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March 23, 2012

The Neurotic Mind: Psychoanalytical Criticism


Image Source: http://allpsych.com/images/iceberg.gif

Habib, M.A.R. A History of Literary Criticism: From Plato to the Present. Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2005. ISBN:0-631-23200-1.

Lynn, Steven. Texts and Contexts: Writing about Literature with Critical Theory. 5th ed. New York: Pearson, 2008. ISBN: 032144907X.

Rivkin, Julie and Michael Ryan, eds. Literary Theory: An Anthology. 2nd ed. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell, 2004. ISBN: 1405106964.

Tyson, Lois. Critical Theory Today: A User-Friendly Guide. 2nd ed. New York: Routledge, 2006. ISBN: 0415974100.

[These are our four primary course texts on theory. The Rivkin and Ryan anthology contains your collection of primary sources about literary theory as written by the pioneers and theorists who helped develop them. Use the articles from the anthology (and any others I publish for you on our course libguides page) as your primary sources for your final mock conference papers].

Posted by lhobbs at March 23, 2012 04:08 PM

Readers' Comments:


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ENG 435 Students of 2009,

In this entry, you will be entering:

[1] Your two self-designed reading-response questions (short answer) based on the "overview" summaries of this theory you were assigned from various textbooks. Due in the comment box here AND in the appropriate folder on turnitin.com on the day BEFORE the class meeting they are to be used.

[2] Your two self-designed discussion questions (longer answer) based on the application of specific terminology from this particular theory toward the primary works we have read for this course. Due in the comment box here AND in the appropriate folder on turnitin.com on the day BEFORE the class meeting they are to be used.

[1] your precis of the article assigned to you from the Rivkin and Ryan anthology about this particular theory. Due in the comment box below, in the appropriate folder on turnitin.com, AND as a hardcopy in class according to the deadline listed on our itinerary (see syllabus). Be prepared to discuss your article with the rest of the class.

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Pop(ular) Psychology

 

Students,

 

Psychological terminology, in the form of “buzzwords,” is in our everyday language. When used by laypeople (who may or may not have a very solid understanding of the words they are throwing around) this language is often referred to, at worst, as “psychobabble,” and, at best, “pop psychology.”

 

How many of these “terms” are already in your everyday vocabulary?

 

acting out

addiction / addictive personality

anal / anal-retentive

antisocial / asocial

attachment

bipolar (see manic depression)

brain wave

catatonic

chronic (e.g. liar, etc.)

co-dependent / co-dependency

complex/es (e.g. Oedipal, Electra) / disorder

conditioning

crisis / all crises (mid-life, etc)

defense mechanism

delusions (e.g., of grandeur)

denial

dysfunctional

ego / egocentric / egotistical

empowerment / enable(r)

emotional baggage

father figure / role model

gifted / special child

holistic

hyperactive / attention deficit disorder

hypochondria(c)

hysteria / hysterical

insane / insanity

klepto / kleptomania

identification

learning curve

lunacy / lunatic

mad (in the British sense)mania / maniac / maniacal / all manias

manic-depression (see bipolar)

meaningful relationship megalomaniac

multiple personality disorder

narcissistic / self-absorbed

neurotic / neurosis

nympho / nymphomaniac

obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)

paranoid / paranoia

pathological (e.g. killer, liar, etc.)

passive-aggressive

pedophile

philia /all philias (loves)

phobia / all phobias (fears)

psychopath

psychosis

pyro / pyromaniac

reinforcement

repression

self-actualization

separation anxiety

stress / distress / duress (mental)

synergy

syndrome/s (e.g., Peter Pan, Tourette’s)

well-being


Can you think of any more?

 

Also, in terms of literature, how many of these terms are connected to characters from Greco-Roman mythology? (e.g., Oedipus, Electra, Narcissus, etc.)

 

The following expressions, and many like them, also get incorporated to our everyday “psychobabble” speak, indicating that we are already applying the rudiments of psychoanalytic theory—even if not fully comprehended—to our understanding of the world.  For example:

 

·      anger management

·      affirmation (daily)

·      ego-tripping / ego-searching (on Google)

·      where you're coming from

·      where you're at

·      come on / turn on / turn off / tune in / tune out

·      get it together

·      get behind it / get with it

·      has his/her shields up

·      projecting one’s disappointment

·      validating/invalidating someone/something

 

Can you think of any more?

 

In the handouts I gave you, see the list of “phobias.” Note that “phobia" means an "extreme or irrational fear or aversion of something." For each of the phobia words on the list, substitute the suffix "phobia" with the word "mania" to indicate an "excessive enthusiasm, desire ,or obsession for" or the word "philia" to indicate "an abnormal inclination, love or fondness for."

 

Do any of the characters in any of the texts we’ve read for this course reflect a phobia, philia, or mania?

 


Good luck,

Dr. Hobbs

Sigmund Freud's Five Stages of Development

Video URL Link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gFNU-RHTMO0
Abraham Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs

Video URL Link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5NshVq7isSY
Elisabeth Kübler-Ross's Five Stages of Grief/Loss according to "Adult Swim"

Video URL Link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XCoaBN6iOu0
Phobias (Fears): "The Phobia Sufferer's Convention"

Video URL Link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gT_mkrrM_cE


Questions to Consider for Psychoanalytic Criticism

 

1.     FROM AVA: What, according to Tyson’s understanding of Sigmund Freud, is the “unconscious” mind and what does it store?

 

A: The unconscious is the storehouse of painful experiences and unresolved conflicts including fears, emotional wounds, and guilty desires.

 

2.     FROM TRAVIS: Explain what Jacques Lacan means by his term, “the mirror stage” of infancy (Tyson 27).

 

A: By looking at its reflection in a mirror, an infant perceives itself as a whole rather than simply a mass.

 

3.     FROM WES: After Freud, much discussion ensued about the human “libido.” a.) What is the libido and b.) where does it reside—in the id, the ego, or the super-ego?

 

A: a.) he energy of the sexual drive as a component of the life instinct. b.) in the id, “the psychological reservoir of our instincts.”

 

4.     FROM JESS and AVA: What is meant by the psychoanalytic term, “displacement”?

 

A: Basically, it is a name for the action of our transfer of anger with one person onto another individual.

 

5.     FROM KRISTIN: According to Tyson, how is “regression” both a helpful defense for the individual and therapeutic tool for the psychoanalyst?  In other words, as a technique, what does it do? (Tyson 15-16).

 

A. Regression can involve a return to a pleasant or painful experience.  It can be helpful because it has the opportunity for active reversal which gives the opportunity to work through repressed experiences and emotions and heal an old wound.

 

6.     OPTIONAL BONUS QUESTION: What is the “Oedipal” complex/fixation?

 

A: For Freud, this was “the childhood desire to sleep with the mother and to kill the father.” It “describe a boy's feelings of desire for his mother and jealously and anger towards his father” and occurs in the phallic stage of psychosexual development.” It is used loosely to refer to an adult’s dysfunctional bond with one or both of his/her parents.

 

7.     Inspired by Jess’s discussion question:
Can one find psychoanalytic elements in literary works that were written before Freud’s development of his theory? Further, can critics use the principles of psychoanalytic criticism to analyze works written before Freud’s theory was developed?

 

 

8.     Inspired by Ava’s and Kristin’s discussion questions:
Why is the consideration of an individual’s family important in psychoanalytic theory? Cite, at least, one example of how this can be applied.  Also, what “psychological” role does “family,” as a construct, play in any of the common texts we’ve examined thus far in this course?

 

 

9.     Inspired by Liz’s discussion question:
What is Freud’s “death drive” (not Vader’s “death star”) and can you identify it any of the common texts we’ve examined thus far in this course?

 

 

10.  Inspired by Travis’s discussion question:
Several of the integral “core issues” psychoanalytic criticism involve the concept of “fear” (Tyson 16 – 17). Why is fear such an important topic of discussion for psychoanalysts and, by association, literary critics who write about literature with a psychoanalytic lens?

 

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For an English-Blog entry on the "Logotherapy" theory of neurologist and psychiatrist Viktor Frankl, please click HERE.

For more English-Blog entries on the topic of Critical Theory, please click HERE.
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Cecilia B
Dr. Hobbs
ENG 435
11th March 2009
1. List the types of defenses which occur when the unconscious strives to keep its contents repressed.
- Defenses include: selective perception, selective memory, denial, avoidance, displacement, regression and projection (Tyson 15).
2. What unconscious process does Jacques Lacan observe as similar to metaphor?
- Condensation is similar to metaphor, because it brings dissimilar things together such as substituting a person or object for several dissimilar persons or objects (Tyson 31).

Posted by: Cecilia at March 10, 2009 01:46 PM

Wesley Johnson
Hobbs
Eng 435
March 10, 2009

1. Why does Tyson use the term "pattern" of behavior? This shows that humans have been acting under the influence of a behavior for a while
2. What is condensation? This is when a single dream image represents more than one unconcious conflict/wound.
3. What is the libido? One's sexual energy.
4. What is meant by the imaginary order? This is the world of images.

Posted by: Wesley J. at March 10, 2009 07:38 PM

Jessica P.
Dr. Hobbs
ENG 435
3/10/09

Questions for Psychoanalytic Theory

Short Answer:

Q: What is the definition of the psychoanalytic name for displacement?

A: Basically, it is a name for the action of our transfer of anger with one person onto another individual.

Discussion:

Q: Can one find psychoanalytic elements in literary works that were written before Freud’s development of his theory? Further, can critics use psychoanalytic criticism to analyze works written before Freud’s theory?

A: Yes, Freud did not invent his theory, he simply discovered the principles that already existed. Thus, the basic elements of Freud’s theory can be found in all works, as they have always existed.

Posted by: Jessica Pall at March 10, 2009 08:44 PM

Liz H


Dr. Hobbs


ENG 435


March 10, 2009


Questions/Class Discussion


1. Why is psychoanalytic theory helpful?


A. In Tyson’s text, she states that psychoanalysis is about human behavior and literature is about our understanding of it, so by knowing this theory, we can understand why people act the way that they do (14).


2. Why do some critics reject using psychoanalytic theory as a valid way to look at literature?


A. The characters are not real; therefore, they do not have psyches to be analyzed (Tyson 29).


Discussion topic:
Do you see Freud’s death drive in any of the works we’ve read?

