Psychoanalytic criticism

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This resource will help you begin the process of understanding literary theory và schools of criticism & how they are used in the academy.

Sigmund Freud

Psychoanalytic criticism builds on Freudian theories of psychology. While we don"t have the room here to lớn discuss all of Freud"s work, a general overview is necessary to explain psychoanalytic literary criticism.

The Unconscious, the Desires, and the Defenses

Freud began his psychoanalytic work in the 1880s while attempting to lớn treat behavioral disorders in his Viennese patients. He dubbed the disorders "hysteria" và began treating them by listening to lớn his patients talk through their problems. Based on this work, Freud asserted that people"s behavior is affected by their unconscious: "...the notion that human beings are motivated, even driven, by desires, fears, needs, & conflicts of which they are unaware..." (Tyson 14-15).

Freud believed that our unconscious was influenced by childhood events. Freud organized these events into lớn developmental stages involving relationships with parents & drives of desire and pleasure where children focus "...on different parts of the body toàn thân...starting with the mouth...shifting khổng lồ the oral, anal, và phallic phases..." (Richter 1015). These stages reflect base levels of desire, but they also involve fear of loss (loss of genitals, loss of affection from parents, loss of life) & repression: "...the expunging from consciousness of these unhappy psychological events" (Tyson 15).

Tyson reminds us, however, that "...repression doesn"t eliminate our painful experiences and emotions...we unconsciously behave sầu in ways that will allow us to "play out"...our conflicted feelings about the painful experiences và emotions we repress" (15). To keep all of this conflict buried in our unconscious, Freud argued that we develop defenses: selective sầu perception, selective memory, denial, displacement, projection, regression, fear of intimacy, & fear of death, among mỏi others.

Id, Ego, and Superego

Freud maintained that our desires & our unconscious conflicts give rise to lớn three areas of the mind that wrestle for dominance as we grow from infancy, to lớn childhood, to adulthood:

id - "...the location of the drives" or libidoego - " of the major defenses against the power of the drives..." và home of the defenses listed abovesuperego - the area of the unconscious that houses Judgment (of self và others) and "...which begins khổng lồ size during childhood as a result of the Oedipus complex" (Richter 1015-1016)

Oedipus Complex

Freud believed that the Oedipus complex was " of the most powerfully determinative elements in the growth of the child" (Richter 1016). Essentially, the Oedipus complex involves children"s need for their parents and the conflict that arises as children mature và realize they are not the absolute focus of their mother"s attention: "the Oedipus complex begins in a late phase of infantile sexuality, between the child"s third và sixth year, and it takes a different form in males than it does in females" (Richter 1016).

Freud argued that both boys và girls wish to possess their mothers, but as they grow older "...they begin lớn sense that their clalặng to exclusive sầu attention is thwarted by the mother"s attention to lớn the father..." (1016). Children, Freud maintained, connect this conflict of attention to lớn the intimate relations between mother và father, relations from which the children are excluded. Freud believed that "the result is a murderous rage against the father...và a desire to lớn possess the mother" (1016).

Xem thêm: The Origins Of African American Literature, 1680, Researchgate

Freud pointed out, however, that "...the Oedipus complex differs in boys & girls...the functioning of the related castration complex" (1016). In short, Freud thought that "...during the Oedipal rivalry , boys fantasized that punishment for their rage will take the khung of..." castration (1016). When boys effectively work through this anxiety, Freud argued, "...the boy learns khổng lồ identify with the father in the hope of someday possessing a woman lượt thích his mother. In girls, the castration complex does not take the khung of anxiety...the result is a frustrated rage in which the girl shifts her sexual desire from the mother lớn the father" (1016).

Freud believed that eventually, the girl"s spurned advances toward the father give sầu way to a desire to possess a man like her father later in life. Freud believed that the impact of the unconscious, id, ego, superego, the defenses, and the Oedipus complex was inescapable & that these elements of the mind influence all our behavior (và even our dreams) as adults - of course this behavior involves what we write.

