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THE UNCONSCIOUS Psychoanalytic criticism is a form of applied psychoanalysis, a science concerned with the interaction between conscious and unconscious processes and with the laws of mental functioning. It should not be confused with psychotherapy, which is concerned with treating mental illness and behavioral problems, although many psychotherapists use various kinds of analysis in their work. Rather, psychoanalytic criticism is one of many different forms of study that use psychoanalytic concepts to understand particular subject matter. Thus there are psychoanalytically inclined sociologists, anthropologists, and political scientists, as well as critics, and all of them use concepts and insights from psychoanalytic theory in their work. Freud did not discover the unconscious; Plato, Nietzsche, Bergson, and many others discussed it before Freud. However, Freud developed the concept most thoroughly, and it is with Freud that all neoFreudians, post-Freudians, anti-Freudians, and non-Freudians must come to grips. He was a seminal thinker of incredible power and scope, and his ideas and insights have fueled the work of generations of scholars in numerous fields. What I offer in this section is not a full-scale explication of Freudian thought, but a selection of some of Freud’s most important concepts—concepts that can be applied to the media
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to help clarify how they work and how they affect us. Freud was most interested in helping people, but in the course of his amazing career he wrote on many other subjects, such as folklore, humor, and theater— pointing the way toward the development of psychoanalytic criticism. One of the keystones in psychoanalytic theory is the concept of the unconscious. As Freud writes in his essay “Psychoanalysis” (1963): It was a triumph for the... [continues]
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