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Psychological/Psychoanalytic Criticism

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Presentation on theme: "Psychological/Psychoanalytic Criticism"— Presentation transcript:

1 Psychological/Psychoanalytic Criticism

2 What is Psychoanalytic Criticism?
critics begin with a full psychological theory of how and why people behave as they do, a theory that has been developed by a psychologist /psychiatrist/ psychoanalyst outside of the realm of literature, and they apply this psychological theory as a standard to interpret and evaluate a literary work.

3 Aspects of psychoanalysis:
Aspects of psychoanalysis: **Borrowed form Purdue Owl: Literary Theory and Schools of Criticism **The Unconscious, the Desires, and the Defenses "...the notion that human beings are motivated, even driven, by desires, fears, needs, and conflicts of which they are unaware...” Freud believed that our unconscious was influenced by childhood events. Freud organized these events into developmental stages involving relationships with parents and drives of desire and pleasure where children focus "on different parts of the body...starting with the mouth...shifting to the oral, anal, and phallic phases..."

4 **Id, Ego, and Superego Freud maintained that our desires and our unconscious conflicts give rise to three areas of the mind that wrestle for dominance as we grow from infancy, to childhood, to adulthood: •id - "...the location of the drives" or libido •ego - " of the major defenses against the power of the drives..." and home of the defenses listed above •superego - the area of the unconscious that houses judgment (of self and others) and "...which begins to form during childhood as a result of the Oedipus complex"

5 **Oedipus Complex Essentially, the Oedipus complex involves children's need for their parents and the conflict that arises as children mature and realize they are not the absolute focus of their mother's attention. Freud argued that both boys and girls wish to possess their mothers, but as they grow older "...they begin to sense that their claim to exclusive attention is thwarted by the mother's attention to the father..."

6 When is this lens used? Because psychoanalytic theories have been developed outside the realm of literature, they are not tied to a specific aesthetic theory and are frequently coupled with other schools of literary criticism (e.g., feminist psychoanalytic criticism, reader-response psychoanalytic criticism, etc.). These theories are used to explain specifically directed behaviors.

7 **Freud and Literature
We can " see which concepts are operating in the text in such a way as to enrich our understanding of the work.” Typical questions: •How do the operations of repression structure or inform the work? •Are there any oedipal dynamics - or any other family dynamics - at work here? •How can characters' behavior, narrative events, and/or images be explained in terms of psychoanalytic concepts of any kind (for example...fear or fascination with death, sexuality - which includes love and romance as well as sexual behavior - as a primary indicator of psychological identity or the operations of ego-id-superego)? • What does the work suggest about the psychological being of its author? •What might a given interpretation of a literary work suggest about the psychological motives of the reader? • Are there prominent words in the piece that could have different or hidden meanings? Could there be a subconscious reason for the author using these "problem words"?

8 Psychoanalytic literary criticism can focus on one or more of the following:
the author: the theory is used to analyze the author and his/her life, and the literary work is seen to supply evidence for this analysis. This is often called "psychobiography." the characters: the theory is used to analyze one or more of the characters; the psychological theory becomes a tool to explain the characters’ behavior and motivations. The more closely the theory seems to apply to the characters, the more realistic the work appears.

9 Psychoanalytic literary criticism can focus on one or more of the following:
the audience: the theory is used to explain the appeal of the work for those who read it; the work is seen to embody universal human psychological processes and motivations, to which the readers respond more or less unconsciously. the text: the theory is used to analyze the role of language and symbolism in the work.

10 What is New Historicist criticism?
New Historicism is a theory that suggests literature must be studied and interpreted within the context of both the history of the author and the history of the critic. Unlike previous historical criticism, which limited itself to simply demonstrating how a work reflected its time, New Historicism evaluates how the work is influenced by the time in which the author wrote it. It also examines the social sphere in which the author moved, the psychological background of the writer, and the books and theories that may have influenced him or her. Beyond that, many critics also look at the impact a work had and consider how it influenced others.

11 How does it differ for the critic?
New Historicism acknowledges that any criticism of a work is colored by the critic’s beliefs, social status, and other factors. Many New Historicists begin a critical reading of a novel by explaining themselves, their backgrounds, and their prejudices. Both the work and the reader are affected by everything that has influenced them. New Historicism thus represents a significant change from previous critical theories because its main focus is to look at many elements outside of the work, instead of reading the text in isolation.

12 What does it look like in practice?
It can be said that New Historicism often looks for ways in which writers express ideas or possible opinions within their writing. For example, Jane Austen novels are often confined to a very limited sphere of society, namely the landed gentry. While a New Historicist may praise the work, he or she might also note that the servant class is completely marginalized in Austen’s work. Austen's writing asserts the pre-eminence of the landed gentry above any other class of society, and is quite critical of those who marry “beneath” their social status. The critic in New Historicism might then evaluate why Austen would display this prejudice, giving information about books she had read, events in her life that may have influenced her, and her own choices in regards to marriage. Austen is, in a way, at odds with her own work, which suggests power may be purchased through good marriages, since she never married. In fact, Austen’s life stands outside her own espoused theories in literature; as a female novelist, she gained prestige through her work rather than through marriage. A New Historicist would likely discuss this contrast, between her work and her life, and consider it when reading her writing.

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