Posted by: Liz H at March 10, 2009 08:50 PM

Ava Littlefield
Dr. Hobbs
ENG 435
10 March 2009
Reading Check Questions on Psychoanalytic Criticism

1.What does the word “displacement” mean?
A.Displacement is the name of the transference of our anger with one person onto another person.
2.What branch of psychoanalysis developed by Sigmund Freud is used to apply psychoanalytic criticism to literature?
A.Classical psychoanalysis.
3.What is the goal of psychoanalysis?
A.The goal of psychoanalysis is to help human beings resolve our psychological problems.
4.What is the unconscious?
A.The unconscious is the storehouse of painful experiences and unresolved conflicts including fears, emotional wounds, and guilty desires.
Discussion Questions
1.Why is an individual’s family important in psychoanalytic theory? Site an example of how this is applied.
A.Family is important because we become a product of the environment and influences that we are subjected to. If an individual is constantly being told that he or she is a failure, then eventually they will begin to believe it.
2.Name at least two of the types of defenses an individual uses to repress emotions he or she cannot handle and describe what takes place.
A.Selective perception-hearing and seeing only what an individual chooses to.
B.Selective memory- the modification of memories or painful events that an individual chooses to remember or forget entirely.
C.Denial-choosing to deny that a painful event ever took place.
D.Avoidance-intentionally avoiding places or people that make an individual uncomfortable or that will produce anxieties of the individual.
E.Displacement-transferring ones anger onto someone other than the individual that evoked it.
F.Projection-projecting one’s own fear on another individual and then condemning the individual in an attempt to deny that he or she has it.
G.Regression-resorting back to a psychological state that is not just imagined but relived.
3.Identify two of the core issues associated with depression and describe them.
A.Fear of intimacy-the overwhelming feeling that becoming close with an individual will result in hurt.
B.Fear of abandonment-the fear of being deserted by the individuals we care about.
C.Fear of betrayal-the fear of trusted those we love.
D.Low self-esteem-the misconception that we are not as deserving of happiness, love, or attention like those around us.
E.Insecure or unstable of self-the fear of not having any form of self identity resulting in the continual change of an individual behavior and appearance.
F.Oedipal fixation-A dysfunctional relationship that exists between an individual and his or her opposite sex parent which is never resolved even in adulthood.

Posted by: Ava at March 10, 2009 09:00 PM

Travis R
Dr. Hobbs
ENG 435
10 March 2009

Psychoanalytic Quiz Questions

Q: Core issues are an integral part of Psychoanalytic Criticism. What core issues does Tyson define? (Tyson 16 – 17)
A: Fear of intimacy, Fear of abandonment, Fear of betrayal, Low self-esteem, Insecure or unstable sense of self, and Oedipal fixation (Oedipal complex).

Q: Define what Lacan refers to as the “Mirror Stage” of infancy. (Tyson 27)
A: By looking at its reflection in a mirror, an infant perceives itself as a whole rather than simply a mass.

Posted by: Travis R at March 10, 2009 11:05 PM

Kristin Brittain

Dr. Hobbs

ENG 435

3/10/09

Psychoanalytic Questions

1. Why is the family important to psychoanalytic theory (Tyson 13)?
A. The family is important because people are the products of the role they are given in the family structure; and, the unconscious is grounded in the placement of the family and the self-definition that relates to that place.

2. How is regression a helpful defense and therapeutic tool?
A. Regression can involve a return to a pleasant or painful experience but it can be helpful because it has the opportunity for active reversal which gives the opportunity to work through repressed experiences and emotions and heal an old wound (Tyson 15-16).

Posted by: kristin at March 11, 2009 01:41 AM

Sarah Tatko
Dr. Hobbs
Eng-435
11 March 2009
Psychoanalytic Reading Questions
Q: According to Tyson, how does the id, the ego, and the superego work together to tell us about our culture?
A: They work together because the superego is our internalization of social values and taboos and how we experience them as right and wrong. The id is our secret desires based on these values and taboos; and, the ego is in between, it is our conscious self that experiences the society. This means that these are three (un)conscious levels in which we experience our culture; therefore, through our actions we are able to determine information about our culture.

Q: List 3 defenses that we use to keep our repressions repressed.
• selective reception
• selective memory
• denial
• avoidance
• displacement
• projection

Posted by: Sarah T. at March 11, 2009 11:14 AM

Sarah Tatko
Dr. Hobbs
Eng-435
23 March 2009
Freud’s Theory of Identification
In 1921, Sigmund Freud wrote an essay titled “Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego”, which concerns the role of identification in psychoanalysis. He claims that a child’s identity is created through social interactions, especially between caregivers and parents. To form one’s identity a child must undergo the process of identification which is “the earliest expression of an emotional tie with another person” (Freud 438). This definition of identification is the foundation to two other “symptom formations” in regards to the identity (439).
In early stages of identification a child typically identifies with their parent of the same sex. However, this also leads into the development of Oedipal complex. This occurs because a child (a boy in this instance) begins to identify with his father; he wants to be like him because he is the ideal male in which he will emulate. In result of this, the boy will develop “object-cathexis” or “object choice” towards his mother; this is the first symptom formation of identification (Freud 439). Object choice is a sexual longing or desire for the child towards the parent of the opposite sex (439). At first this does not interfere with the development of the boy’s identity but later in life it does because the identification will become identical with the father, therefore, the boy will want to take his place.
Eventually the boy will need to make a distinction between” identification with the father” (meaning emulate the father as the boy would like to be) and the “choice of the father as an object” (what the boy would like to have, in this case his mother) (Freud 439). In other words, the boy needs to decide the route his identification will be taking; he can remain attached to the subject or the object of his ego.
The second symptom formation of identification is based upon the possibility or desire of putting oneself in the same situation as someone or sharing the same quality (Freud 439). This arises because sympathy is formed by identifying with someone (perhaps a friend or relative) when they are in a situation. However, it becomes a symptom formation when that person wants to share it equally. All of these descriptions of different identifications represent the formation of a new emotional tie. Not all lead to good identities though.

Work Cited
Freud, Sigmund. “Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego.” Literary Theory: An Anthology. 2nd ed. Eds. Julie Rivkin and Michael Ryan. Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2004. 438-440.

Posted by: Sarah T. at March 12, 2009 10:28 AM

Ava Littlefield

Dr. Hobbs

ENG 435

13 March 2009
The Pleasures of Control
Sigmund Freud in his 1920’s essay “Beyond the Principle Pleasure” attempts to explain why human beings behave as they do and what initiates them to do so. The essay was written in “an attempt to come to terms with his realization that more seemed to be at work in the mind and in human life than a drive for pleasure” (Freud 431). Freud states that there are two types of drives in human beings, one which focuses on the excitement that having attachments presents, the other on reducing or annihilating the attachment. The later drive, also known as the Death Drive, is the approach individuals take in order to cope with “traumatic experiences of loss” (Freud 431).
During one of his earliest attempts to explain human motives, Freud observes the behavior of a toddler who is a year and a half old. During his observation of the child, Freud noticed that the child would hide toys and later reclaim them as a means of trying to control the emotions he felt regarding his mother’s departure. Freud states that the child’s choice of play was not motivated by strictly pleasure, but also, as an attempt to take control over his mother’s actions. Freud claims that the child either choose to play this game to seek pleasure in finding the toys (the guaranteed return of his mother) or that by hiding the toys (the departure of his mother), the child recognized this as a negative experience.
Freud states that since the child care was administered mostly by his mother, he became angry when he was forced to share her affections with his father. This type of behavior on the child’s behalf is considered textbook for Freud’s model of Oedipal Fixation. The child becomes upset and jealous when his mother departs from him to greet his father. He feels the need to fight for his mother’s sole affections.
Freud further discusses how a child will draw on a traumatic experience and attempt to turn it into a pleasurable one by using displacement. The child will make a game out of the experience and attempt to subject another individual to his or her trauma. By doing so, the child passes from disagreeable experience from his/herself onto another individual, allowing him/her to find pleasure in play. For the child, this is a way to both deal with the experience and also regain control.
Drawing from this study of the child and twenty five years of experience, Freud attempts to explain the process of helping adults cope with psychological issues. His says that first, he must help the patient to understand that a problem exists by having them recognize their problem without having to re-experience it. Freud states that it is important for the patient to recognize a pattern or repetitions in the individual, who is now capable as an adult to understand where the root of the problem lies. Freud also asserts that “These reproductions, which emerge with such unwished-for exactitude, always have as their subject some portion of infantile sexual life, Oedipal complex”(Freud 434). The patient is unable to cognitively exact the beginnings of the development of the problem.
According to Freud, the patient’s resistance to recognize the problem “arises from his ego” (Freud 434). The patient does not want to recall traumatic experiences that he or she has repressed. The patient will continue to repeat any behaviors that have been influenced by his or her traumatic experience until he or she recognizes the problem exists. This type of repetition is known as transference. Freud says that the process of getting the patient to recognize the problem is a long endeavor that often does not take place until half way through treatment.
Freud states that there is a pattern of behaviors that are often revealed by patients who are treated. The patient will attempt to place blame on situations that he or she can recollect or claim that his or her repetitive behavior is a result of being destined to act in such a way. The patient is unable to consciously recognize that his or her behavior stems from infancy. Freud explains that even individuals who seem relatively content in life struggle with psychological issues that he or she is unaware of. However, many human beings refuse to recognize a problem exists because he or she does not care to understand his or her repetitive behaviors. The patient is content to go on living life, avoiding any and all explanations.

Work Cited
Freud, Sigmund. “Beyond Principle Pleasures.” 1920. Literary Theory: An Anthology 2nd ed. Eds. Julie Rivkin and Michael Ryan. Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2004. 431-37.

Posted by: Ava at March 13, 2009 11:09 PM

Wesley Johnson
Hobbs
Eng 435
March 22, 2009
Précis 7: “Pre-Oedipal Configurations”
Nancy Chodorow’s article “Pre-Oedipal Gender Configurations” is an exploration of gender differences in the manners by which each gender navigates pre-oedipal stages of life. From this, Chodorow seeks to explain how these stages manipulate the way that one understands his or her separation from the world. That is, Chodorow’s article examines the creation of identity.
The article begins with the understanding that family structure dictates the ability and mode by which a child differentiates and creates an identity. Therefore, a child’s upbringing is of the utmost importance. Chodorow then establishes that the gender differences dictate how one goes through the pre-oedipal stages. However, this is not to say that gender is the differentiator. What matters is the relationship between the child and mother. So, whether a child is a boy or a girl and how that sex interacts with its mother is what matters.
Chodorow goes into a pretty scientifically in depth discussion of mother child relationships and how that affects a child’s development. Basically, children share a distinct relationship with their mother because she is an external object. That is, children are intrinsically connected to their mother and therefore maintain a more direct relationship. However, the father is an internal object. That is, his relationship to the child is one of conflict and separation.

