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Sigmund Freud
Psychoanalytic Criticism
Overview

 Definition

 Origins

 Interpretation of Dreams

 Core Concepts

 Experience, Consciousness, and Personality

 Dreams

 The Uncanny

 Summary
What is Psychoanalytic Criticism?

 Aims to discover and interpret art in terms of
  psychoanalytic concepts and processes

 In literature, Freudian methodology analyzes characters
  in terms of their psychological reality – as real people

 Significant issue relates to the conscious and the
  unconscious in character and action – what are
  unconscious motives?

 The individual psychic drama is primary, not the socio-
  cultural or historical drama
Definitions and Origins

 Psychoanalytic criticism aims to understand characters
  through the enigmatic association between the
  conscious and the unconscious – in literary characters.

 The basis of Freud’s psychoanalytic approach
  emphasizes the unconscious and the key role it plays in a
  person or character’s life (Oedipus; Hamlet; Ahab, Moby-
  Dick; The Homecoming)

 In the real world, such behaviors as jokes, slips of the
  tongue (Freudian slip), forgetfulness suggest unconscious
  wishes (in Freudian theory)
Core Concepts and Premises

 Rationality does not motivate most human behavior

 The conscious impulses over which a person attends
  are limited and self-directed only to the extent that
  a person or character understands them, accepts
  them, and integrates them

 Incest and its prohibition – nature and culture (raw
  and cooked) – form inherent problems in the riddle
  of the unconscious
Core Concepts: Psychic Process

 Freud conceived of the human psyche as structured in
  three levels of consciousness
   Consciousness – awareness or attention to something
    immediate
   Preconscious – mental processes that are normal, but latent.
    Most of a person’s mental processing is on this level.
   Unconscious – mental processes are
    submerged, scrambled, often deeply repressed; Freud
    viewed the unconscious as a meaningful ―riddle‖ to be
    decoded -- the unconscious can be the seat of complex
    pathology. It is usually not easily accessible.
Experience and Consciousness

 Three personality sectors filter a person’s experience
    ID, EGO, and SUPEREGO.
    These three elements of a personality interact and govern how a person
     or character will deal with experiences, including traumas.

 ID – represents the libido and pleasure principle.

 EGO – represents the conscious person – organized, integrated,
  and rational; the ego mediates between the id and the superego –
  the extent of organization and integration determines the strength
  of a character’s ego and balance (Ego Strength)

 SUPEREGO – represents the conscience of a person or character –
  social and cultural totem and taboo.
Core Concepts: Trauma

 Deep inner conflict lodged in the unconscious (struggle
  between id and superego) is the root of pathology,
  hysteria, and madness – disintegration (Ahab in Moby-
  Dick)

 A character may or may not be aware of this conflict

 Becoming aware of the conflict does not resolve it – as in
  Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex.
   After Oedipus finally becomes aware that he has killed his
    father and married his mother, he blinds himself. In Freudian
    psychoanalytic terms, the burden of guilt was too
    devastating.
Core Concepts: Sexuality

 Social taboos regarding human sexual impulses are
  powerful and fundamental; they often lead to conflicted
  feelings, guilt, trauma, and repression (submerged
  memory at the unconscious level)


 The libido or human sexuality is the primary psychic
  impetus underneath personality development and
  behavior; its expression and conduct are socially and
  culturally monitored
Psychoanalytic Ideas & Literature

 Freud’s conception of the enigmatic unconscious forms the basis
  for psychoanalytic methodology and interpretation

 One interpretive technique involves dream analysis -- language
  and imagery of people’s dreams

 Freud views dreams as ―works of art born of a compromise
  between the conscious and the unconscious‖ (―Uncanny‖ p. ix)

 E.T.A. Hoffman’s short story ―The Sandman‖ exemplifies the way an
  unresolved trauma (death of Nathaniel’s father) is distorted in a
  dream

 Freud discusses this story within the concept of ―the uncanny‖ or
  something hidden, secret, and uncomfortable—repressed in the
  unconscious
The Uncanny & Delusions & Dreams

 These works are Freud’s most developed thought in
  literary criticism

 Believed that the psychological mechanisms operative in
  ―dream-work‖ also operate in the process of imaginative
  writing

 Believed psychoanalysis could offer an ―intelligence‖ or
  visibility into the process of dreams and creative writing

 ―The Creative Writer and Daydreaming‖ was first
  interpretation of artistry built on day-dreaming
  (―Uncanny‖ 23)
The Uncanny

 Relates to what is unsettling, frightening – what
  atmosphere, tone, setting, language ―arouses dread and
  horror‖

 Opposite of the Sublime – what is beautiful, transcendent

 Individual differences in the perception and sensitivity to
  ―the uncanny‖

 Creative or imaginative writing of fantasy draws on
  inventing an aura of the fantastic or dichotomy of the
  uncanny
Elements of The Uncanny

 Atmosphere or characters must lose a sense of poetic reality
  or material reality

 Character feels attracted to and repelled by the same
  object or person – id vs. superego – creates ambivalence –
  cognitive dissonance.