Freud and Literature

So what does all of this psychological business have to lớn do with literature and the study of literature? Put simply, some critics believe that we can " lớn see which concepts are operating in the text in such a way as lớn enrich our understanding of the work &, if we plan to lớn write a paper about it, to lớn yield a meaningful, coherent psychoanalytic interpretation" (Tyson 29). Tyson provides some insightful and applicable questions lớn help guide our understanding of psychoanalytic criticism.

Typical questions:

How do the operations of repression structure or inkhung the work?Are there any Oedipal dynamics - or any other family dynamics - at work here?How can characters" behavior, narrative events, and/or images be explained in terms of psychoanalytic concepts of any kind (for example, fear or fascination with death, sexuality - which includes love sầu và romance as well as sexual behavior - as a primary indicator of psychological identity or the operations of ego-id-superego)?What does the work suggest about the psychological being of its author?What might a given interpretation of a literary work suggest about the psychological motives of the reader?Are there prominent words in the piece that could have different or hidden meanings? Could there be a subconscious reason for the author using these "problem words"?

Here is a list of scholars we encourage you lớn explore to further your understanding of this theory:

Harold Bloom - A Theory of Poetry, 1973; Poetry and Repression: Revisionism from Blake lớn Stevens, 1976Peter BrooksJacque Lacan - The Ego in Freud"s Theory and in the Technique of Psychoanalysis, 1988; "The Agency of the Letter in the Unconscious or Reason Since Freud" (from Écrits: A Selection, 1957)Jane Gallop - Reading Lacan, 1985Julia Kristeva - Revolution in Poetic Language, 1984Marshall Alcorn - Changing the Subject in English Class: Discourse and the Constructions of Desire, 2002Carl Jung

Jungian criticism attempts to lớn explore the connection between literature và what Carl Jung (a student of Freud) called the “collective sầu unconscious” of the human race: "...racial memory, through which the spirit of the whole human species manifests itself" (Richter 504). Jungian criticism, which is closely related lớn Freudian theory because of its connection to lớn psychoanalysis, assumes that all stories and symbols are based on mythic models from mankind’s past.

Based on these commonalities, Jung developed archetypal myths, the Syzygy: "...a quaternion composing a whole, the unified self of which people are in search" (Richter 505). These archetypes are the Shadow, the Anima, the Animus, and the Spirit: "...beneath... is the Anima, the feminine side of the male Self, và the Animus, the corresponding masculine side of the female Self" (Richter 505).

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In literary analysis, a Jungian critic would look for archetypes (also see the discussion of Northrop Frye in the Structuralism section) in creative sầu works: "Jungian criticism is generally involved with a search for the embodiment of these symbols within particular works of art." (Richter 505). When dealing with this sort of criticism, it is often useful to lớn keep a handbook of mythology và a dictionary of symbols on h&.

Typical questions:

What connections can we make between elements of the text và the archetypes? (Mask, Shadow, Anima, Animus)How do the characters in the text mirror the archetypal figures? (Great Mother or nurturing Mother, Whore, destroying Crone, Lover, Destroying Angel)How does the text mirror the archetypal narrative patterns? (Quest, Night-Sea-Journey)How symbolic is the imagery in the work?How does the protagonist reflect the nhân vật of myth?Does the “hero” embark on a journey in either a physical or spiritual sense?Is there a journey lớn an underworld or lvà of the dead?What trials or orgiao dịch does the protagonist face? What is the reward for overcoming them?

Here is a các mục of scholars we encourage you khổng lồ explore khổng lồ further your understanding of this theory:

Maud Bodkin - Archetypal Patterns in Poetry, 1934Carl Jung - The Archetypes và the Collective Unconscious. Vol. 9, Part 1 of Collected Works. 2nd ed. Trans. R.F.C. Hull, 1968Bettina Knứng dụng - Music, Archetype and the Writer: A Jungian View, 1988Richard Sugg - Jungian Literary Criticism, 1993

Chuyên mục: literature