The gender differences that Chodorow mentions early on are described in complex terms. Simply put, as girls begin to separate themselves from their mothers and create their own identity, a mother becomes symbiotic on another level. That is, the mother exists as the mother, and daughters become a reflection of their mother’s fantasy. If this fails to successfully happen, a woman can experience emptiness. This is the failure to separate oneself and become an individual. Boys can experience similar problems when women have experienced problems with men. That is women will project their prejudices of men onto their male children. This creates unhealthy relationships between mothers and sons. And, it prevents the son from maturing and correctly separating himself and developing an individual identity.


Work Cited
Chodorow, Nancy. “Pre-Oedipal Gender Configurations.” (1978) Literary Theory: An Anthology. 2nd ed. Eds. Julie Rivkin and Michael Ryan. Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2004. 470-486.

Posted by: Wesley J at March 22, 2009 07:08 PM

Jessica P.
Dr. Hobbs
ENG 435
3/22/07

Précis: The Interpretation of Dreams

Sigmund Freud states in his article, The Interpretation of Dreams, that dreams are translations of the unconscious. Desires and feelings that are unfit for expression in conscious life are instead conveyed in dreams. Freud states that psychoanalysis must be used to interpret dreams, as one must understand the relationship between the latent content and manifest content of dreams. Comprised of dream thought and dream content, dreams have two governing factors, dream condensation and dream displacement, which form their structure.

Essentially, dream thoughts are the underlying messages of the unconscious while dream content is the dream itself which symbolically represents the dream thoughts. Dreams are formed by a mass of dream-thoughts with which the prevalent ones are included in the dreams. To analyze dreams, one must dissect the elements of a dream and see how they are related to recent personal events and all other associations that might lead off from them. To understand the factors of dream structure, one must understand the two terms associated with it. Thus, dream condensation is the association of two ideas by a single element. In contrast, dream displacement is the idea that the real meaning and body of the dream thoughts may not be physically represented in the dream at all, rather must be understood through conclusive analyzing of the dream’s elements.

Works Cited
Freud, Sigmund. “The Interpretation of Dreams”. Literary Theory: An Anthology. 2nd ed. Ed. Julie Rivkin and Michael Ryan. Malden, MA: Blackwell, 200

Posted by: Jessica Pall at March 23, 2009 09:03 AM

Travis R
Dr. Hobbs
ENG 435
23 March 2009

Reciprocal Encroachments and Expanding Inclusions: A Brief Look at Lacan

In his essay “The Instance of the Letter in the Unconscious or Reason since Freud,” Jacques Lacan utilizes and further defines some of Sigmund Freud’s ideas concerning the unconscious. Lacan beings his essay by stating that the perception of the role of the unconscious should include the entire structure of language—unlike Freud who believed the unconscious merely stowed painful past experiences. He further states that language exists before one learns it, and one is not a slave to language but, instead, is a slave to the cultural discourse and echelon of society where he resides. Lacan continues this point by stating that through tradition, the discourse of culture is inscribed in the unconscious of an individual before he even has the power to utilize language.

In the essay, Lacan includes the algorithm that grounds linguistics: S/s or signifier over signified. He believes that signification cannot be sustained except by reference to another signification. Meaning exists in the chain of signifiers, but none of the chain’s elements consist in the signification it provides. Further, no language in existence can capture the signified. The signifier serves the function of representing the signified and this process is an illusion. Thus, states Lacan, all language, save for mathematical algorithms, is trifle. The structure of a signifier is articulated, and its elements are reduced to different parts and are combined to make order. These parts of the whole (or elements) are called phonemes. By scrutinizing the structure of phonemes, one can see that essential elements of speech have moved into textual reproduction.

Lacan states that the letter is essentially the localized structure of the signifier; the element which separates two words—it does not matter if a word is pronounced differently in the future (if a consonant is added to the word, etc.) as long as the word remains autonomous and can be distinguished from other words in the language.

Included in Lacan’s essay are several key terms that are utilized by the subconscious: Metonymy is the word-to-word nature of a connection beyond the signified—the first actualization of the signifier. Metaphor is the conjunction of two signifiers; it is present between two signifiers when one signifier takes the place of another in the signifying chain, one word for another—this is where the poetry is created. In addition, Lacan states that dreams should only be understood as signifiers as they have displaced and hidden agendas. In conclusion, he says that an object’s constitution can only be found at the conceptual level, and when reduced to this bedrock conceptual definition, an object splits into the “double, divergent ray” of something (e.g. meaning of a word in French) and nothing (e.g. its lost meaning in Latin).

Work Cited
Lacan, Jacques. "The Instance of the Letter in the Unconscious or Reason since Freud."
Literary Theory: An Anthology, 2nd Ed. Eds. Julie Rivkin and Michael Ryan.
Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2004. 447 - 461.

Posted by: Travis R at March 23, 2009 10:21 AM

Liz Hardy


Dr. Hobbs


ENG 435


March 23, 2009


Précis of “The Black Hole of Trauma”


In the book excerpt, “The Black Hole of Trauma” by Bessel A. van der Kolk and Alexander C. McFarlane, trauma and its lasting effects on our psyches is explored. Surprisingly enough, Kolk and McFarlane take an atypical approach to the subject because their premise is that trauma is a natural condition of humanity. To be human, for them, is to suffer heartache and pain that shapes our worldview. Most people are able to rise above unfortunate events. Studying trauma is important because it affects all aspects of life and gives greater insight into why people act as they do. Kolk and McFarlane highlight this example when they state, “an experience does not really exist until it can be organized and placed into larger categories” (488).


Kolk and McFarlane examine trauma from all areas of influence. They highlight Biblical and secular examples. Quite important to the study is the recognition of PTSD as a legitimate disorder, proving that trauma can leave an overwhelming mark on a person’s psyche and ability to function. PTSD gave credence to the “scientific investigation of the nature of human suffering” (488). The issue behind trauma, and why it affects some to a greater extent than others, is the meaning that people give it in their lives. This definition can change and evolve over time. PTSD is examined in depth in the book excerpt. A common example for van der Kolk and McFarlane is the occurrence of PTSD in soldiers returning from war and abuse victims. According to van der Kolk and McFarlane, it is incredibly important for people with PTSD to experience some feeling of shame. Shame is the emotion that brings the greatest insight for humanity. If a person is unaware that his actions after the experience are sometimes motivated by a sense of shame, traumatic experiences can continue to occur (497). One weakness that was raised is van der Kolk and McFarlane’s acknowledgement that trauma is a complex topic and cannot be covered completely because the experience is personal.


Works Cited


Van der Kolk, Bessel A., and Alexander C. McFarlane. "The Black Hole of Trauma."
Literary Theory: An Athology. Eds. Julie Rivkin and Michael Ryan. 2nd ed. Malden: Blackwell, 2008. 487-502.

Posted by: Liz H at March 23, 2009 11:57 AM

Cecilia B
Dr. Hobbs
ENG 435
23rd March 2009
Précis on Sigmund Freud’s “The Uncanny”
In Freud’s psychoanalytic essay, “The Uncanny,” the concept of abnormal unconscious effects is brought to the fore. As Freud exclusively defines it, the uncanny refers to the unconscious results that “surprise us” and create a feeling of unfamiliarity since man is unaware of how the unconscious functions (418). Specifically, Freud documents at length the words used in various languages that define the same phenomenon of the uncanny including the German unheimlich which has several connotations describing the strange and foreign (419). The uncanny’s role in literature is also important since “the reader must be left in uncertainty whether a particular figure in the story is human or automaton, and to do it in such a way that he may not be led to clear up the matter immediately” (Jentsch qtd. in Freud 421). With this notion, Freud catalogues the instances of the uncanny in a famous short story by Hoffman entitled, “The Sand Man.” Freud notes the protagonist’s uncertainty of a doll’s humanity, but Freud also points out a more striking instance of uncanniness with Hoffman creating a world that could be plausibly real or “purely fantastic” (423). For example, “The Sand Man” in true psychoanalytic fashion plays upon the irrational fears and anxieties of its reader’s unconscious and thus simultaneously exploits something the reader is familiar with while still presenting doubts. As Freud argues, this device in literature constantly perplexes the audience since it can satisfy desires, conjure doubts, or amplify fears.
Work Cited
Freud, Sigmund. “The Uncanny.” 1919. Literary Theory: An Anthology. Ed. Julie Rivkin
and Michael Ryan. New York: Blackwell Pub., 1998. 418-429.

Posted by: Cecilia at March 23, 2009 12:24 PM

Kristin Brittain

Dr. Hobbs

ENG 435

3/23/2009

Précis of Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego

“Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego” written by Sigmund Freud examines a child’s ability for identification. “Identification is known to psycho-analysis as the earliest expression of an emotional tie with another person” (438). A little boy will be interested in his father and consider the father his ideal. The boy will begin to emulate him in everyway which prepares the boy for the Oedipus complex. The boy then develops a “true-cathexis towards his mother.” Now the boy has two psychological ties; a sexual tie towards his mother and identification model with his father. The two ties coexist until the boy realizes the father stands in the way of his relationship with his mother. The identification with the father turns hostile. “Identification, in fact, is ambivalent from the very first; it can turn into an expression of tenderness as easily as into a wish for someone’s removal” (438-439). The identification with the father can easily be lost, or the Oedipus complex can be inverted and the father becomes the object-tie (which can happen with little girls as well). The distinction between identifying with the father—wanting to be him, and the father being the object-tie—wanting to have him and this distinction relies on whether the object attaches to the subject or to the object of the ego. In another case, if a little girl develops a cough like her mother she is acting out her desire to take her mother’s place and she identifies with the Oedipus complex with “a hysterical symptom” (439). Or, if the little girl was copying the person who was loved and developed the same cough as her father she is identifying with him because as previously stated “identification is the earliest and original form of an emotional tie” (439). The third case of symptom formation is a girl at boarding school who receives a love letter and reacts with hysterics. The other girls become jealous and “catch the fit, as we say, by mental infection” (439). The jealous girls identify with the desire of being in that situation and develop the same symptom.

