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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures : English Literature

Undergraduate Course: Desire and Writing: Psychoanalysis, Literature, Criticism (ENLI10431)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Literatures, Languages and Cultures CollegeCollege of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 10 (Year 4 Undergraduate) AvailabilityNot available to visiting students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryWhat does writing know about mental life? This course explores the history of psychoanalysis and its role in literary criticism. It asks what writing can tell us about desire, trauma, wishfulness, and melancholia, and what theories of psychological life can tell us about literature.

In this course we read key texts in the history of psychoanalysis and think about the contribution psychoanalytic criticism can make to our reading and understanding of aesthetics, politics, sexuality, race, and the postcolonial.
Course description What does writing know about mental life? This course explores the history of psychoanalysis and its role in literary criticism. It asks what writing can tell us about desire, trauma, wishfulness, and melancholia, and what theories of psychological life can tell us about literature.

The first half of the course reads key theoretical texts in the history of psychoanalysis as literature; students are asked to use their skills as critics to think about the style, rhetoric, and narrative form of works by Sigmund Freud, Anna Freud, Melanie Klein, and others. The second half of the course uses this foundation to think critically about the role of psychoanalytic ideas in literary and critical theory, exploring questions of aesthetics, politics, sexuality, race, and the postcolonial.

While this course functions as a freestanding study of psychoanalysis and criticism, no specialist knowledge is assumed. We will work together to understand and analyse unfamiliar kinds of writing using familiar techniques of close reading, attending to context, style, and form.

This course will be of particular interest to students interested in modern and contemporary literature, mental health, gender and sexuality, race and the postcolonial, literature and medicine, creative writing, and the history and theory of literary criticism.


Introductory Lecture: Psychoanalysis, Reading, Writing

First Part: Psychoanalysis as literature

The Dream of Psychoanalysis (Sigmund Freud, Interpretation of Dreams)

Trauma and Social Life (Sigmund Freud, Studies on Hysteria)

Attachment and Loss I (Melanie Klein)

Attachment and Loss II (Anna Freud, Donald Winnicott)

Language and the Unconscious (Jacques Lacan)

Second Part: Criticism and psychoanalysis

Desire, language, and the lyric (Mutlu Konuk Blasing)

Politics and analysis (Slavoj ¿i¿ek and Tim Dean)

Psychopathologies of race (Anne A. Cheng and José Muñoz)

Psychoanalytic queer theory (Leo Bersani and Lee Edelman)

The postcolonial unconscious (Ranjana Khanna and Jonathan Lear)

Student Learning Experience

This course is taught principally through an intensive, two-hour weekly seminar. In week one there will be an introductory lecture, introducing you to some of the main ideas, intellectual history, and ways of reading we will encounter on this course. From there, we¿ll spend the first half of this course using our skills as literary critics to read key texts in the history of psychoanalysis. By preparing close analyses of selected passages each week in autonomous learning groups, you will gain understanding and fluency with psychoanalytic writing. Seminars will reinforce and extend this understanding through group discussion, presentations, and revision of key ideas. The mid-semester essay will assess knowledge and understanding of the material discussed so far.

In the second half of the course, we¿ll analyse and explore the role of psychoanalytic ideas in critical practice. Following the same pattern as the first half, you will use autonomous learning groups to study key critical ideas, and will have the chance to present, test, and extend them in seminar discussion. This part of the course emphasises the application of psychoanalytic ideas to critical issues including literary aesthetics, representations of sexuality, and critical theorisation of race. The end-of-semester essay will assess knowledge and understanding of psychoanalytic ideas and their applications. It will also provide an opportunity for you to look back on the course as a whole and analyse the development of psychoanalytic ideas over time.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Course Delivery Information
Academic year 2024/25, Not available to visiting students (SS1) Quota:  0
Course Start Semester 2
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 200 ( Seminar/Tutorial Hours 22, Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 4, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 174 )
Assessment (Further Info) Written Exam 0 %, Coursework 100 %, Practical Exam 0 %
Additional Information (Assessment) Mid-semester: 1 x 2000-word essay engaging critically and historically with any of the works from the first half of the course (30% weighting)

End of semester: 1 x 3000-word essay critically engaging psychoanalytic approaches to literary criticism, using material from across the whole course (70% weighting).
Feedback This course will present students with material likely to be unfamiliar and potentially challenging. As such, it takes pains to provide a high level of support and feedback throughout.

In-seminar presentations in this course will be accompanied by a) peer feedback and b) seminar leader feedback providing continuous verbal feedback to support knowledge and understanding.

This course will provide written formative feedback in response to the mid-semester essay.

