Good Afternoon, Dr. Freud

Now, I’ve always been something of a sceptic when it comes to psychoanalysis. I don’t really buy into brain-dwellers, and I think that ferreting around in the subconscious is sometimes like digging around a landmine; sometimes, things are buried for a reason. However, our American cousins seem to have a lot of faith in the practice, and since I have to revise the subject anyway, I thought I’d embrace it and see what all the fuss is about.

Freudian psychoanalysis is a method of literary interpretation that places heavy emphasis on the nature of the mind, and how the unconscious influences of the super-ego, ego and id affect the way we conduct our literary and everyday lives. Freud wrote a number of important essays on various topics of literary interpretation. These include his thoughts on narcissism, the short comings of the pleasure principle, the issues surrounding proposed infantile sexuality, and the importance of dream analysis.

A Formidable Man… (1)

Psychoanalysis as a discipline focusses on the talking cure as a way of establishing and tackling the root behind one’s neuroses. This approach can be applied to literature in so far as one searches for one’s neuroses hidden behind imagery that can be found in a text. Freud suggests that everything we do is the result of impulses and therefore to look for these impulses can be conducive to providing a literary analysis of the subject.

All of Freud’s literature is based around the concept of the unconscious, which is deemed as having three levels. The first is the super-ego, which represents the expectations of society and is widely considered as being the voice of morality. The ego represents desires, and attempts to mediate between the id and the superego, whilst the id represents the base human instincts; it is something that is inaccessible.

Freud’s theory of dreams tends to relate back to the content of the id, and the process of establishing the dream-work is perhaps the most important in terms of psychoanalysis. Latent content is the fundamental basis of analysis, made all the more obscure by way of the fact that it is hidden deep inside the content of the dream.

Condensation is the Freudian understanding that one object in a dream represents a number of complex ideas, therefore the content of the dream is deceptively small. Alongside condensation is the concept of displacement, where the dream object’s emotional significance is separated from it’s real object or content and attached to an entirely different one, in order to not arouse the suspicions of the dreamer. Dreams are never simple and represent a huge amount of latent content.

The pleasure principle is something that is always sublimated to something else; the human psyche is more complex than simply the pursuit of pleasure. Other pursuits, such as repeating a certain action, are repeated in order to fulfil the unfulfilled wish. The converse principle, or the reality principle, counters the pleasure principle, when people choose to defer fulfilling a certain desire on the basis that circumstantial reality is opposed to this desire. Society therefore intervenes, creating the reality principle. Freud defines maturity as an ability to tolerate continual deferred pleasure, in favour of conforming with social expectations and understanding. Therefore the ego has become reasonable, and obeys the reality principle in favour of understanding only the pleasure principle. The reality principle does also seek to fulfil desires; however it does so whilst taking into account the problems of circumstantial reality.

This concludes my elementary understanding of Freudian theory, and also proved a very useful revision task.

Thank you for reading!





Sarah Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland has long been a popular children’s story, and has featured on the reading lists of many adults as well. The novel was first published in 1865 and became an institution in itself, inspiring many writers, and production studios. Alice’s adventures even reached into the blogosphere, inspiring one very talented bloggette. Alice’s world is inspirational because it creates the impression that even the nonsensical is sensible, given the appropriate imagination and context; everything can be experienced in technicolour if you have the imagination to think that way.

The Red Queen, in the Tim Burton film. (1)

I loved the film when I was a child, and when I’m not feeling well, I’ll still watch both the Disney original, and the new version, featuring Johnny Depp. I find the latter to be fascinating, with just enough suspense and dragon fighting to capture the audience’s attention, or more specifically, the attention of a slightly older audience. It has always been immensely difficult to write a children’s book that is sufficiently versatile that it will appeal to adults at the same time, however that’s what Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (pseudonym Lewis Carroll) managed to do. It is the most critically acclaimed children’s book of all time, widely being hailed as a fantastic example of the nonsense literary genre, by people such as Sir Walter Scott.