Work Cited

Freud, Sigmund. “Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego.” Literary Theory: An Anthology 2nd Ed. Ed. Julie Rivkin and Michael Ryan. Massachusetts: Blackwell Publishing Ltd, 1998. 438-440.


Posted by: Kristin B. at March 23, 2009 12:40 PM

Wesley Johnson Hobbs Eng 435 March 24, 2009 Pre-Oedipal configuration in Portrait
Nancy Chodorow’s critical article “Pre-Oedipal Gender Configurations” illuminates the notion that ones family structure yields varied modes of ego development (Chodorow 471). James Joyce’s novel A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man explores the life of a developing artist, Stephen Dedalus. The novel follows the childhood and early adulthood of the narrator and traces his social and psychological development. Applying Chodorow’s article to the protagonist of Portrait presents some difficulties. Mainly, the fact that the novel doesn’t pay attention to Stephen’s pre-oedipal life creates an obvious schism in examining the pre-oedipal configuration of the character. However, to note the pre-oedipal development of Stephen Dedalus, one must examine scenes from Stephen’s later life.
Chodorw emphasizes the point the to successfully create an individual identity, one’s development is paramount. Failure to separate from the mother or father can yield identity crisis (Chodorow 478). For Stephen Dedalus, one need only examine his final words in the novel to pick up on psychoanalytically loaded diction. The line “Old father, old artificer, stand me now and ever in good stead” shows that even as Stephen is emancipated and escapes his land of entrapment and confusion, he is still tied to his father (Joyce 224). Stephen Dedalus cannot successfully get away from his bond with his father. Psychologically, the two characters are conjoined. An attempt to figure out why these characters are woven together is problematic in that one has to assume details and draw conclusions that may or may not be in the text. Using Chodorow’s article as reasoning, one could conclude that Stephen’s connection to his father stems from the failure of the male child to correctly separate (pre-oedipally) from his father (Chodorow 480). So, if one were to try and find the textual examples of Stephen’s failure to separate from his father, the beginning of the novel is of particular significance.
As the novel begins with Stephen’s father telling him a children’s story of a young boy and a cow, the reader can see that already the father son bond is strong. Perhaps this detail is pointing out that Stephen’s mother failed to communicate with the infantile Stephen. Therefore, this failure to properly rear Stephen during his pre-oedipal stage has left the child broken in some way and fixated on his relationship with his father. It is significant that A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man begins and ends with reference to Stephen’s father. This literal connection of the characters highlights their figurative psychological link.

Works Cited
Chodorow, Nancy. “Pre-Oedipal Gender Configurations.” 1978 Literary Theory: An Anthology. 2nd ed. Eds. Julie Rivkin and Michael Ryan. Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2004. 470-486. Joyce, James A. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man: Case Studies in Contemporary Criticism. 1916. Ed. R. B. Kershner. 2nd ed. New York: Bedford, 2005.

Johnson 2

Posted by: Wesley J. at March 25, 2009 11:13 AM

Jessica McLean
Dr. B. L. Hobbs
ENG 122 CA 17 Academic Writing II
14 April 2009
The Psychological Analysis of Katherine Mansfield’s Miss Brill
The purpose of the Psychological/Psychoanalytical method of analysis is to deepen the “understanding of character by claiming that behavior is caused by hidden and unconscious motives” (Roberts 189). Besides analyzing the main characters behavior, the author of the story must also be studied to see if there are underlying reasons for the character’s behavior. Miss Brill’s unusual conduct can be psychologically analyzed to reveal that she suffers from avoidant personality disorder and depression, among other things. The reasoning for such behavior can be explained by the author, Katherine Mansfield’s troubled past, which she expresses through her writing.
Miss Brill is a lonely old woman who only leaves her house once a week. On Sundays is when she dresses up and goes to a nearby park, sits on a bench, and observes the people there. On this particular Sunday when the story takes place, she wears her most prized possession, a fur coat, and heads to the public gardens. She “people-watches” all day and eavesdrops on the conversations of the citizens around her. At the end of the story, she listens in on the wrong conversation and is deeply hurt by a young couple making negative comments about her.
By closely examining Miss Brill’s behavior, one may conclude that she has a personality disorder, which “indicates a long-standing pattern of cognition, affectivity, and interpersonal functioning that is inflexible and leads to significant distress” (Rosowsky 13). In other words, Miss Brill has different thinking patterns than the average person and irregular social interactions. More specifically, however, Miss Brill has an avoidant personality disorder. This can be defined as a persons “pervasive fear of exposure and rejection. As a result, they appear timid and inhibited, and avoid social situations” (Friedman 115). Leaving the house only once a week is not normal behavior and would be considered as retreating from society. Miss Brill does not interact with anyone the whole time the story is taking place. She listens in on other people’s conversations and thinks to herself, but not once does she attempt to actually talk to anyone. She is happy with just observing the scenery and commotion around her while making comments and having discussions inside her head. Without having any friends or family to spend time with, she’s always alone. Her life is unsatisfying because she has nothing substantial in her life. She doesn’t have anything to look forward to except her Sunday outings when she just gets to look at the people surrounding her.
Miss Brill avoids doing new activities as well, yet another sign of avoidant personality disorder. She goes to the same park, listens to the same band, on the same day, every week. She doesn’t alter her plans or try anything different. Another indication of this disorder is the creation of a fantasy life in which the person can escape to and not worry about rejection. Mansfield tells us that Miss Brill thought her life was “like a play”, and that “they were all on stage” (Mansfield 232). She also seems delusional when she envisioned an old man talking to her and she answers, “Yes, I have been an actress for a long time” (232). Pretending she was an actress on stage was her escape from everyday life. She is afraid of what others will think of her in real life, so she comes up with a scenario in her head where she is someone people are impressed with and look up to.
At the end of the story Miss Brill is sent into a depressive state because while eavesdropping on a young couple, they make fun of her and the fur coat that she cherishes so much. The boy says that she should, “keep her silly old mug at home” and the girl calls her fur “fried whiting” (233). Upon hearing these remarks, Miss Brill goes straight home without making her usual stop at the bakery and just sits in her dark room. She was enjoying her afternoon until she let the meaningless comments made by two strangers upset her, instead of ignoring what they said or confronting them about being so rude. Withdrawal from people, loss of enjoyment, and sadness are all signs of being depressed. Such mood swings, from happy to sad, are unhealthy and shouldn’t happen so quickly. They become more problematic when the cause is as insignificant as two teenagers being ignorant and not having respect for the older generation.
An avoidant personality and the easy onset of depression aren’t the only things that define Miss Brill’s odd personality. At the beginning of the story, she personifies her fur coat, meaning she gives it human-like qualities. She hears it talking to her when she takes it out of its storage box. It says to her, “What has been happening to me?” (231). Then when she goes to put it away again after her encounter with the young couple, she thinks she hears crying, as if it is upset to be put back in the box it came out of after such short usage. This behavior shows mental instability on her part. It is not normal behavior to hear inanimate objects, or in her case dead animals, talking.
She does the complete opposite of personification as well, and dehumanizes the conductor of the band and other people around her. This means that she takes away their human-like qualities. The conductor became a “rooster about to crow” (231) and the little girls walking through the park became “French dolls” (231). Miss Brill also uses a psychological defense mechanism known as projection, that is the tendency to take one’s own negative mannerisms or traits and try to make them seem like someone else’s. When she makes fun of an old woman complaining about the eyeglasses slipping off her nose and says that she’ll never be satisfied, Miss Brill is really just projecting the fact that she herself isn’t happy and will never be satisfied with the life she is leading. Another trait of hers that she projects onto others is the fact that they are self-involved and unfriendly. It is clear to see though that she herself is the unsociable one who doesn’t want to start up a conversation or become friends with anyone.
Now we ask ourselves, why is Miss Brill such an odd and troubled character? Katherine Mansfield, being the author of the story, is responsible for the characterization of Miss Brill. So the reader must wonder, what was going through Mansfield’s mind as she was writing the story? Mansfield led an uneasy and heartbreaking life which led to a lot of anger and sadness bottled up that she expressed through her writing. This explains why a lot of her works are focused on psychological conflict (“Katherine Mansfield”). It all started off when she had a miscarriage. This greatly upset her and she was never able to fully recover from it emotionally. Her traumatic life continued when her only brother, Leslie, was killed in a military accident in 1915. She wrote poems about him in order to help ease the pain, but nothing can help endure the loss of a loved one. Her suffering didn’t stop there, however. She was diagnosed with tuberculosis and carried out the last five years of her life in agony and sadness. With all of this chaos in her life, it’s no wonder Miss Brill was such an unusual and unhealthy character. Mansfield used her stories, and the characters within them, as an outlet for all of her emotions. She wanted her characters to express the agony and mental state that she was in without having to express her feelings in real life. In writing Miss Brill, she went through a lot of trouble to develop the character and get the structure just right. Mansfield herself said, “In Miss Brill I chose not only the length of each sentence, but even the sound of every sentence. I chose the rise and fall of every paragraph to fit her, and to fit her on that day of that very moment. After I’d written it I read it aloud...trying to get it nearer and nearer to the expression of Miss Brill—until it fitted her” (Disher). Therefore, it is clear that Miss Brill was intentionally created to be unbalanced and socially awkward. The creation of Miss Brill and her sad tale was just a desperate attempt to release feelings that remained unshared for a long period of time.
After a close examination of Miss Brill as a character and Mansfield as her creator, the two seem to go hand in hand. Mansfield released much of her suffering into her work as a creative outlet. In doing so, Miss Brill became a mentally tortured character that couldn’t lead a normal life if she tried to. By analyzing this story using the psychological theory, a lot was learned about the main character and the author’s purpose for writing the story and developing the character. Miss Brill suffered from an avoidant personality disorder because she had issues leaving her home and making friends. She also showed signs of depression by retreating into her home after being made fun of for wearing the thing she treasured and was most proud of, her fur. Mansfield’s purpose for all of this was just to express her feelings about what was going on in her own life. This was a good method to use for this specific work due to all of the unexplained meaning behind the story.

