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Modernism and Psychoanalysis

ENGL 210.401
TR 9-10:30


The impact of Freudian ideas on Modernism has often been noticed. What I would like to explore in this class is how this produced a new sensibility and a new response to issues like the interpenetration of art and life through the discovery of the unconscious and automatic writing literature and the management of the avant-garde. Thanks to a convergence of interests among writers like Freud, Breton, Dalí, Bataille, Auden, Lacan, Crevel, one can observe how the first decade of Surrealism was dominated by the concept of hysteria whereas the second was dominated by that of paranoia. We will study how the transformation of Surrealist doctrine and practice moved from a praise of hysteria to a practice of guided paranoia, giving a fuller literary and artistic context to what David Trotter has called "paranoid modernism." We will see how the "hysterical style" of early Modernism poses the question of femininity and its relation to a commodified mass culture. Is Modernism underpinned by male hysteria, thus rejecting any suspicion of femininity in the name of a new "hardness" and poetic specialization? Or it is the discourse about violence and the great War already hysterical? Why do most avant-gardist writers and artists move to paranoid positions in the thirties? The "paranoid style" that Modernism develops in the 1930s shifts the ground by multiplying levels of reality and posing the question of the Other, whether it is seen as the enemy within or the enemy without. Does paranoia provide an answer to the quandaries in which high Modernism had found itself? The study of Salvador Dali's works and writings will reveal itself indispensable to answer this question. We will thus begin by reading canonical essays by Freud on hysteria and paranoia, then explore early works by Breton, Pound, Wyndham Lewis and TS. Eliot, and finish with May Sinclair, Auden, Bataille and Salvador Dali.

Requirements: one oral presentation, two short papers (8 p.) and a research paper (15 p.). No final exam.


Freud and Breuer Studies on Hysteria
Freud The Schreber Case (Penguin, 2002)
André Breton Nadja and Surrealist Manifestos
Pound Mauberley in Selected Poems
T S Eliot The Waste Land and early poems
W Lewis Tarr
May Sinclair The Life and Death of Harriet Frean (xerox)
H W Auden The English Auden
Georges Bataille Visions of Excess
Dali Oui and The Secret Life of S. Dali
Suggested reading:
David Trotter, Paranoid Modernism (OUP, 2002)


fulfills requirements