Feedback will be returned in good time to inform the end-of-semester essay.
No Exam Information
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Demonstrate knowledge and understanding of the development of psychoanalytic theory
  2. Demonstrate knowledge and understanding of psychoanalytic ideas and concepts
  3. Critically evaluate psychoanalytic methods and approaches to literary criticism
  4. Reflect critically on debates in critical practice
Reading List

Mutlu Konuk Blasing, Lyric Poetry: The Pleasure and Pain of Words (Princeton UP, 2007)

Anne A. Cheng, The Melancholy of Race (Oxford UP, 2001)

Lee Edelman, No Future (Duke UP, 2004)

Bruce Fink, The Lacanian Subject (Princeton UP, 1995)

Sigmund Freud, The Interpretation of Dreams (Basic Books, 2010)

Sigmund Freud, Creative Writers and Day-Dreaming*

Sigmund Freud, Studies on Hysteria*

Sigmund Freud, Mourning and Melancholia*

Anna Freud, About Losing and Being Lost*

Ranjana Khanna, Dark Continents: Psychoanalysis and Colonialism (Duke UP, 2003)

Melanie Klein, Mourning and Its Relation to Manic-Depressive States*

Jacques Lacan, The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis (Karnac, 2004)

Jonathan Lear, Radical Hope (Harvard UP, 2008)

Adam Phillips, Promises, Promises (Basic Books, 2001)

Michelle Ann Stephens, Skin Acts: Race, Psychoanalysis, and the Black Male Performer (Duke UP, 2014)

Donald Winnicott, Transitional Objects and Transitional Phenomena*

Slavoj ¿i¿ek, The Sublime Object of Ideology (Verso, 1989)

*Available through library subscription to PEP-Web


Sigmund Freud, The Complete Psychological Works ed. James Strachey*

Leo Bersani, Thoughts and Things (Chicago UP, 2015)

Leo Bersani, Is the Rectum a Grave (Chicago UP, 2009)

Mary Jacobus, The Poetics of Psychoanalysis: In the Wake of Klein (Oxford UP, 2005)

Melanie Klein, The Selected Melanie Klein ed. Juliet Mitchell (Hogarth Press, 1998)

Jacques Lacan, Ecrits ed. Bruce Fink (WW Norton, 2007)

Jean Laplanche, Essays on Otherness ed. John Fletcher (Routledge, 2005)

Jean Laplanche and J-B Pontalis, The Language of Psychoanalysis (Karnac, 2006)*

José Muñoz, Cruising Utopia (NYU Press, 2009)

Lyndsey Stonebridge and John Phillips (ed) Reading Melanie Klein (Routledge, 1998)

Donald Winnicott, The Family and Individual Development (Routledge, 2012)

Donald Winnicott, Playing and Reality (Routledge, 1971)

Slavoj ¿i¿ek, How To Read Lacan (Granta, 2011)

Further Reading

Leo Bersani and Adam Phillips, Intimacies (Chicago UP, 2008)

Richard Bowlby, Fifty Years of Attachment Theory: The Donald Winnicott Memorial Lecture (Routledge, 2005)

Catherine Clémont, The Weary Sons of Freud (Verso, 2015)

Tom Eyers, Lacan and the Concept of the Real (Palgrave, 2012)

Shoshana Felman, Writing and Madness (Stanford UP, 2003)

Bruce Fink, Lacan To The Letter: Reading Ecrits Closely (U of Minnesota P, 2004)

John Forrester, Dispatches from the Freud Wars: Psychoanalysis and Its Passions (Harvard UP, 1997)

Jean Laplanche, Life and death in psychoanalysis (Johns Hopkins UP, 1985)

Ruth Leys, Trauma: A Genealogy (U of Chicago P, 2010)

Catherine Liu, John Mowitt, Thomas Pepper, et al (eds) The Dreams of Interpretation (U of Minnesota P, 2007)

Lydia Marinelli and Andreas Mayer, Dreaming by the Book: A History of Freud's "the Interpretation of Dreams" and the Psychoanalytic Movement (Other Press, 2003)

Juliet Mitchell, Psychoanalysis and Feminism (Basic Books, 2000)

Adam Phillips, Winnicott (Harvard UP, 1989)

Adam Phillips, Becoming Freud (Yale UP, 2014)

Elisabeth Roudinesco, Freud (Harvard UP, 2016)

Moustafa Safouan, Four Lessons of Psychoanalysis (Other Press, 2004)

Hanna Segal, Klein (Taylor & Francis, 2018)

Kaja Silverman, The Acoustic Mirror: The Female Voice in Psychoanalysis and Cinema (Indiana UP, 1998)

Elisabeth Young-Bruehl, Anna Freud: A Biography (Yale UP, 2008)

Slavoj ¿i¿ek, For They Know Not what They Do: Enjoyment as a Political Factor (Verso, 2002)
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Critical understanding of concepts

Application of specialised skills and techniques of critical analysis

Presentation and communication of ideas on a professional level
KeywordsPsychoanalysis,trauma,gender,sexuality,queer theory,desire,theory,race,criticism,Freud,Klein,Bersani
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