6 May 1856 – 23 September 1939
Sigmund Freud (Sigismund Schlomo
Freud), was an Austrian neurologist
usually credited with creating
psychoanalytic theory and, by
extension, psychiatric therapy.
According to biographer Ernest
Jones, "Freud's Jewishness contributed
greatly to his work and his firm convictions
about his findings. Freud often referred to
his ability to stand alone, if need
be, without wavering or surrendering his
intellectual and scientific discoveries, and
he attributed this ability to his irreligious
but strong Jewish identity in an anti-
Semitic society, whereby he was
accustomed to a marginal status and
being set aside as different.“
In 1930, Freud was awarded the
Goethe Prize in recognition of his
contributions to psychology and to
German literary culture.
In January 1933, the Nazis took
control of Germany, and Freud's
books were prominent among
those they burned and destroyed.
Freud quipped: “What progress
we are making. In the Middle
Ages they would have burned
me. Now, they are content with
burning my books.”
In June 1938, Freud and his family
left Vienna, Austria, eventually
settling in London.
Today, some people argue that Freud‟s work is
outdated, unscientific, and sexist;
nevertheless, all major subsequent theories
have been based on his
revolutionary, pioneering work:
Freud developed a language that described, a
model that explained, and a theory that
encompassed human psychology. His theories
are directly and indirectly concerned with the
nature of the unconscious mind.
Freud believed that unconscious sexual drives
were the basis for all human behavior, and that
dreams were an important indicator for
understanding human behavior.
Freud hypothesized two forms of drive
Libido - sexual/erotic
Thanatos - aggressive/destructive
Freud assumes these are always fused but
not necessarily in the same amounts
Cruelty may have an erotic component
Acts of love may have an aggressive
Freudian Components of Personality
The Conscious Mind includes that which
we are aware of. This is the aspect of our
mental processing that we can think and
talk about rationally.
The Preconscious Mind is the part of the
mind that represents ordinary memory.
While we are not consciously aware of
this information at any given time, we
can pull it into consciousness when
The Unconscious Mind is a reservoir of
feelings, thoughts, urges, and memories
that outside of our conscious awareness.
Most of the contents of the unconscious
are unacceptable or unpleasant, such
as feelings of pain, anxiety, or conflict.
According to Freud, the unconscious
continues to influence our behavior and
experience, even though we are
unaware of these underlying influences.
The ego Mediates between the id and reality; it maintains
our “self – how we see our “self” and wish others to see it.
The SUPER-EGO is a lot like a conscience – it punishes
misbehavior with feelings of guilt. Since the super-ego is
concerned with societal norms, it stands in opposition to the
id. The development of an individual’s super-ego replaces a
The Three Tiers of Self
The ID seeks pleasure and avoids
pain; we normally associate
inborn instincts (such as the
behaviors of an infant or an
animal) with the id.
The EGO seeks to placate the
id, but in a way that will ensure
long-term benefits (such as trying
to get what the id wants without
breaking laws or social standards).
Conflicts between the Id, Superego and
Ego arise in unconscious mind
They come out in various ways
– Slips of tongue (“Freudian slip”)
– Defense Mechanisms
Conflicts of Personality Components
A slip of the tongue
in which a word
that the speaker
thinking about is
substituted for the
one that he or she
meant to say.
"For seven and a half years I've
worked alongside President
Reagan. We've had triumphs.
Made some mistakes. We've
had some sex... uh...
setbacks." -A Freudian slip by
President George H.W. Bush
According to Freud, dreams always have a manifest and latent
content. The manifest content is what the dream seems to be saying. It
is often bizarre and nonsensical. The latent content is what the dream is
really trying to say. Dreams give us a look into our unconscious.
