symptomatic reading

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Louis Althusser (1918—1990) French philosopher

Sigmund Freud (1856—1939) founder of psychoanalysis

ideological state apparatus


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A mode of reading literary and historical works proposed by French Marxist Louis Althusser which focuses on the text's underlying presuppositions. In particular it tries to determine what a particular text is unable to say or represses because of its ideological conviction. For example, one might compare the frontier literature of Australia and America, both of which countries are the product of colonial conquest, and inquire why their respective literary traditions are so different: America produced the western, whereas Australia created stories of lost children and isolated battlers.

Subjects: Social Sciences — Literary Theory and Cultural Studies.

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