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Psychoanalytic Criticism

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Briana Taylor

on 17 September 2013

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Transcript of Psychoanalytic Criticism

Psychoanalytic Criticism
Theory and Criticism
Traditional Freudian Criticism
Sigmund Freud (1856–1939)
Ernest Jones (1879–1958)
Otto Rank (1884–1939)
Frederick Crews (b. 1938)
Reconceptualizing Freud
Melanie Klein (1882–1960)
Simon O. Lesser (1909–79)
Norman N. Holland (b. 1927)
Norman O. Brown (1913–2002)
Carl Jung (1875–1961)
Jacques Lacan (1908–1981)
Julia Kristeva, Helene Cixous, Luce Irigaray, Laura Mulvey

Psychoanalytic Criticism offers a variety of ways to read texts. Some of the basics of psychoanalytic approach include studying literature to

1.Focus our attention on the unconscious activities that are part of writing, reading, and language itself.

2.Study the ways that Sexuality, desire, and repression are of central importance not only in texts but also in individuals and the culture at large.

3.Explain the formation of identity, particularly how individuals become defined as males and females.
Three Blind Mice
Three blind mice. Three blind mice.
See how they run. See how they run.
They all ran after the farmer's wife,
Who cut off their tails with a carving knife,
Did you ever see such a sight in your life,
As three blind mice?
The Significance of Three:
The Holy Trinity
States of Matter
"Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality"
Phallic Symbol
Oedipal Complex
Castration Stage
Acceptance of Castration (Lacan)
“Unlike some other schools of criticism, Psychoanalytic Criticism can exist side by side with any other critical method of interpretation.”

fixation on things dealing with the mouth: suckling, kissing, thumb-sucking.

anus becomes an object of pleasure when children learn the delights of defecation and realize they are independent from their mothers

a child’s sexual desire (libido) is directed toward the genitals


a formative stage in psychological development when the child transfers his love object from the breast (oral phase) to the mother
the child is prevented from having desires for the mother due to fear of castration by the father. The child hopes to one day possess a woman like his father does.

a girl recognizes the father as a rival for her mother’s affection. She turns her desires to the father, fails, and identifies with her mother, transitioning into womanhood. She realizes she will one day possess a man like her mother does.

Post Oedipal and Genital Organization
Latency stage:
Genital Organization:

Language forms our Identity
The Real
The Imaginary and mirror stage
The Symbolic Order
The Phallus as signifier

Three Stages of the Human Psyche:

contains our wishes, fantasies, and images
when we learn language, which shapes our identities and molds our psyche
the physical world (material universe and contained) and all a person is not
Lacanian Concepts
Freudian Developmental stages:

the irrational, instinctual, unknown part of the psyche

the rational, logical part of the mind
Super Ego:
the moral part of the mind, an internal censor

delusions of persecution or jealousy; suspicion or mistrust

loss of touch with reality; fear, anxiety, hypochondria

Interpretation of Dreams:
attempting to identify unconscious desired expressed in dreams


the redirection to a substitute (usually a therapist) of emotions that were originally felt in childhood

unconscious transfer of an intense emotion from its original object to another one

the act of suppressing a thought or desire so it remains unconscious
to acknowledge an unacceptable truth or emotion or to admit it into consciousness

Cognitive Therapy:
psychotherapy in which negative patterns of thought are challenged in order to alter unwanted patterns of behavior
Behavioral Modification:
alteration of behavior patterns through positive or negative reinforcement and feedback
Also Freud:
Jungian Concepts

patterns or images of repeated human experiences
Mirror Stage:

the point of development when a child sees itself in the mirror and realizes its independence

Phallus as Paradigm:
the phallus (not the organ, the penis) becomes the transcendental signified, giving meaning to all other objects. It is the ultimate symbol of power. Neither women nor men can possess it, though men have some claim to power because they have a penis.

The number three was significant to Freud because he connected it to a number of things, including: id, ego, superego; The Holy Trinity; states of matter; and his own “Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality.” The number three was also significant to him because it appears as a representation of the male genitalia in much folklore and myth.

The fact that there are three blind mice corresponds to this idea of three representing a phallic symbol. This symbol continues and is embodied by the mice’s tails, which also represent the phallus. Their blind chasing of the wife symbolizes lust, as they are able to chase her even though they are blind. This can also be seen by the fact that the wife cuts off their tails rather than killing them, serving as a metaphor for castration.

This “castration” by the “mother” figure also could be connected to Lacan and the castration stage of the Oedipal complex, in which a child, whose goal was to make his mother happy, realizes that the father, not the child, is responsible for satisfying the mother’s desires. The connection to Oedipus could also be why the mice are blind, since Oedipus blinds himself at the end of his story.

It is implied that after this “castration,” the mice cease to chase the wife. This acceptance of castration is also the final stage of the Oedipal complex, according to Lacan.
The three mice are blind because they are still in the Oral phase: where they are one with the mother. They do not see that they are entities unto themselves. Then they enter the anal phase by realizing they have some control over the mother by her fear of mice.

After this, they have a realization of their sexual desires, thus entering both the phallic and Oedipal phases as they start do desire a sexual relationship with the mother.

They chase her (The farmers wife), who turns to the Father figure (the Carving knife), who castrates their sexual desire for their mother by cutting of their phalluses (or tails).

Have you every seen such a sight in your life? Not since you were a blind mouse as a child and your own father cut your tail off.
Oral - Anal - Phallic and Oedipal - Castration
Rogers, Robert. Metaphor: A Psychoanalytic Review. Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1978. E-book.


Sharpe, Matthew. “Jacques Lacan.” Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. 27 June, 2005. Web. 8 September 2013.


Huston, Gail. The Critical Experience. 2nd Edition. Iowa. Kendall/Hunt publishing Company. (139)

Bressler, Charles. Literary Criticism. Fifth Edition. New York. Pearson Education, Inc.





http://litguide.press.jhu.edu.ezproxy.uvu.edu (The Johns Hopkins Guide to Literary Theory and Criticism)

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