Psychoanalysis is one of the modern world’s most important and diverse theories of human behavior, motivation (both psychic and cultural), and the nature of the subject. As the so-called “talking cure,” language and narrative are fundamental to both its theory and practice. It is, among other things, a mode of interpretation, and thus it shares a great deal with the methods of literary analysis, to which this course will introduce you. Psychoanalysis has generated a vast body of writing—clinical, theoretical, and literary—of extremely high quality and compelling interest to students not only of literature but also of all fields in the humanities, social sciences, and medicine. No previous study of psychology or psychoanalysis is expected.
Along with its introduction to literary analysis, this course will provide an introduction to major psychoanalytic concepts (e.g. dreamwork, trauma, repression, the unconscious, the sexual and death drives, transference, the ego, dissociation, and unconscious fantasy) through the writings of a wide variety of its practitioners and commentators, from Sigmund Freud to the present day. In addition to Freud’s foundational writings, we’ll read key selections from later psychoanalytic works that will further explore psychoanalytic ideas and movements, as well as: feminist, LGBT, and other social and political uses and critiques of psychoanalysis; the genre of the case study; and the expansion of psychoanalysis beyond the U.S. and Europe. Literary works in genres such as the novel, the graphic novel, and the memoir will include Simone de Beauvoir, The Mandarins; Marie Cardinal, The Words to Say It; D. M. Thomas, The White Hotel; Alison Bechdel, Are You My Mother?; and Hanif Kureishi, Something to Tell You. Coursework will include numerous very short assignments—both in-class and take-home—and two short essays.