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Week 2 - Psychoanalysis

Susannah Wilson

In this seminar we will explore some of the multifaceted implications of psychoanalytic theory for literary and cultural studies, moving from Sigmund Freud's seminal essay on 'The Uncanny' ('Das Unheimliche', 1919). In preparation for the seminar, students are required to read Freud's essay and E.T.A. Hoffmann's tale 'The Sandman' ('Der Sandmann', 1816), as well as selected secondary readings (see below). While reading, students should bear in mind the following questions, which will be discussed during the seminar:

  • What does Freud look for while analysing Hoffmann's 'The Sandman'? Why, in your opinion, does Freud turn to the analysis of a literary text in order to explain the problem of the Uncanny?
  • How would you describe Freud's methodology in reading Hoffmann? Which elements do you think Freud over-stresses (or, conversely, under-evaluates)? Do you find this method valuable, or potentially applicable to other texts?
  • What are the cultural questions raised by Freud's essay? How do they relate with psychoanalytic issues? And what relationship does exist between individual psychology and cultural history?
  • How would you define the notion of 'unconscious' presented by Freud's text? Do texts have an 'unconscious'? How do individual unconscious and textual unconscious relate? Which implications does this relationship possess as far as literary theory and critical praxes are concerned?

Required core reading:

Sigmund Freud, 'The Uncanny', in The Uncanny (London: Penguin, 2003), pp. 121-162. (PDF Document)

E.T.A. Hoffmann, 'The Sandman', in Tales of E.T.A. Hoffmann (London: Penguin Classics, 1982), pp. 85-127. (PDF Document)

Required secondary reading:

Please read as many of the texts below as possible before the seminar:

Fabio Camilletti, Martin Doll, Rupert Gaderer, Jan Niklas Howe & Catherine Smale (eds.), Hauntings I: Narrating the Uncanny and Hauntings II: Uncanny Figures and Twilight Zones (introductions; essays by Bronfen, Camilletti, Howe, Johnson, Wälchli, Peppel)

Hélène Cixous, 'Fiction and Its Phantoms. A Reading of Freud's "Das Unheimliche"' (1976) (PDF Document)

Ernst Jentsch, 'On the Psychology of the Uncanny' (1906) (PDF Document)

Anneleen Masschelein, The Unconcept : the Freudian Uncanny in Late-Twentieth-century Theory (Albany: State University of New York Press, 2011) library link

Masahiro Mori, 'The Uncanny Valley' (1970) (PDF Document)

Nicholas Royle, The Uncanny (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2003) library link

Jane Marie Todd, 'The Veiled Woman in Freud's "Das Unheimliche"' (1986) (PDF Document)

Suggested futher reading:

A. Bateman and J. Holmes, Introduction to Psychoanalysis: Contemporary Theory and Practice (London: Routledge, 1995).

Bruno Bettelheim, The Uses of Enchantment: the Meaning and Importance of Fairy Tales (New York: Vintage, 1977).

Malcolm Bowie, Lacan (London: Fontana, 1991).

Terry Eagleton, ‘Psychoanalysis’ (chapter 5), in Literary Theory: an Introduction (Oxford: Blackwell, 1996).

John Forrester, Language and the Origins of Psychoanalysis (London: Macmillan, 1980).

J. Laplanche and J.-B. Pontalis, The Language of Psychoanalysis (London: Karnac, 1988).

Kate Millett, Sexual Politics (New York: Doubleday, 1970).

John P. Muller and William J. Richardson (eds), The Purloined Poe: Lacan, Derrida and Psychoanalytic Reading (Baltimore and London: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1988).

Lionel Trilling, ‘Art and Neurosis’ and ‘Freud and Literature’, in The Liberal Imagination (London: 1964).

Elizabeth Wright, Psychoanalytical Criticism: Theory in Practice (London: 1984).