 Producing uncanny feelings:
   Creator needs to invent superstitious conditions with a sense of
    balance to reality – then transgress or violate the reader’s ―trust‖
   Uncanny or fearful feelings emerge from memories that have
    been surmounted (repressed feelings are difficult to arouse)
―The Birds‖

 Associated with the notion of the sandman – a creature
  that throws sand in children’s eyes when they won’t sleep

 The eyes of children ―jump out of their heads all
  bleeding‖

 The sandman then takes the eyes in a sack ―to the half
  moon‖ to feed his children – the ―children‖ sit in their nest
  with curled beaks; these ―children‖ use their beaks to
  peck out ―naughty girl’s and boy’s eyes‖

 The sandman is associated with evil – a terrifying
  unconscious fear
Dreams and Poetics

 Dreams are viewed as a means of evading conscious
  awareness and understanding

 In the ―Interpretation of Dreams‖ Freud viewed dreams as
  cryptic texts – aesthetic works of everyday life

 Lionel Trilling referred to Freudian psychology as a mental
  system ―that makes poetry indigenous to the soul‖ (223)

 Psychoanalysis aims to describe mechanisms of dreams
  and decipher them
Dream Analysis

 In talking about dreams (or analyzing fantasy) a person
  or character builds up an associative network
  (language, imagery, symbolism) that ―illuminates‖ the
  ―dream thoughts‖ or unconscious desires – wishes.

 These dream thoughts reveal the person or character’s
  trauma and the way the repressed, unresolved
  experience has unconsciously affected the character

 Dreams elude consciousness and distort reality in four
  ways:
  Condensation, Displacement, Representation, Secondar
  y Editing
Dreams: Eluding Consciousness

 Condensation
   Compression of dream thought or experiences into brief, cryptic
    ―riddles‖ or unconscious messages

 Displacement
   Transference of desires or wishes from one person or object to
    another
     One is angry with a person and slams a door – rather than
       confront the person (too threatening)

 Means of Representation
   Entangled dream content and dream thought are combined
    into a single event
Dreams: Accessing the Buried

 Purpose of interpreting dream thought or analyzing
  character’s unconscious (as in ―The Sandman‖) is to
  restore realistic connections

 Understand the motivations and language – revealed in
  imagery, symbolism

 Screen Memories – essay on the dynamics of memories;
  what is recalled and what is screened off -- submerged
  memories
Summary

 Psychoanalytic criticism analyzes and interprets literary
  characters as realistic persons

 The central issues in psychoanalytic interpretation are the
  primacy of sexuality and unconscious desires – wishes.

 The ego mediates between the id (suppressed primal
  drives) and the superego (socio-cultural morés)

 Dreams are viewed as a means of evading conscious
  awareness and understanding – they are a reservoir of
  repressed conflicts or memories
Summary con’t

 One psychoanalytic interpretive technique involves
  dream analysis -- language and imagery of people’s
  dreams or fantasies

 Freud views dreams as ―works of art borne of a
  compromise between the conscious and the
  unconscious‖

 Psychoanalytic theory aims to describe mechanisms of
  dreams and decipher them as expressions of
  unconscious conflicts and consequent action or
  behavior

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Freud and Psychoanalytic Interpretation

