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Psychological/Freudian Literary Criticism

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Athira Pillai

on 13 April 2015

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Transcript of Psychological/Freudian Literary Criticism

Key Questions:
Sigmund Freud
Sigmund Freud is the father of psychoanalysis.

Psychoanalysis looks at how the unconscious mind affects the actions, thoughts, and behaviors of an individual.
Freud's Theories
The psyche is made up of three main components: id, ego, and superego.
Id - primary goal is to fulfill pleasure principle; focus on achieving desire.
Superego - denies pleasure to follow moral system and societal roles; conscience.
Ego - attempts to achieve pleasure through socially acceptable ways.
Example 4:
Phallic and Yonic
Phallic (convex) symbols are those that represent male anatomy.
Yonic (concave) symbols are those that represent female anatomy.
Psychological/Freudian Literary Criticism
Applying the subtle yet effective ways of the unconscious mind to various characters in literature and their authors: How thoughts, behaviors, and actions are influenced by the unconscious mind according to the infamous psychologist, Sigmund Freud.
Are there any oedipal or family-related dynamics at work?

How can characters' behaviors, events, or images in the work be analyzed psychoanalytically?

What does the work offer about the psychological states of the author and the motives of the reader?

Are there specific words that may have hidden meanings?
The id, ego, and superego can reveal clues about characters' personalities.
Examine characters' actions through psychological motives.
Analyze intricacies of relationships between characters.
Turning into a psychological case study rather than a piece of art.
Exaggerating the sexual aspect in literature.
Some works cannot be easily analyzed with this approach.
Freud's Five Stages of Psychosexual Development: outlines psychosexual development from birth to death.
Within the phallic stage (ages 3-6), the Oedipal and Electra complexes form.
In boys, feelings of desire toward mother and anger toward father; in girls, feels of desire toward father and anger toward mother.
Example 1:
"The Raven"
Eagerly I wished the morrow; - vainly I had sought to borrow from my books surcease of sorrow - sorrow for the lost Lenore - For the rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore - Nameless here for evermore.
It shall clasp a sainted maiden whom the angels name Lenore - Clasp a rare and radiant maiden, whom the angels name Lenore?'
Quoth the raven, `Nevermore.'

Example 1:
Edgar Allan Poe's "The Raven"
How would a psychoanalytic literary critic analyze this poem?
How do concepts of id, ego, and superego correspond with Edgar Allan Poe’s poem and its characters?
The narrator is focused on one sole desire – Lenore, even though he can’t have her. That resembles the id – raw desires that need a reality check.

The raven, however, attempts to show the narrator the limitations that exist on his desire; the raven represents the ego or superego.

The raven is able to act as the ego and superego by repeating just the word "Nevermore,” awakening the ego and superego of the narrator so he is finally able to see how he cannot have what he desires.
Example 2: Sophocles' "Oedipus"
[page 34]

Poor foolish men, what wicked din is this?
With Thebes sick to death, is it not shameful
That you should rake some private quarrel up?
[To Oedipus:
Come into the house.
– And you, Creon, go now:
Let us have no more of this tumult over nothing

[page 51]
Why should anyone in this world be afraid,
Since Fate rules us and nothing can be foreseen?
A man should live only for the present day.
Have no more fear of sleeping with your mother:
How many men, in dreams, have lain with their mothers!
No reasonable man is troubled by such things.

How would a psychoanalytic literary critic analyze these parts of Sophocles’ play? What kind of points would Freud make relating to Jocasta’s motherly behavior, her words, and his theory of the Oedipal Complex?
Jocasta’s motherly behavior may showcase underlying unconscious feelings that tell her Oedipus is actually her son.
Within the second excerpt, Jocasta tries to rationalize these unconscious feelings by saying that many men have dreamt of sleeping with their mothers – unconsciously, Jocasta’s defense mechanism of rationalization is at play.
Example 3:
Freudian Slips
A Freudian slip occurs when a person says something but meant to say something else. Freud believed this error in speech conveys underlying unconscious thoughts or feelings.

Do these Freudian slips have unconscious desires at play?

If so, what would Freud think about the underlying ideas of George H. W. Bush as he talked about Ronald Reagan?

How would a psychological literary critic analyze Ross’s Freudian slip and his underlying thoughts?
In Bush’s speech about Reagan, this Freudian slip was probably a speech error rather than a suppressed wish, but still considered a classic Freudian slip.

In Friends, Ross displayed a psychologically meaningful Freudian slip in which his current subconscious thoughts were accidentally expressed verbally.
It shows his regret in not marrying Rachel, and since they were not in a normal setting, the Freudian slip was more likely to occur.
Works Cited
Martin, and Nettles. "Sigmund Freud." Personality: Martin & Nettles. N.p., n.d. Web. 04 Nov. 2013.
Cherry, Kendra. "Sigmund Freud - Life, Work Theories." About.com Psychology. N.p., n.d. Web. 04 Nov. 2013.
"Teaching Clinical Psychology - Defense Mechanisms." Rider.edu. N.p., n.d. Web. 04 Nov. 2013. <http://users.rider.edu/~suler/defenses.html>.
Brizee, Allen J., and Case Tompkins. "Welcome to the Purdue OWL." Purdue OWL: Literary Theory and Schools of Criticism. Purdue University, n.d. Web. 04 Nov. 2013. <https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/722/04/>.
Burris, Skylar Hamilton. "Literary Criticism Study Guide." Literary Criticism Study Guide. N.p., n.d. Web. 04 Nov. 2013. <http://www.editorskylar.com/litcrit.html>.
subtle_devices. "Magdalena." Photograph. Flickr. 21 July 2006. Web. 4 November 2013.
rjo0406. "Er...Nice tattoo, Oedipus." Cartoon. Cartoon Stock. Web. 4 November 2013.
Pierre, Shante L. "Neural Network." Wordpress. 21 March 2011. Web. 4 November 2013.
Francke, Tyler J. "The stories behind the stories." Tyler J. Francke. Web. 4 November 2013.
msalyga. Psychoanalysis & Text. Digital image. Literary Criticism and the Modern Text: A Cultured Experience. Blogspot, 23 Mar. 2012. Web. 04 Nov. 2013.
Athira Pillai & Aida Ahmed
More on Freud's theories/examples:
Towers, sticks, trees, posts, etc., are all phallic symbols.
Objects that injure (firearms) or penetrate (knives, daggers, spears) can also be seen as phallic objects. Objects from which water flows (taps, fountains, watering-cans) and objects that can be lengthened (hanging lamps, etc.) are symbols of the phallus as well.
Georgia O'Keefe's "Red Canna" can be seen as a yonic symbol, as well as flowers, ponds, fruits, etc.
Objects that are able to hold something within itself, such as boxes, pits, trunks, etc., are also yonic symbols.
Flowers and gardens represent female anatomy as well as virginity.
Dream Interpretation:
Freud believed that dreams are "the road to the unconscious mind."

He believed that the latent content of a dream (the unconscious wishes of the dreamer) is hidden behind the manifest content (the actual imagery or events in a dream).
This conversion of latent content to
manifest content is known as "dream
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