Works Cited
Disher, Gary. Writing Fiction: An Introduction to the Craft. Crows Nest, NSW: Australia Allen & Unwin. 2001. This book gives insight to Katherine Mansfield’s thought process as she was writing Miss Brill. Gives direct quotes from Mansfield herself on why she wrote the story the way she did and even explains the sentence structure.
Friedman, Joseph H. and Jeste, Dilip V. Psychiatry for Neurologists. Totowa, NJ: Humana Press, 2005. This book explains avoidant personality disorder and what symptoms to look for in a person who has it. This book will help me prove that Miss Brill has an avoidant personality disorder.
Mansfield, Katherine. “Miss Brill.” Writing About Literature. Comp. Edgar V. Roberts. Upper
Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall, 2006. 230-233. The primary text for my research paper. A short story about a lonely old woman who likes to “people-watch” on Sundays. She saw life as if it were a play being performed on a stage.
“Mansfield, Katherine.” Encyclopedia Britannica Online. 20 Apr. 2009 . Since it is the biography of the author of my primary text, it will give me insight into her life and reveal if there were any underlying reasons for the production of Miss Brill. Will hopefully give reasoning for the characterization of Miss Brill.
Roberts, Edgar V. Writing About Literature. Brief 11th ed. Upper Saddle River: Prentice Hall,
2005. 189-190. Explains the Psychological/Psychoanalytic approach to criticism, which is the basis of my paper. Also gives guidelines and examples for me to follow while writing my paper.
Rosowsky, Erlene. Personality Disorders in Older Adults: Emerging Issues in Diagnosis and Treatment. LEA Series in Personality and Clinical Psychology. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc., 1999. In trying to prove that Miss Brill has a personality disorder, I will need to define what it is and what the symptoms are. This book explains these items.
Williamson, Gail M. et.al. Physical Illness and Depression in Older Adults: A Handbook of Theory, Research, and Practice. New York: Kluwer Academic Publishers, 2000. Will be useful in explaining why Miss Brill’s behavior changes at the end of the story and why she races home without doing the normal activities after a day in the park. Explains what depression is and how it affects everyday life.

Posted by: Jessica McLean at April 27, 2009 06:36 PM

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Students of 2008,

If you are submitting to this blog post for your final exam, remember to add a few comments (after a line separator) at the END of your entry after the works cited (should be the FINAL, not first, revision of your term paper) explaining why this post was one of the most appropriate to your paper's topic/thesis. Don't forget that you need to do this for two blog entries and you need to submit a paragraph informing me of which two blog entries you submitted to and an explanation why to turnitin.com. All of these steps need to be completed to get credit for the final exam.

Good luck,

Dr. Hobbs

"Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire." ~ William Butler Yeats


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*NOTE* The deadline for this particular assignment has now passed. Any comments listed below are *ONLY* for the reposting of comments that I specifically asked to be revised or are ones from non-student posters. Any 'student' posts below that missed the assignment deadline will not get credit for the assignment. ~ Dr. Hobbs

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Amanda Farabaugh
Prof. Lee Hobbs
American Literature 1915-Present EL 267
30 April 2008

Perceiving the Natural Symbols within Texts

Nature plays a significant role in literature. It may be in the form of everyday obstacles such as the trees, animals, wind and destructive forces. It is also in the form of natural symbolism, as well as perception verses reality. Within two texts, Eudora Welty “A Worn Path” and Metallica “One”, there is natural symbolism that is present, as well as the idea of perception verses the reality. Things found in the texts have different meanings then what the eye notices. Through ones travels through life, the daunting task of perceiving the truth is influenced by nature’s existence in a literature text.

Natural symbolism is an idea that represents something in a story that either comes from nature or something that surrounds us. Within two texts, natural symbolism and perception verses reality will be defined and explained to the fullest. In Eudora Welty’s, “A Worn Path”, the worn path symbolizes Phoenix Jackson’s life because of the long path Phoenix Jackson has to travel, symbolizing her life’s journey as she ages and must go through. During her journey she travels a long cold path into town for medicine that her grandson needs. She will do whatever it takes get the medicine.

On her journey the heroine, Phoenix Jackson, demonstrates that her love for her grandson is stronger than the obstacles that are put upon her. Her love for her grandson is stronger than the obstacles because throughout her journey she had only one thing in mind, to get the medicine so her grandson will become better.

One natural symbolism in the story is Phoenix’s love of life. The heroine speaking towards the animals of the forest, to not be in her way; demonstrates it; “Out of my way, all of you fox, owls, beetles, jack rabbits, coons and wild animals!.. Keep out from under these feet, little bobwhites. . . Keep the big wild hogs out of my path. Don’t let none of those come running my direction. I got a long way” (“A Worn Path”, Welty, 1).

Within this quotation, the reader may understand that obstacles are no matches for her. Even though she is described as being old, she is like a phoenix. She is a symbol of keeping peace within the forest. From dancing with the scarecrow to drinking water from a well that’s been there before her time, is another example of natural symbolisms. It is representing how the well and the water is symbolizes her long life.

Phoenix Jackson’s name is a symbol of the bird the phoenix. These are birds that are reincarnated after death. They are strong fierce birds like Phoenix Jackson. She is a fierce woman who is on a journey for her loved one. Everything around her emphasizes natural symbols. For example, Phoenix Jackson says, “Seem like there is chains about my feet, time I get this far”, “Something always take a hold of me on this hill-pleads I should stay”(“A Worn Path”, Welty, 1). This is a natural symbolism as her body is very old and weak and that this hill is a hard climb for an elderly woman. Even though there is nothing visible in reality holding, the hill represents life being too difficult to climb, but nothing will stop her.

One page two of Welty’s “A Worn Path”, more natural symbolisms can be found. For example, “Big dead trees, like black men with one arm . . .” “There sat a buzzard” (“A Worn Path”, Welty, 2). The buzzard alone is also a symbol for death, but sitting on the dead tree emphasizes the symbolism of death. Buzzards are nasty creatures that one may think of as a flesh eating bird that follows death. When something dies, buzzards appear before the animals ready to eat and take the life and soul that had been left. To be perched on a dead tree is a symbol for the death surrounding her. The forest has death throughout.

When Phoenix reaches the city, she hears bells ringing, which naturally symbolizes her journey (Natural Symbols and Symbolism in Eudora Welty's A Worn Path). Seeing red, green and silver wrapping is opposite of what she’s used to back home. She journey’s through dark and dreary woods and enters a bright and lively town.

The idea of perception verses reality in “A Worn Path” by Eudora Welty, shows even though obstacles were put in front of Phoenix Jackson, she does not stop to interpret why these obstacles were trying to stop her. She only knew that they were there and no matter what it took or how long it took, she was going into town for her grandson’s medicine. Her love of life and her grandson keeps her trekking into town for the medicine. In her reality, she has a sick grandson who is back at home waiting for her and the medicine. The perception of her old age is not the case; in actuality her old age does not stop her in any way shape or form. Her eyesight changes her perception of the real world that is in front of her; “Her eyes were blue with age” (“A Worn Path”, Welty, 1).

“One” by the band Metallica, is lyrics that describe a man who had his life taken from him due to an outside force-nature of warfare, bombs being deployed and death surrounding. The nature of warfare, according to lines 33-39, has taken the man’s sight, speech, hearing, arms, legs, soul and according to him, his life. A natural symbolism in the text is when James Ulrich writes, “Back in the womb it’s much too real” (“One”, Metallica, 1). It’s a natural symbolism that explains not being able to walk, move your arms, speak and even see; it is representing how a baby feels in the womb. This is where an unborn baby does absolute nothing only receiving life through the tube/umbilical cord. Just like how an unborn baby is being kept alive through the tube, so is this man in Metallica lyrics. He is only alive due to the “machines that make me be” (“One”, Metallica, 1). To be kept alive only with machines is the torture to him, he’d rather let God take him then live the way he is.

“Landmine has taken . . .” is a lyric that refers to how nature of warfare is surrounded by pain, misery, and even death (“One”, Metallica, 1). A landmine has taken parts of him that he can never get back, except the landmine has left his life. Death is what this man wants God to do for him, “Oh God, Help me” . . . “Hold my breath as I wish for death” (“One”, Metallica, 1). He is not strong like Phoenix Jackson and his love for life is weakened as he thinks of how War has taken everything from him. With Phoenix Jackson, she knew that her grandson depended on her to make that long journey and return home with medicine, whereas this man has no love for life or anyone else, he would rather die than be kept alive through the machines.

Another natural symbolism is found within the text where James Hatfield writes, “That there is nothing left of me” (“One”, Metallica, 1). This is a symbol of his body being without limbs, his hearing, eyesight and even speech. According to this man, there is nothing left of him but a piece of meat that just lies there unable to do anything.

James Ulrich writes “Darkness is imprisoning me” representing that darkness is an absence of life (“One”, Metallica, 1). Someone would see darkness being portrayed in a movie as having a feeling of horror or something bad is bound to happen to one of the characters. This also represents that death is making itself known.

He perceives that the world around him is gone, but in reality the world is still there and he is not the only one (“One, Metallica, 1). The perception to this man is that his life is over, “Now that the war is through with me” (“One”, Metallica, 1). “Cut this life off from me” explains that he perceives his life should be cut off due to his loss of everything except his life (“One”, Metallica, 1). He feels that since he has no way of communicating to the outside, his life should just end. Reality of his condition is that the man needs to understand he is still living and can be a part of the world as long as he understands that his life is not over, even though nature of warfare has “Taken my sight, Taken my speech, Taken my hearing, Taken my arms, Taken my legs” (“One”, Metallica, 1).

“A Worn Path” by Eudora Welty and “One” by Metallica, have natural symbolisms found inside. Many are quite easily found while others may take time and a bit of understanding. The nature of a text is what the author wants the readers to find. In Eudora Welty’s “A Worn Path”, the nature of the text knows that love is stronger than any obstacle thrown at Phoenix. Phoenix is in touch with reality but at the same time, she perceives the natural surroundings as her reality. In Metallica “One”, the nature of the text lets us know that a man perceives his life as lost and wants God to take him rather than face the reality he is still living in with the help of the machines (“One”, Metallica, 1). He’d rather perceive his life as lost than continue to live the way he is.

The characters in the texts are being tested by outside agents. These are outside agents that are trying to stop the characters from moving forward with their journey/life. Within Eudora Welty’s “A Worn Path” old age and disease to her grandson is trying to bring Phoenix Jackson down. Old age is intertwining itself within her bones trying to make her journey on the long path as difficult as possible. Her grandson’s disease is an outside agent that forces Phoenix to make the long uneasy journey.

