume edition. However there are many very cheap (1p plus postage) second hand copies of the old PFL vol. 4 version of The Interpretation of Dreams; a must buy! Otherwise the Oxford University Press edition translated by Ritchie Roberston and Joyce Crick is OK.

Literary Texts Recommended for Purchase

Tales of Hoffmann, trans. Hollingdale, Penguin Classics. We use this collection of Hoffman's tales for both Term 1, week 3 and again Term 2, week 10.

Wilhelm Jensen’s Gradiva, trans. Helen M. Downey (includes Freud’s essay on the novella), Green Integer, Los Angeles, 2003.The Bookshop sometimes has trouble getting copies of this, although it is still listed on the Green Integer website. You could try ordering it direct from the publisher's website. It is also possible to buy quite cheap copies of this edition secondhand from (where they seem to be cheaper than, Google Books etc. You can also get Jensen's novella but without Freud's essay on it as a free download from various websites.

J. Sheridan Lefanu's vampire novella Carmilla is available cheaply in In a Glass Darkly (ed. with Introduction and Notes by Robert Tracy, OUP, 1993). There is a free downlaod but without without the advantages of the paperback edition.

Sophocles, Oedipus the King, trans. Thomas Gould, Prentice Hall. This edition is crucial for both its translation and commentary by one of the few Classical scholars who is knowledgeable about psychoanalysis. Unfortunately it has been out of print, but can sometimes be got second hand at a reasonable price (websites, usually US, so allow time for it to arrive). Otherwise take a photocopy from the library copies.

Shakespeare’s Hamlet (can use one of the set Collected Works for the Shakespeare course, otherwise a good single text edition such as the New Penguin or Signet editions).

Thomas Hardy, The Well Beloved, Wordsworth Classics, which contains both the early serial version and the revised final book version.

The Keats and Poe texts are available from Keats and Poe websites or in the case of The Eve of St. Agnes, Ode on Melancholy, Ode to a Nightingale from the 2nd year set text for the Romantic and Victorian Poetry course, Romanticism: an Anthology, ed. Duncan Wu, which includes also the cancelled / additional stanzas of each of the first two poems.

The key reference book for the course is the great theoretical dictionary of psychoanalytic concepts, The Language of Psychoanalysis, by Jean Laplanche and J.-B. Pontalis, (1967), which is indispensable for any study of psychoanalysis. Copies available in the library (SLC and the Grid) and in Karnac Books paperback.

NB A good place for beginners to start over the summer is Freud’s Five Lectures on Psychoanalysis, which is available in an early out-of-copyright translation as a free download from The opening lecture covers the question of trauma with which the course begins. There is also an excellent reader-friendly little introduction for beginners, by Josh Cohen, How to Read Freud, Granta Books, available on the internet for only a few pounds.

If you haven't already, please email me ( with the email address you prefer to use. I will set up a class email list and will be emailing you from time to time with information and suggestioins.

John Fletcher