A young woman
“She is going
through the hall
of her house and
strikes her head
against the low-
that her head
She has no reminiscence to contribute, nothing that
really happened. The information she gives leads in
quite another direction. “You know how badly my hair
is falling out. Mother said to me yesterday, „My child, if
it goes on like this, you will have a head like the cheek
of a buttock.‟” Thus the head here stands for the other
part of the body. We can understand the chandelier
symbolically without other help; all objects that can be
lengthened are symbols of the male organ. Thus the
dream deals with a bleeding at the lower end of the
body, which results from its collision with the male
organ. This might still be ambiguous; her further
associations show that it has to do with her belief that
menstrual bleeding results from sexual intercourse
with a man, a bit of sexual theory believed by many
From: Sigmund Freud (1856–1939). A General Introduction to Psychoanalysis.
1920. Part Two: The Dream XII. Analysis of Sample Dreams
Freud and Jokes
Jokes, like dreams and slips of the tongue, bear the traces of repressed desires. Sexual and
aggressive thoughts, which are forbidden in polite society, can be shared as if they are not
serious. Humour then becomes a way of rebelling against the demands of social order. As Freud
wrote in a later essay, „humour is not resigned it is rebellious‟ (1927/1990, p.429).
Ridicule: If we break social codes, then we fear that others might laugh at
our infringements, mocking our inappropriate behaviour. Thus, fear of
mockery may be the key means for maintaining social order. Humour, far
from being principally rebellious, also fulfills a deeply conservative function
Hiding Hate: The anti-Semitic mayor of Vienna, Karl Lueger publically
offered ―a good technique for baptising Jews: aspiring converts to
Christianity should be held under water for 10 minutes.‖ Jokes like this
express extreme hostility, but those who enjoy such jokes can excuse them
as ‗just jokes,‘ not thinking of themselves as harbouring murderous
Asserting Power: [When the Nazi‘s took over,] a majority of the Christian
population celebrated. Jews were forced to scrub the streets with
toothbrushes. The crowds gathered to laugh at respectable citizens so
demeaned. [. . .] This was not humour as rebellion but the humour of
Meyers, C.S. “Freud and the Language of Humour”
Fear of intimacy—the chronic and overpowering feeling that
emotional closeness will seriously hurt or destroy us and that
we can remain emotionally safe only by remaining at an
emotional distance from others at all times. [. . .] Fear of
intimacy can also function as a defense. If this particular
defense occurs frequently or continually, then fear of intimacy
is probably a core issue.
Fear of abandonment—the unshakable belief that our friends
and loved ones are going to desert us (physical abandonment)
or don‘t really care about us (emotional abandonment).
Fear of betrayal—the nagging feeling that our friends and
loved ones can‘t be trusted, for example, can‘t be trusted not to
lie to us, not to laugh at us behind our backs, or in the case of
romantic partners, not to cheat on us by dating others.
Low self-esteem—the belief that we are less worthy than other
people and, therefore, don‘t deserve attention, love, or any other
of life‘s rewards. Indeed, we often believe that we deserve to be
punished by life in some way. Insecure or unstable sense of self—
the inability to sustain a feeling of personal identity, to sustain a
sense of knowing ourselves.
Insecure or unstable sense of self—the inability to sustain a
feeling of personal identity, to sustain a sense of knowing
ourselves. This core issue makes us very vulnerable to the
influence of other people, and we may find ourselves continually
changing the way we look or behave as we become involved with
different individuals or groups.
Oedipal fixation (or oedipal complex)—a dysfunctional bond
with a parent of the opposite sex that we don‘t outgrow in
adulthood and that doesn‘t allow us to develop mature
relationships with our peers. (Tyson 26–27)
McLeod, S. A. (2009). Defense Mechanisms. Retrieved from http://www.simplypsychology.org/defense-mechanisms.html
Other Influential Psychoanalytic Theorists
Carl Jung: Jungian criticism attempts to explore the connection between literature
and what Carl Jung (a student of Freud) called the “collective unconscious” of the
human race: "...racial memory, through which the spirit of the whole human
species manifests itself" (Richter 504). Jungian criticism, closely related to
Freudian theory because of its connection to psychoanalysis, assumes that all
stories and symbols are based on mythic models from mankind‟s past.