Within Metallica “One”, was the bomb and warfare. The bomb has affected the man whereas he can never hear, speak, see and move again. Warfare is a symbol of death. When people enter war the result is death. Each of these outside agents has caused darkness to all characters. Natural Symbolism and perception verses reality are all ways of understanding the true existence of nature in a text.

Works Cited

Hatfield, James and Lars Ulrich. “One” . . .And Justice for All. CD. Elektra, 1998
Metallica.com. 2008. 5 March 2008. Albums/albums.asp?album_id=5>.
Natural Symbols and Symbolism in Eudora Welty's A Worn Path." 123HelpMe.com. 24 Apr
2008 .
Welty, Eudora. “A Worn Path.” 1940. An Introduction to Literature: Fiction, Poetry,
Drama. Eds. Morton Berman, et al. Addison, 1996. 105-112.

This analysis has been submitted to this blog because Psychological Approaches to Understanding mean that using your mind to approach and understand what a text represents and why they wrote it that way. I did just that, I used natural symbolisms as an approach to understand what the two authors wrote about. My topic for the research paper was Significance/Role that Nature plays in a text; and the texts I had was Eudora Welty “A Worn Path” and Metallica “One”. As described in my paper I depicted what they wrote and their meanings behind it. This blog is the best one I thought that supported my research paper, all the other ones dealt with the different authors and different theories, which mine was not posted. However, this is the best one that deals with my paper.

Posted by: Amanda Farabaugh at March 25, 2012 08:03 PM

Q: Name three actors or well-known people that serve as examples for the id, ego, and superego. Explain your choices by describing how each one fits into Freud’s terminology.
A: Jack Nicholson- the id, spontaneous and indulgent; Meryl Streep- the ego, smooth and adaptable; JFK-, the superego, principled, moral, occupied with doing the right thing. (Lynn 203).
Q: How are literary criticism and psychoanalytical analysis alike?
A: the interpreter examines a text and reconstructs an underlying meaning and significance. (Lynn 205).
Q: ______________ is the mind’s essential strategy for hiding desires or fears.
A: repression (Lynn 205).
Q: What is isolation? What literary example of this does Lynn give in her text?
A: the experience of an event without any of the expected response. Lynn uses Cheever’s “Reunion” and Hemmingway’s “A Very Short Story”, as well as the Wordsworth’s “A Slumber Did My Spirit Seal” as examples of isolation within literary texts. (Lynn 210)


Posted by: brooke king at March 25, 2012 08:21 PM

Question 1:
What form of psychotherapy is NOT based on Freud’s studies? (Hint: there is only one field that is not connected with Freud)
Answer: Behavior Therapy
(Lynn 199)
Question 2:
According to Lynn, based off of traditional psychological theory, repression is “the mind’s essential strategy for hiding desires and fears.” True or false?
Answer: True
(Lynn 205)
Question 3:
“Understanding something that should be upsetting, but failing to react to it” is the definition of what term that is used in psychoanalytic theory?
Answer: Isolation
(Lynn 211)

Posted by: tiffany at March 25, 2012 08:59 PM

Travis N. Rathbone
Dr. B. Lee Hobbs
ENG 435
26 March 2012

Psychoanalytic Criticism Quiz Questions

Q: According to Tyson, anxiety is important because it can reveal our core issues. Identify and define one of the common core issues (Tyson 16 – 17).

A:
Fear of intimacy: the feeling that emotional closeness will hurt or destroy us.
Fear of abandonment: the belief that our friends and loved ones will abandon us.
Fear of betrayal: the belief that our friends and loved ones cannot be trusted.
Low self-esteem: the belief that we are less worthy than others and do not deserve love, attention, etc.
Insecure or unstable sense of self: the inability to maintain a sense of personal identity.
Oedipal fixation (or oedipal complex): a dysfunctional bond with a parent of the opposite sex.

Q: Briefly define the Lacanian notion of the Mirror Stage (Tyson 27).

A: During the Mirror Stage, a child develops a sense of itself as a whole instead of a formless mass. The child identifies with the whole image of itself, much like the reflection in a mirror.

Posted by: Travis N. Rathbone at March 26, 2012 06:47 AM

Douglas Phillips
Burgsbee Hobbs
ENG 435
26 March 2012
Reading Check Questions
Q 1: What was Freud’s term for “the mechanism for submerging unacceptable desires?” (Lynn 202).
Note: if you feel it appropriate, we could make this a multiple choice with the options:
a. Redundancy
b. Repression
c. Aggressive self-control
d. Ego
Answer: Repression
Q 2: According to Rivkin and Ryan, what was “the core of Freud’s sexual theory?” (Theory 391).
Note: can make multiple choice if you feel it is appropriate:
a. Oedipus complex
b. The couch
c. Eating disorders
d. Religion
Answer: the “Oedipus Complex”

Posted by: Douglas at March 26, 2012 07:06 AM

Q: True or False: According to Rivkin/Ryan, the "unconscious," as Freud called it, is a repository of repressed desires, feelings, memories, and instinctual drives that have to do with sexuality and violence.
A: True (389).

Q: According to Rivkin/Ryan Freud argued that our mental lives derive largely from biological drives. What does this mean?
A: Something related to how Rivkin/Ryan put it: "The highest achievements and ideals of civilization are inseparable from instinctual urges toward pleasure, constancy, and the release of excitation and energy" (389).

Posted by: Diego Pestana at March 26, 2012 02:02 PM

Ok, ENG 435 Students:

Here are the questions for the Reading-Check on Psychoanalytic Criticism from the three overview chapters:

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1. Multiple Choice: According to Lois Tyson’s understanding of the term, what was the term Sigmund Freud used to refer to the “storehouse of painful experiences and unresolved conflicts including fears, emotional wounds, and guilty desires”? (Circle one)
a) The conscious mind
b) The subconscious mind
c) The nonconscious mind
d) The unconscious mind

2. Multiple Choice: Which of the following items, according to Lois Tyson, aptly identifies Jacques Lacan’s theory of development that happens when a human being, “by looking at its reflection [first] perceives itself as a whole rather than simply a mass.” (Circle one)

a) The latency stage of childhood
b) The oral stage of infancy
c) The mirror stage of infancy.
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"After Freud, much discussion ensued about the human 'libido.' "
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3. What is the libido?

4. Where does it reside—(Circle one) in the id, the ego, or the super-ego?

5. Multiple Choice: In psychoanalytic theory, what is the action called when anger that should be felt toward an appropriate person is instead transferred onto another/different individual? (Circle one).

a) Crisis
b) Trauma
c) Thanatos (The Death Drive)
d) Displacement
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"Regression can involve a return to a pleasant or painful experience. It is both a helpful defense for the individual and therapeutic tool for the psychoanalyst"
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6. True or False? (Circle One)

7. Why, or, why not?

8. According to Lois Tyson, Freud’s idea that “the childhood desire to sleep with the mother and to kill the father,” i.e., a “boy's feelings of desire for his mother and jealously and anger towards his father” that occurs in the phallic stage of psychosexual development” is used loosely to refer to an adult’s dysfunctional bond with one or both of his/her parents. Rivken and Ryan claim that it is “the core of Freud’s sexual theory.” What name does it go by (Circle one)

a) Castration Anxiety
b) Oedipal complex/fixation
c) Penis Envy
d) Elektra complex/fixation

9. Multiple Choice: According to Steven Lynn, which of the following forms of psychotherapy is the only one NOT based on Freud’s work? (Circle one)

a) Viktor Frankl’s Logotherapy
b) Ivan Pavlov’s Behavior Therapy/Behaviorism
c) Carl Jung’s Analytical Psychotherapy

10. Multiple Choice: Lynn suggests three well-known persons/celebrities that serve as models for Freud’s concepts of id, ego, and superego. Connect each component to the persons listed below.

a) President John F. Kennedy (Circle one: Id / Ego / Superego)
b) Meryl Streep (Circle one: Id / Ego / Superego)
c) Jack Nicholson (Circle one: Id / Ego / Superego)

11. Short Answer: According to Steven Lynn, how are practitioners of literary criticism and psychoanalytical analysis alike in what they do with their subjects?

12. Multiple Choice: According to the Steven Lynn overview chapter, what term signifies what Freud called “the mechanism for submerging unacceptable desires” and what he calls the human “mind’s essential strategy for hiding desires or fears?” (Circle one)

a) Oppression
b) Depression
c) Repression
d) Regression
e) Suppression

13. Multiple Choice: In his overview chapter, Steven Lynn uses Cheever’s “Reunion,” Hemingway’s “A Very Short Story”, and Wordsworth’s “A Slumber Did My Spirit Seal” as examples of isolation in literary narrative. In each of these stories, there is a situation where a character understands “something that should be upsetting, but failing to react to it” (211). Identify which of the responses below defines what is meant in psychoanalysis by the term isolation (Circle one).

a) The experience of an event without any of the expected response
b) A policy of remaining apart from the affairs or interests of other groups
c) A state of complete emptiness or destruction

Posted by: Dr. Hobbs at March 26, 2012 04:01 PM

Lacan's "The Instance of the Letter in the Unconscious"

Posted by: tiffany.carpenter at March 26, 2012 10:05 PM

Sigmund Freud's "The Interpretation of Dreams"

Posted by: Travis N. Rathbone at March 27, 2012 08:19 AM

Jacques Lacan's "The Mirror Stage as Formative of the Function of the I as Revealed in Psychoanalytic Experience"

Posted by: brooke king at March 27, 2012 07:34 PM

Travis N. Rathbone
Dr. B. Lee Hobbs
ENG 435
28 March 2012

Psychological Criticism Précis: “The Interpretation of Dreams”

In Sigmund Freud’s essay “The Interpretation of Dreams,” one of the salient ideas is that unconscious purpose influences forgetting; thus, the intentions of the forgetter can be deduced if the right tools are utilized. In understanding dreams, the difference between dream-thoughts—the latent content of the dream—and dream-content—the unfolding of dream-thoughts into a different form of representation—must be parsed. It is important to note that the meaning of a dream stems from analyzing dream-thoughts and not by an analysis of the dream in its entirety. It is the unfolding of the dream-content that leads one to the symbolic representation of dreams, for looking merely at the surface of a dream would be folly in determining its true meaning. The content of a dream is determined by dream-thoughts; however, the dream-thoughts are also represented in the dream via several elements. Import stems from repetition within a dream.