  • 2. Overview  Definition  Origins  Interpretation of Dreams  Core Concepts  Experience, Consciousness, and Personality  Dreams  The Uncanny  Summary
  • 3. What is Psychoanalytic Criticism?  Aims to discover and interpret art in terms of psychoanalytic concepts and processes  In literature, Freudian methodology analyzes characters in terms of their psychological reality – as real people  Significant issue relates to the conscious and the unconscious in character and action – what are unconscious motives?  The individual psychic drama is primary, not the socio- cultural or historical drama
  • 4. Definitions and Origins  Psychoanalytic criticism aims to understand characters through the enigmatic association between the conscious and the unconscious – in literary characters.  The basis of Freud’s psychoanalytic approach emphasizes the unconscious and the key role it plays in a person or character’s life (Oedipus; Hamlet; Ahab, Moby- Dick; The Homecoming)  In the real world, such behaviors as jokes, slips of the tongue (Freudian slip), forgetfulness suggest unconscious wishes (in Freudian theory)
  • 5. Core Concepts and Premises  Rationality does not motivate most human behavior  The conscious impulses over which a person attends are limited and self-directed only to the extent that a person or character understands them, accepts them, and integrates them  Incest and its prohibition – nature and culture (raw and cooked) – form inherent problems in the riddle of the unconscious
  • 6. Core Concepts: Psychic Process  Freud conceived of the human psyche as structured in three levels of consciousness  Consciousness – awareness or attention to something immediate  Preconscious – mental processes that are normal, but latent. Most of a person’s mental processing is on this level.  Unconscious – mental processes are submerged, scrambled, often deeply repressed; Freud viewed the unconscious as a meaningful ―riddle‖ to be decoded -- the unconscious can be the seat of complex pathology. It is usually not easily accessible.
  • 7. Experience and Consciousness  Three personality sectors filter a person’s experience  ID, EGO, and SUPEREGO.  These three elements of a personality interact and govern how a person or character will deal with experiences, including traumas.  ID – represents the libido and pleasure principle.  EGO – represents the conscious person – organized, integrated, and rational; the ego mediates between the id and the superego – the extent of organization and integration determines the strength of a character’s ego and balance (Ego Strength)  SUPEREGO – represents the conscience of a person or character – social and cultural totem and taboo.
  • 8. Core Concepts: Trauma  Deep inner conflict lodged in the unconscious (struggle between id and superego) is the root of pathology, hysteria, and madness – disintegration (Ahab in Moby- Dick)  A character may or may not be aware of this conflict  Becoming aware of the conflict does not resolve it – as in Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex.  After Oedipus finally becomes aware that he has killed his father and married his mother, he blinds himself. In Freudian psychoanalytic terms, the burden of guilt was too devastating.
  • 9. Core Concepts: Sexuality  Social taboos regarding human sexual impulses are powerful and fundamental; they often lead to conflicted feelings, guilt, trauma, and repression (submerged memory at the unconscious level)  The libido or human sexuality is the primary psychic impetus underneath personality development and behavior; its expression and conduct are socially and culturally monitored
  • 10. Psychoanalytic Ideas & Literature  Freud’s conception of the enigmatic unconscious forms the basis for psychoanalytic methodology and interpretation  One interpretive technique involves dream analysis -- language and imagery of people’s dreams  Freud views dreams as ―works of art born of a compromise between the conscious and the unconscious‖ (―Uncanny‖ p. ix)  E.T.A. Hoffman’s short story ―The Sandman‖ exemplifies the way an unresolved trauma (death of Nathaniel’s father) is distorted in a dream  Freud discusses this story within the concept of ―the uncanny‖ or something hidden, secret, and uncomfortable—repressed in the unconscious
  • 11. The Uncanny & Delusions & Dreams  These works are Freud’s most developed thought in literary criticism  Believed that the psychological mechanisms operative in ―dream-work‖ also operate in the process of imaginative writing  Believed psychoanalysis could offer an ―intelligence‖ or visibility into the process of dreams and creative writing  ―The Creative Writer and Daydreaming‖ was first interpretation of artistry built on day-dreaming (―Uncanny‖ 23)
  • 12. The Uncanny  Relates to what is unsettling, frightening – what atmosphere, tone, setting, language ―arouses dread and horror‖  Opposite of the Sublime – what is beautiful, transcendent  Individual differences in the perception and sensitivity to ―the uncanny‖  Creative or imaginative writing of fantasy draws on inventing an aura of the fantastic or dichotomy of the uncanny
  • 13. Elements of The Uncanny  Atmosphere or characters must lose a sense of poetic reality or material reality  Character feels attracted to and repelled by the same object or person – id vs. superego – creates ambivalence – cognitive dissonance.  Producing uncanny feelings:  Creator needs to invent superstitious conditions with a sense of balance to reality – then transgress or violate the reader’s ―trust‖  Uncanny or fearful feelings emerge from memories that have been surmounted (repressed feelings are difficult to arouse)
  • 14. ―The Birds‖  Associated with the notion of the sandman – a creature that throws sand in children’s eyes when they won’t sleep  The eyes of children ―jump out of their heads all bleeding‖  The sandman then takes the eyes in a sack ―to the half moon‖ to feed his children – the ―children‖ sit in their nest with curled beaks; these ―children‖ use their beaks to peck out ―naughty girl’s and boy’s eyes‖  The sandman is associated with evil – a terrifying unconscious fear
  • 15. Dreams and Poetics  Dreams are viewed as a means of evading conscious awareness and understanding  In the ―Interpretation of Dreams‖ Freud viewed dreams as cryptic texts – aesthetic works of everyday life  Lionel Trilling referred to Freudian psychology as a mental system ―that makes poetry indigenous to the soul‖ (223)  Psychoanalysis aims to describe mechanisms of dreams and decipher them
  • 16. Dream Analysis  In talking about dreams (or analyzing fantasy) a person or character builds up an associative network (language, imagery, symbolism) that ―illuminates‖ the ―dream thoughts‖ or unconscious desires – wishes.  These dream thoughts reveal the person or character’s trauma and the way the repressed, unresolved experience has unconsciously affected the character  Dreams elude consciousness and distort reality in four ways: Condensation, Displacement, Representation, Secondar y Editing
  • 17. Dreams: Eluding Consciousness  Condensation  Compression of dream thought or experiences into brief, cryptic ―riddles‖ or unconscious messages  Displacement  Transference of desires or wishes from one person or object to another  One is angry with a person and slams a door – rather than confront the person (too threatening)  Means of Representation  Entangled dream content and dream thought are combined into a single event
  • 18. Dreams: Accessing the Buried  Purpose of interpreting dream thought or analyzing character’s unconscious (as in ―The Sandman‖) is to restore realistic connections  Understand the motivations and language – revealed in imagery, symbolism  Screen Memories – essay on the dynamics of memories; what is recalled and what is screened off -- submerged memories
  • 19. Summary  Psychoanalytic criticism analyzes and interprets literary characters as realistic persons  The central issues in psychoanalytic interpretation are the primacy of sexuality and unconscious desires – wishes.  The ego mediates between the id (suppressed primal drives) and the superego (socio-cultural morés)  Dreams are viewed as a means of evading conscious awareness and understanding – they are a reservoir of repressed conflicts or memories
  • 20. Summary con’t  One psychoanalytic interpretive technique involves dream analysis -- language and imagery of people’s dreams or fantasies  Freud views dreams as ―works of art borne of a compromise between the conscious and the unconscious‖  Psychoanalytic theory aims to describe mechanisms of dreams and decipher them as expressions of unconscious conflicts and consequent action or behavior