Jacques Lacan: a post-Freudian psychoanalytic theorist, focused on language
and language-related issues. Lacan treats the unconscious as a language;
consequently, he views the dream not as Freud did (that is, as a form and
symptom of repression) but rather as a form of discourse.
Julie Kristeva: Her interest in psychoanalysis was also inspired by Jacques
Lacan's re-interpretation of Freud, although Kristeva has also carefully
distinguished her own ideas from those of Lacan. Kristeva was particularly critical
of what she saw as an inherent misogyny in Lacan's and Freud's theories; her own
system of thinking therefore attempts to rethink sexual development in such a way
as to value the importance of the feminine. For this reason, she has been
especially influential on theories of gender and sex.
CRITICISM aims to
show that a literary
or cultural work is
always structured by
complex and often
What does Tyson Tell us about
Psychoanalytic concepts have become part of our
everyday lives, and therefore psychoanalytic thinking
should have the advantage of familiarity.
Most of us have acquired a very simplistic idea of what
these concepts mean, and in their clichéd form they
seem rather superficial if not altogether meaningless.
We fear that psychoanalysis wants to invade our most
private being and reveal us to ourselves and to the
world as somehow inadequate, even sick, and the
result is very often a deep-seated mistrust of
If we take the time to understand some key
concepts about human experience offered by
psychoanalysis, we can begin to see the
ways in which these concepts operate in
our daily lives in profound rather than
superficial ways, and we’ll begin to
understand human behaviors that until now
may have seemed utterly baffling. And, of
course, if psychoanalysis can help us better
understand human behavior, then it must
certainly be able to help us understand literary
texts, which are about human behavior.
Tyson on Psychoanalytic Criticism
Adopts the methods of "reading" employed by Freud and later
theorists to interpret texts. It argues that literary texts, like
dreams, express the secret unconscious desires and
anxieties of the author, that a literary work is a manifestation
of the author's own neuroses. It approaches an author’s work as
a kind of textual “talk therapy.”
One may psychoanalyze a particular character within a literary
work, but it is usually assumed that all such characters are
projections of the author's psyche.
Like psychoanalysis itself, this critical endeavor seeks evidence
of unresolved emotions, psychological
conflicts, guilt, ambivalences, and so forth within the author’s
literary work. The author's own childhood traumas, family
life, sexual conflicts, fixations, and such will be traceable within
the behavior of the characters in the literary work.
Psychoanalytic Literary Criticism
the author: the theory is used to analyze the author
and his/her life, and the literary work is seen to
supply evidence for this analysis. This is often called
the characters: the theory is used to analyze one or
more of the characters; the psychological theory
becomes a tool that to explain the characters’
behavior and motivations. The more closely the
theory seems to apply to the characters, the more
realistic the work appears.
the audience: the theory is used to explain the
appeal of the work for those who read it; the work is
seen to embody universal human psychological
processes and motivations, to which the readers
respond more or less unconsciously.
the text: the theory is used to analyze the role of
language and symbolism in the work.
Psychoanalytic literary criticism is often
extended to one or more of the following:
Post #11: What is the
purpose of psychoanalytical
My question is, then, is
Psychoanalytic an intrinsic or
extrinsic theory? (I could see
an argument for either
Q: If characters in a work of literature are an unconscious
extension of the author, to what extent can we judge
what is unconsciously an extension of the author and
what the author developed purposely or consciously?
For a deeper understanding of the psyche of oneself and
characters within a text, how does Psychoanalytic
Criticism lend a thorough insight into the understanding of
Q: Does uncovering repressed painful memories and
emotions ultimately strengthen or impair the ways we
Read: Bishop’s “The Fish”
Read: Elizabeth Bishop’s “The Fish”: A Psychoanalytic
Post #12: Identify and discuss qualities of psychoanalytic
criticism as it is applied in this essay. Provide specific
examples from the essay, the poem, or the
definition/description of Psychoanalytic Criticism.
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