In comparing dream-content to dream-thoughts, an apparent condensation is visible. Because of the inability to fully recollect dreams, dreams themselves lack the substantive nature that is found in dream-thoughts; in a sense, dreams are but a dilution of the symbolism that is beneath the surface, the dream-thought. The goal, therefore, is to analyze the dream-thought in an attempt to derive significance from the dream. Condensation is born from omission; a dream is not an exact projection of dream-thoughts but an incomplete representation of them. Ultimately, only a few elements of dream-thoughts progress into dream-content.

The central themes present in the dream-content can vary greatly from the underlying concerns of the dream-thoughts. This occurrence is aided by displacement: in a dream, elements that contain a high value of intensity are stripped away; additionally, new values—due to overdetermination—are placed on elements of low physical intensity.

Work Cited
Freud, Sigmund. “The Interpretation of Dreams.” 1900. Literary Theory: An Anthology. 2nd Ed. Eds. Julie Rivkin and Michael Ryan. Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2004. 396-414. Print.

Posted by: Travis N. Rathbone at March 28, 2012 09:53 AM

Nancy Chodorow, "Pre-Oedipal Gender Configurations"

Posted by: Sarah Coffin-Karlin at March 28, 2012 12:51 PM

Tiffany Anne Carpenter
Dr. Hobbs
Eng 435- Literary Criticism
28 March 2012
Précis 6: “The Instance of the Letter in the Unconscious or Reason since Freud”
In his article on “The Instance of the Letter in the Unconscious or Reason since Freud,”
Jacques Lacan argues that “what the psychoanalytic experience discovers in the unconscious is the whole structure of language” (447). What he implies then is that our unconscious becomes simply instincts that have to be “rethought.” He references the term “letter” as a way of discussing the use of language and speech that theorists like Saussure have deemed discourse. He explains that in order to examine the unconscious and the role of language that we must use the model of the signifier and the signified and understand how the two operate. He further explains that one of the challenges we face is coming to the point where we are left to question the “meaning of meaning” and that we then struggle to search for a more in-depth analysis of the text itself. He goes on to discuss some examples of how the role of the signifier and the signified can alter our understanding depending on the use of language and in what context they are used. For example, he references the example of two doors, one that says “Ladies” and one that says “Gentlemen” and how if a train were to stop there with young children to interpret the significance of the doors, they might come to a series of varied conclusions as to whether they were stopped at “Ladies” or “Gentlemen” or be confused and reference the doors as a pair inseparable from one another. What he explains with this description is that while the form of examining the world through the lens of the signifier and the signified can be a sufficient approach, it can also be problematic because it can cause the audience to understand merely the “structure of a signifier” in some instances, and thus leave out essential information needed for a full understanding (450). Lacan mentions that we are “forced to accept the notion of an incessant sliding of the signified under the signifier” and that as a result, our perspective and understanding can be limited and to a single voice, leaving out other ways to understand the use of chosen language and the various meanings that can come from it (451). He argues that some of the issues that come with this restricted way of understanding the signifier and the signified leave the audience with a linear understanding and that the language has to be considered in context and in the time in which it is written; that the interpretations we have can also vary significantly when we look at them from the present versus the past. He goes on to discuss metonymy and metaphor and their importance. Then, he takes his argument to another level when he examines Freud’s use of the unconscious, particularly with his discussion on the interpretation of dreams and how Freud “shows us in every possible way that the value of the image as a signifier has nothing whatever to do with its signification” (455). Additionally, he mentions the “indestructability of unconscious desire in the absence of a need” and Freud’s establishment of the ego, followed by Fenichel’s “exhaustion of the mechanisms of defense” (458). Lacan closes his article by summarizing that “the unconscious is neither primordial nor instinctual; [that] what it knows about the elementary is no more than the elements of the signifier” and that it is essential, even in the world of psychoanalytic theory, that we understand not only the importance of the signifier and signified, but examine the test itself and the role of language in how make interpretations (459).
Work Cited
Lacan, Jacques. “The Instance of the Letter in the Unconscious or Reason since Freud.” 1957. Literary Theory: An Anthology. 2nd Ed. Eds. Julie Rivkin and Michael Ryan. Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2004. 447-61. Print.

Posted by: tiffany.carpenter at March 28, 2012 01:56 PM

Diego Pestana
Dr. Hobbs
ENG 435 – Literary Criticism
March 28, 2012
“On Narcissism” Precis
In his essay “On Narcissism,” Sigmund Freud analyzes and describes what he calls the “ego idea” which refers to that which expresses repressed narcissistic libido. Freud begins the essay by explaining repression of one's narcissism, or fascination with oneself. According to Freud, repression comes from the ego, which attempts to realize the id's realistic desires that will be beneficial in the long term. Freud notes that repression comes into effect in terms of one's desires, “if they come into conflict with the subjects cultural and ethical ideas” (415). In other words, one's societal conditions and norms will determine what libidinal desires are repressed. Freud then goes on to write that it is the self-respect of the ego that creates an “ideal ego” against which he measures his actual ego. Because of this, Freud writes that “this ideal ego is now the target of the self-love which was enjoyed in childhood by the actual ego” (415). It is then in this “ideal ego” that one places their narcissism in hopes of achieving the perfection he felt when he possessed the infantile ego.
According to Freud, libido, or the desire for sexual activity, is a central factor for one's ego ideal. This is because one's narcissism with invariably create the desire to achieve things he was unable to due when he was a child. According to Freud, “His ideal is the substitute for the lost narcissism of his childhood in which he was his own ideal” (416). Freud then goes on to write about the process of sublimation, which consists of projecting one's sexual desire on someone else for that end. And that is done through idealization which is when that object of one's sexual desire “is aggrandized and exalted in the subject's mind” (416). It is then that one has found an object that becomes the desired of his ego ideal, or repressed narcissistic libido.

Work Cited
Freud, Sigmund. “On Narcissism.” 1914. Literary Theory: An Anthology. 2nd ed. Eds. Julie Rivkin and Michael Ryan. Malden : Blackwell, 2004. 415-17. Print.

Posted by: Diego Pestana at March 28, 2012 02:03 PM

Brooke King
Dr. Hobbs
ENG 435
2 April 2012
Electrifying Sabina’s Love
Ever since Sigmund Freud introduced the psychological concept of the Electra complex, many scholars, like Sheila Powell have been connecting the Freud definition of the Electra complex to the myth about Electra. The obsession about the myth of Electra spurs back to the Greek poetics of Sophocles and Euripides. However, Freud’s interpretation of the Electra myth brought about the psychoanalytical approach to people and Carl Jung’s interpretation on to characters helped to propel Freud’s work into psychoanalyzing characters within text. In Milan Kundera’s novel, The Unbearable Lightness of Being, his character Sabina, although erotically in touch with her physical needs, has an underlying sexual drive that at times is projected from one person to another, much like the Electra myth. Sabina exhibits several latent sexual tendencies for her grandfather, which produces a reflective desire for male companionship in the form sexual fantasies, some of which surround the use of her grandfather’s bowler hat.
In the beginning of the book, Sabina is Tomas’s mistress, but the sexual undertone of the nature their relationship leaves Sabina in need of a real connection with Tomas. “I want to make love to you in my studio. It will be like a stage surrounded by people. The audience won’t be allowed up close, but they won’t be able to take their eyes off us…” (Kundera 16). Sabina suffers from a part of the Electra complex that deals with adolescent feelings. As Powell puts it, Sabina’s ability to contain her feelings is limited by her capacity to understand the situation around her. Sabina has not fully developed psychological and because of her adolescent tendencies, she must at out her fantasies, much like Electra acts out her rage on her mother by taunting her mother with sexually perverse feelings towards her father. Instead of acting out her feelings of intimacy, complex rage, and abandonment issues towards her grandfather, Sabina acts out against Tomas’s wife Tereza. Sabina taunts Tereza by continuing her affair with Tomas, seeking out friendship with Tereza, and having a sexually explicit encounter with Tereza at her studio. Yet, Sabina’s latent sexual desires stem from a familial male figure. Tomas is just the man that has been replaced by Sabina’s grandfather.
Throughout the novel, Sabina references her grandfather as an important and loving figure. Yet, the one object that she associates with her grandfather is his bowler hat, which she uses to act out her sexual fantasies with Tomas, Tereza, and Franz. Powell states that Electra’s “idealization of her father seem to be an attempt to compensate for [a] painful abandonment… it is also an attempt to draw attention to a young woman who needs to act in accord with her feelings” (Powell 158). For Sabina, the bowler hat symbolizes her incestuous love for her grandfather, and by using it in all her fantasies, she is able to act out her latent sexual desires for her grandfather. In addition, the hat allows her to express her need to act in accordance with the sexual feelings of repression that she is feeling for her grandfather and her male partners. However, it is interesting to note that in the rendezvous with Tereza, Sabina only points out the hat, but does not don the hat on her head. This is because her incestuous sexual feelings are towards her grandfather and are projected onto her male lovers because in order for Sabina to move forward with her life, she must have a male counterpart to help further her career as a painter. In the myth, Electra must have the same male counterpart in her life in order for her to find a suitor, marry, and have children. Electra projects her desire to have a male counterpart onto her father and in turn onto her brother, once her mother kills her father. Yet, it is because this male counterpart does not exist wholly in a suitable marriage capacity, Electra finds rage for her mother’s murderous act. Sabina similarly does the same because of the males in her life are her lovers, not suitable for marriage and as such, she projects her rage out of Tereza and subsequently rejects Franz. While Sabina does not exhibit rage against Tereza or Franz, her displaced need for attention from male lovers seems to stem from her need to be loved by her grandfather.
While both Electra and Sabina seem to be lost in their placement of desire and attention, both exhibit latent sexual desire for their father figures. Electra emulated her needs and desires onto her father because of the need for a father figure to help her through life. Yet, Sabina emulated her desires onto her grandfather’s bowler hat because of his inadequate ability to be there for Sabina, and as a result, Sabina projected her desires for her grandfather onto her male lovers. Though Sabina may not fully have the incestuous Electra complex, she does exhibit some of the overall arching characteristics of the Electra complex, which explains her need for the bowler hat and for some of the more peculiar and erotic scenes within Kundera’s novel.


Works Cited
Kundera, Milan. The Unbearable Lightness of Being. Trans. Michael Henry Heim. New York: Harperperennial, 2009. Print.
Powell, Sheila. "Electra: The Dark Side of the Moon." Journal of Analytical Psychology 38.2 (1993): 155-74. Print.

