RCHUMS 318 - Critical Approaches to Literature
Section: 001 Psychoanalytic Interpretation of Literature and the Visual Arts: Freud and Lacan
Term: WN 2010
Subject: RC Humanities (RCHUMS)
Department: LSA Residential College
Requirements & Distribution:
May be repeated for credit.
Primary Instructor:

Freudian psychoanalytic theory has in recent years undergone withering criticism. It no longer enjoys the prestige it once assumed; few retain full confidence in its explanatory capability. Some would argue that it is defunct, a relic of the 19th century, a construct of the “self” now in ruins. Is there anything in Freudian psychoanalytic theory that can be salvaged?

This course will take a critical, but respectful view of the Freudian text. We will address in particular the problem of psychoanalytic interpretation of literature and the visual arts. Beginning with two important case histories, “The Wolf Man” and “Dora,” we will derive a method of interpreting literary texts and visual images from Freud’s method of dream analysis. We will go on to explore the way in which psychic space opens onto an historical, even archaeological landscape, as described in Freud’s theory of the death instinct and its relation to sexuality. Finally, we will address the contribution of Freudian psychoanalysis to contemporary critical theory, especially in the work of Jacques Lacan.

  • In what way is the human subject constituted by language?
  • What is the relation between language and the unconscious?
  • Does a text or image have an unconscious? How do we know? If it does, can we disclose its presence, discover the direction of its warp?
  • Can psychoanalytic theory enable us to find a common ground between literature and the visual arts?
  • Can we discover in the halting voice and the marked hand a link between the vision and the word?

Sigmund Freud: “The Wolf Man;” “Dora: An Analysis of a Case of Hysteria;” Leonardo da Vinci and a Memory of his Childhood; Beyond the Pleasure Principle.

Jacques Lacan, “The Mirror Stage as Formative of the “I” Function, as Revealed in the Psychoanalytic Experience,” from Ecrits.

Literature: Ivan Turgenev, First Love; Emily Brontë; Wuthering Heights; D.H. Lawrence, “The Prussian Officer.”

Visual Arts: Edvard Munch; Leonardo da Vinci; Giorgio de Chirico; Mary Kelly, The Post-partum Document.

RCHUMS 318 - Critical Approaches to Literature
Schedule Listing
001 (LEC)
TuTh 2:00PM - 3:30PM
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