Editor's Notes

  1. Unconscious drives through displacement, sublimation, projection, screen memory – all defense mechanisms
  2. In other words, mental processes – perception, recollections, feelings are not immediately accessible, but can be accessed or transformed into awareness without difficulty or they can be inferred from their effects. A character generally does not feel a sense of exhaustion dealing with these processes nor a sense of threat or unease when these mental processes, perceptions, or feelings rise to surface awareness. Although they are not conscious, they are also not unfamiliar, or hidden. They do not evoke guilt. if a trauma has occurred and the character orperson’s feelings over the trauma remain conflicted and unresolved.
  3. ID – represents the libido and pleasure principle. There is no consciousness or reason characterizing this aspect of a character’s drive. All unsuppressed, animalistic urges emanate from the id. It is amoral and asocial and could lead a person to destructive behavior – both self-indulgent and self-destructive. Captain Ahab of Moby-Dick is a victim of his uncontrollable id in the face of the White Whale. EGO – represents the organized, rational, and stable personality. It serves to protect the person or character as well as stabilize conflicts among other persons or characters.SUPEREGO – represents the conscience of a person or character. All cultural, societal, and educational values govern the processing of the superego. The superego serves as a counterbalance to the id. Any harmful behaviors are constrained. An overbearing superego produces unconscious guilt that can lead to a imbalance in a character. Oedipus’ guilt, Hamlet’s guilt. 
  4. In other words, mental processes – perception, recollections, feelings are not immediately accessible, but can be accessed or transformed into awareness without difficulty or they can be inferred from their effects. A character generally does not feel a sense of exhaustion dealing with these processes nor a sense of threat or unease when these mental processes, perceptions, or feelings rise to surface awareness. Although they are not conscious, they are also not unfamiliar, or hidden. They do not evoke guilt. if a trauma has occurred and the character orperson’s feelings over the trauma remain conflicted and unresolved.
  5. In other words, mental processes – perception, recollections, feelings are not immediately accessible, but can be accessed or transformed into awareness without difficulty or they can be inferred from their effects. A character generally does not feel a sense of exhaustion dealing with these processes nor a sense of threat or unease when these mental processes, perceptions, or feelings rise to surface awareness. Although they are not conscious, they are also not unfamiliar, or hidden. They do not evoke guilt. if a trauma has occurred and the character orperson’s feelings over the trauma remain conflicted and unresolved.