David Punter

in British and Irish Literature

ISBN: 9780199846719
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

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Since the origins of psychoanalysis in the work of Sigmund Freud, its relations to literature and to literary criticism have been complex and challenging. Psychoanalysis is a science of the mind and depends for its very operation on interchanges among people; it is therefore not straightforward to transfer its insights into the study of literary texts. On the other hand, it is true that many of the central tenets of psychoanalysis have, over the years, become matters of general acceptance; thus the very topic of literature and psychoanalysis is a difficult one to define, for whereas in the past there may have been definable schools of psychoanalytic criticism, more recently a whole range of ideas have gradually come into the field of general acceptance. Despite some resistance (and such resistance was identified by Freud as inseparable from the nature of the difficult psychic material that psychoanalysis addresses), it would be difficult to find critical writing, or indeed any kind of intellectual thought in the West, that would totally eschew such formulations as the Oedipus complex, the pleasure principle, or indeed the very notion of some realm of psychic activity most conveniently referred to as the unconscious. This bibliography will attempt to describe and discuss some of the ways in which critics have tried to adapt and import these insights into the study of the literary, but it needs to be said that the embroilment of literature and psychoanalysis was itself an originating moment: many of the writers of the time around the early reception of Freud were deeply influenced by his ideas, and it would be no exaggeration to depict modernism as a “Freudianization” of literature.

Article.  10160 words. 

Subjects: Literary Studies (British and Irish)

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