Alice’s various explorations, including the episode of the Walrus and the Carpenter, and tea with the Mad Hatter, are adventures that we all really would like to do it, a little bit. We all want to escape, and falling down the rabbit hole, landing without so much of a scratch really is a rather heroic feat. To be able to eat cake, and shrink, or drink something and grow is almost like a superpower; I rather fancy Alice as a kind of superhero for little girls.

However, in the novel, there are some more disturbing images, that even to this day give me the creeps. I find the episode with the pepper and the pig to be consisted of almost grotesque imagery, and for a children’s story, I think that could be considered quite an alarming element. However from a more educationally led perspective, the whole episode could be interpreted as an allegory for not quite understanding the consequences of one’s actions, and being surprised when something distasteful results. We’ve all been there and done it; done some we oughtn’t have, and then been slightly surprised at the awkward or irritating results we left behind.

Figurative language always catches my attention, and none more so than in Alice and Wonderland. The whimsical nature of the prose is something I find profoundly interesting. The poems seem almost meshed together, as if no thought at all went into them, however it becomes clear that the very opposite is true; the nonsense if you like, is an intellectual construction, interested only in creating a whimsical nature. I suppose one could argue then, that the novel isn’t part of the nonsense genre at all, however that presupposes that one considers the genre to be just what it says it is; nonsense.

If you’ve never read the book by itself, I encourage you to. It’s a wonderful trip into fantasy.




It’s Nice to Meet You, Mr. Hyde

The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is possibly my favourite novella, and I only made this discovery on Monday night, having realised, in something of a panic, that I was due to discuss this novella in relation to Freudian psychoanalysis, the following morning, ten am sharp. So, I did what all good students do: camped out on my bed, with a big pile of pillows, and read all eighty-two pages, feverishly, and with fear of my seminar leader deep in my heart. It took about two hours.

Anyway, I finished the novella, and came to the conclusion that I had rather enjoyed it. In fact, I’d enjoyed it so much that I thought I might well read it again, just for fun. The best element though, in my opinion, is the protagonist’s ability to be himself, and yet somebody entirely different, at the same time. In some ways, isn’t this what we’d all like to be able to do? I certainly would.

Book Cover (1)

Dr. Jekyll however becomes a fantastical opposite of what he is in reality; a blood thirsty monster, subject to his own innate impulses.  It can be said however that the Jekyll that is sane, and balanced, is not the true self that exists within him; instead, it is possible that he is in fact the monstrous character of Hyde, by way of the fact that he finds these impulses within what is essentially his soul, however I use this phrase with some apathy.

This can be related to the Freudian idea of the id, ego and superego, however personally, I’m not a devout follower of this school of criticism. In fairness to the wonderful Dr. Freud though, he might have managed to save us if he’d managed to keep his appointment with Hitler. His neuroses would have allowed the man a significant case study and one heck of a field day.

In a way, the idea of having multiple personalities stored inside you is completely terrifying. There is perhaps nothing so disconcerting as this idea, because according to this hypothesis, nobody is really aware of their limits, or how far they could possibly go. This is true of life however; people are never quite aware of what they can do until they choose to push the boat out and find out. People sometimes overstep themselves, and forget their limits; they do things that damage them. However the idea that we have innumerable possibilities before us is both liberating and horrifying because we can’t ever know what we could do.

Hyde however, is far less enigmatic; he is evidently capable of unrestrained evil, murder and deception. An interesting idea however is what would happen if we could all release ourselves into this world of unmitigated impulse. This idea is reflecting, in two of my favourite texts, of course; (can you guess what they are?) The Wasteland and The Picture of Dorian Grey The latter is probably the best example however; excess, temptation, and the abandonment of restraint all seem to make rather delectable reading, at least to those who adore decadence and anarchy, like myself.

If you’re in the mood for some light horror, and an evening’s entertainment, then this is the novella for you. Especially if psychodrama tickles your taste buds.