Skip to main content

EN335 Literature & Psychoanalysis

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


Prof. Daniel Katz (convenor)


This module aims to introduce students to some of the main concepts of psychoanalysis as developed by Freud – trauma, repression, the unconscious, the sexual and death drives, the ego and unconscious fantasy, etc.

The course will also look at some post-Freudian psychoanalytic developments (Anna Freud, Melanie Klein, Didier Anzieu, Jacques Lacan, Jean Laplanche, Frantz Fanon, Nicholas Abraham and Maria Torok). As well as his theoretical works we will be looking at some of Freud’s clinical case studies, his readings of works of art, and his understanding of broad cultural formations, such as religious or kinship structures. We will examine various literary texts to see how psychoanalysis can open them up to different forms of questioning, but also to see the challenges the literary offers to psychoanalysis as a global theory of psychic production and meaning.

Prospective students should note that the module has a strong theoretical component and students will be expected to engage seriously with psychoanalytic theory, its development and internal debates. In terms of reading, the module is heavily weighted to "theory" over "literature," and students should be prepared for that.

Some weeks have quite heavy reading, and it might be a good idea to read some of the longer prose texts over the summer if possible.

Teaching Methods

This module will consist of weekly 90 minute seminars. We will also be using Moodle. Full instructions and guidance will be provided during the first seminar of Term 1.


100% assessed - 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.


50% assessed, 50% 2-hour final examination.

The deadlines for essay submissions will be given in the 2016-17 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 can access PEP through the library portal. While you will be able to download and print out many of the weekly set texts from PEP, I encourage you to buy some of them in paperback, personal finances permitting. With the longer texts it can be cheaper to buy them online (often clean second hand copies) than to print them out.

The Freud texts 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 it is now out of print, and only available secondhand, in which form it is still relatively easily found. Please do NOT use any Freud texts that are not from the "Standard Edition." Translations vary widely in quality, and some versions are highly inadequate in terms of notes and textual apparatus. Copies of all set Freud texts in both SE and PFL editions are available in the library in Short Loan Collection and the Grid.

Useful Purchases

SE volume 2 Studies on Hysteria which gives you 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 vol. 17: The "Wolfman" case history and other useful texts.

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. Highly recommended!

Set Texts to Buy:

1. J. Sheridan Lefanu, Carmilla: 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, such as notes and introduction.

2. William Shakespeare, Hamlet (any reputable scholarly edition).

3. Nella Larsen, Quicksand, available in Quicksand and Passing (Serpent's Tail Classics, 2014) or The Complete Fiction of Nella Larsen (Anchor Books, 1992).

4. Maggie Nelson, The Argonauts (Melville House, 2016).

5. Nicholas Abraham and Maria Torok, The Wolf Man's Magic Word: A Cryptonomy (University of Minnesota Press, 1987 or 2005 edition).

6. Valerie Solanas, Scum Manifesto (with an Introduction by Avital Ronnell), Verso Books.

5. The James Joyce short stories are from Dubliners. They will be distributed separately but you might consider picking up a volume of the entire collection.

6. Sigmund Freud, Totem and Taboo (Standard Edition, James Strachey, translator), W. W. Norton & Co. This will be available on PEP, but as we're reading the entire book you might want to buy it. Make sure to get the Standard Edition, with the Strachey translation.

7. All other set texts will be available online, as scanned excerpts, or as photocopies.

8. 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. This work is available electronically on PEP and the library has multiple copies (SLC and the Grid). It's worth investing in a copy if you can find an affordable one, which currently is not so easy.

Advance Advice:

There is a somewhat heavy reading load for this module, and you might consider doing some of the reading ahead of time. Though many of the texts might be hard to assimilate without guidance, it could be worth reading some of the longer literary texts in advance (Hamlet, Quicksand, Carmilla, The Argonauts) as well as the the case history ("The Wolfman," Term 2, Weeks 2-3).

For those looking for a general introduction to Freudian thought, a good place to start is Freud’s Five Lectures on Psychoanalysis (Standard Edition volume 11, 1909-10) available on PEP. 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.