Literary Criticism

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Psychoanalytical Approach in Literary Criticism
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PSYCHOANALYTICAL APPROACH IN LITERATURE

Psychoanalytic literary criticism refers to literary criticism or literary theory which, in method, concept, or form, is influenced by the tradition of psychoanalysis begun by Sigmund Freud. Psychoanalytic reading has been practiced since the early development of psychoanalysis itself, and has developed into a heterogeneous interpretive tradition. As Patricia Waugh writes, 'Psychoanalytic literary criticism does not constitute a unified field....However, all variants endorse, at least to a certain degree, the idea that literature...is fundamentally entwined with the psyche'.[1] The object of psychoanalytic literary criticism, at its very simplest, can be the psychoanalysis of the author or of a particularly interesting character in a given work. In this directly therapeutic form, the criticism is very similar to psychoanalysis itself, closely following the analytic interpretive process discussed in Freud's The Interpretation of Dreams and other works. Critics may view the fictional characters as a psychological case study, attempting to identify such Freudian concepts as Oedipus complex, penis envy, Freudian slips, Id, ego and superego and so on, and demonstrate how they influenced the thoughts and behaviors of fictional characters. However, more complex variations of psychoanalytic criticism are possible. The concepts of psychoanalysis can be deployed with reference to the narrative or poetic structure itself, without requiring access to the authorial psyche (an interpretation motivated by French psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan's remark that "the unconscious is structured like a language"). Or the founding texts of psychoanalysis may themselves be treated as literature, and re-read for the light cast by their formal qualities on their theoretical content (Freud's texts frequently resemble detective stories, or the archaeological narratives of which he was so fond). Like all forms of literary criticism, psychoanalytic criticism can yield useful clues to the sometime baffling symbols, actions, and settings in a literary work; however, like all forms of literary criticism, it has its limits. For one thing, some critics rely on psychocriticism as a "one size fits all" approach, when other literary scholars argue that no one approach can adequately illuminate or interpret a complex work of art. As Guerin, et al. put it in A Handbook of Critical Approaches to Literature. The danger is that the serious student may become theory-ridden, forgetting that Freud's is not the only approach to literary criticism. To see a great work of fiction or a great poem primarily as a psychological case study is often to miss its wider significance and perhaps even the essential aesthetic experience it should provide.

Psychoanalytic: Such criticism aims at uncovering the working of the human mind--especially the expression of the unconscious. Possibilities include analyzing a text like a dream, looking for symbolism and repressed meaning, or developing a psychological analysis of a character. Three ideas found in the work of Sigmund Freud are particularly useful: the dominance of the unconscious mind over the conscious, the expression of the unconscious mind through symbols (often in dreams), and sexuality as a powerful force for motivating human behavior. Psychoanalytic criticism can be applied to either the author/text relationship or to the reader/text relationship. You might ask, "How is this text use or represent the unconscious mind: of the author, the characters, the reader?" Methods

Early applications
Freud wrote several important essays on literature, which he used to explore the psyche of authors and characters, to explain narrative mysteries, and to develop new concepts in psychoanalysis (for instance, Delusion and Dream in Jensen's Gradiva and his influential readings of the Oedipus myth and Shakespeare's Hamlet in The...
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