Posted by: brooke king at March 31, 2012 07:29 PM

Tiffany Anne Carpenter
Dr. Hobbs
Eng 435- Literary Criticism
2 April 2012
Examining Language, Desire and the Unconscious in Kundera
Jacques Lacan writes about how our unconscious desires are not based on our background or our instincts, and that they are very elementary in nature, depending on the role of the signifier in the things we see around us. Without going into depth on Lacan’s interpretations of the signifier and signified formula, it is interesting to note the importance of language and desire in Milan Kundera’s Unbearable Lightness of Being.
For Tomas, Tereza, and Sabina, sexuality is a key issue that plays into the way that they live their lives and interact with the people around them. While Tomas and Sabina are more aggressive in following through with their desires, Tereza is much more restrained and tends to deny herself whatever unconscious desires she might have stirring. Because she has such a horrible past that has given her negative feelings and traumatic experiences in relationship to the image of body and to her sexuality, Tereza struggles to continue suppressing her sexuality and desires because she is unable to break through those barriers and cannot move past her internal conflicts. Tomas and Sabina, however, are much more overt when it comes to their desires and they act upon them with little to no thought or consideration for the consequences. They have a much easier time acting spontaneously on their instincts and personal desires without having the internal struggles of what happens next, who they might be affecting in the process, etc. Instead, they are much more likely to behave based solely on their personal desires and wants and do things as they see fit in the moment. They might suffer or struggle with those decisions later, but living in the moment is much more their style, especially when it comes to their sexuality. In this way, Kundera uses these characteristics and extensive, graphic language to describe these scenes and the development of these characters to establish them and showcase the way that they operate in their environment and the way that they operate based off of their unconscious--which they essentially turn conscious because they are aware of them--desires, highlighting the importance of that language as Lacan points out.


Work Cited
Kundera, Milan. The Unbearable Lightness of Being. New York: Harper & Row, 1984. Print.
Lacan, Jacques. “The Instance of the Letter in the Unconscious or Reason since Freud.” 1957. Literary Theory: An Anthology. 2nd Ed. Eds. Julie Rivkin and Michael Ryan. Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2004. 447-61. Print.

Posted by: tiffany.carpenter at April 1, 2012 06:13 PM

Douglas Phillips
Burgsbee Hobbs
Critical Theory
30 March 2012
“Black Hole of Trauma” Précis
In Bessel van der Kolk and Alexander McFarlane’s article “The Black Hole of Trauma,” the authors investigate the nature and causes of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD.
One of the major characteristics of PTSD is not that trauma has occurred to the victim, but that the victim has centralized the trauma in their psyche. Two people can suffer similar traumatic events, but one might cope with the trauma whereas the other one may allow the memory of the trauma become the context through which they see the world, which results in the development of PTSD. This is compared to neurosis, wherein defense mechanisms are perpetually reinforced or “hardened” against external influences. While some theories state that the causes of PTSD and the fixation of the victim are caused by a shattering of the victim’s expectations of reality, the authors note that it is more likely caused by a traumatic event that reinforces an unpleasant expectation the victim had been avoiding.
It is important to note that PTSD as a psychological diagnosis is not necessarily a negative thing. Being diagnosed with PTSD gives the victim a context for understanding his or her mental trauma, and allows a person to join a larger community of trauma victims to whom they can relate. However, it is also important to note that because of permutations in the trauma, environmental and temperament of the victim, a diagnosis of PTSD can never fully encompass the suffering of the afflicted and their own specific means of adapting.
The authors identify six issues that PTSD victims have in processing information:
1. Repeated intrusions of the traumatic memory
2. Compulsive re-exposure to the traumatic situation
3. Numbing of responsiveness
4. Decreased ability to manage physical stress
5. General problems with attention and reacting appropriately to stimuli
6. Change in psychological defense mechanisms and sense of identity
Over the years, the study of psychological stress has undergone several shifts in nature ranging from diagnosing stress as “hysteria” and focusing on “conversion reactions” that were psychosomatic in nature, to the coining of the term PTSD, and the focus on intrusive recollections during the study of Vietnam veterans. One thing of note is that sometimes the victims of PTSD experience the symptoms as a natural consequence of the trauma, and are as such less likely to seek professional help to cope.
Work Cited
Kolk, Bessel A. and Alexander C. McFarlane. “The Black Hole of Trauma.” Literary Theory: an Anthology. Second Ed. Eds. Julie Rivkin and Michael Ryan. 1998. Pgs. 487-502. Malden: Blackwell P. Print.

Posted by: douglas at April 2, 2012 03:27 AM

Travis N. Rathbone
Dr. B. Lee Hobbs
ENG 435
2 April 2012

For the Sake of Swimming: Capturing Displacement in the Lord of the Flies

Sometimes, certain stories seem tailored for specific literary theories; as such, William Golding’s novel Lord of the Flies lends itself superbly to a psychological reading of the text. The book is rife with subtle yet deep undertones, and a quick glance at the text will find the characters of Jack, Piggy, and Ralph as representations of the id, ego, and superego respectively. However, for the immediate purpose here, great interest lies in Sigmund Freud’s notion of displacement as it applies to actions taken by Ralph after crash landing on a deserted island.

When defining displacement, Freud states that “a psychical force is operating which on the one hand strips the elements which have a high psychical value of their intensity, and on the other hand, by means of overdetermination, creates from elements of low psychical value new values” (Freud 412). His notion here was intended to be applied to and make sense of dreams, but this process works suitably well in the realm of wakefulness also, and this type of theorizing can be seen in application as early as the first chapter of Lord of the Flies. Directly following the plane crash and Ralph and Piggy’s initial encounter, the two boys discover a lagoon, and at a moment when one might weigh the horrifying significance of being marooned on an island and attempt to create a plan of action, Ralph seems alarmingly unconcerned about his situation and decides to go for a swim: “He picked his way to the seaward edge of the platform and stood looking down into the water . . . Ralph spoke to himself, sounding the bass strings of delight. ‘Whizzoh!’ . . . Ralph paddled backwards down the slope, immersed his mouth and blew a jet of water into the air” (Golding 6 - 7). Ralph’s exclamation as he dives into the water along illustrates his ease of mind. The carefree nature a quick swim does not seem characteristic of someone dealing with an immediate tragedy.

Ralph’s listless dip in the pool is an indicator that he has not fully realized his current situation. Indeed, the high level of intensity that characterizes the boys’ predicament is being replaced, at least for Ralph, with the low level of intensity that dictates going for a swim. In essence, old, more intense, values (e.g. a near death experience and the fight for survival) are being subdued and new values (e.g. a carefree nature in relation to tragic events) are being created. The meaning of such an occurrence can only by hypothesized, but one can assume the gravity of recent events proved to be intense enough to force Ralph to subdue them if only for a brief amount of time. This denial only lasts for a brief time, however, for the true and wise Piggy grounds Ralph by insisting action be taken to preserve the lives of all the boys on the island. Ultimately, Ralph comes to terms with the intensity of his situation, and his brief bout of displacement comes to an end.

Works Cited
Freud, Sigmund. “The Interpretation of Dreams.” 1900. Literary Theory: An Anthology. 2nd Ed. Eds. Julie Rivkin and Michael Ryan. Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2004. 396-414. Print.
Golding, William. Lord of the Flies. New York: Penguin Books, 1954. Print.

Posted by: Travis N. Rathbone at April 2, 2012 08:59 AM

King 1
Brooke King
Dr. Hobbs
ENG 435
28 March 2012
A Precis of Lacan's The Mirror Stage
Jacque Lacan points out that the mirror stage occurs when a child is aware and can recognize
their own image in a mirror. Yet, even before this, an intellectual stage of mimicry has to develop in
order for the child to develop the expression of situational apperception. Lacan points out that once the
image has been mastered and found empty, the child will play out the gestures from the image in his
surrounding environment in order to find a relationship between the two.
He relates his account of an infant, who from a early age, before he learned to walk, speak, or
support himself, grabbed a mirror and held it in front of himself in order that he could see his reflection.
Lacan points out that the best way to understand the mirror stage is by understanding it as a
identification, namely the transformation that takes place in the subject when he assumes an image.
The subject begins with the Ideal-I, the infant stage in a child's life before social determination and
fictional direction happens before which the I resolves his discourse with his own reality.
The child looks into the mirror and sees a mirage of himself, the image for which he is gazing at,
and finds that the contrast and congruency for which the image moves, to the child, is animating him.
The Gestalt, as Lacan calls the stage, symbolizes the mental permanence of the I, at the same time as it
prefigures its alienation 'with the correspondence that unites the I with the statue with which the man
projects himself or with the world of his own making that tends to be completed through this stage. In
essence the reality of our world becomes formed through the precognitive function of identifying
ourselves as it relates to the world around us. The mirror stage is the ability to understand our physical
realities through the realization of our own physical projection within the surrounding environment.

King 2
Lacan goes on to talk about the fragmented body, which usually manifests itself in dreams when
the body encounters a certain level of aggressive disintegration in the individual that results in the
appearance of disjointed limbs. The realization of the fragmented body is symptoms of hysteria. Yet,
the formation of the I in dreams is symbolized by an inner area that is surrounded by a divider. It is here
that the mind fights against unwanted images of the I, such as inversion, isolation, splitting, negation,
and displacement. Thus, the mirror stage is a vital part of the intellectual process of a human being,
creating the positive correlation with the I and the image of the I. It is after the mirror stage where the I
links its being to the socially elaborate situations of its environment based upon its function of the I
within it. However, the maturation of the man is based upon his connection with the image. If the I is
tightly linked to the image, unable to leave the mirror stage, the man will develop narcissism. Lacan
ends the essay by pointing out that the determination of neurosis and psychosis, though a threat to
entire communities provides us with an indication of the "deadening of the passions in society" (446).
Work Cited
Lacan, Jacques. "The Mirror Stage as Formative of the Function of the I as Revealed in Psychoanalytic
Experience." 1966. Literary Theory an Anthology. Ed. Julie Rivkin and Michael Ryan. 2nd ed.
Malden (Mass.): Blackwell, 2004. 441-46. Print.

Posted by: brooke king at April 2, 2012 10:27 AM

Douglas Phillips
Burgsbee Hobbs
ENG 435
02 April 2012
Tereza's Trauma in The Unbearable Lightness of Being
In Milan Kundera's novel, The Unbearable Lightness of Being, there are several characters that are ripe for a psychoanalytic study. Such characters include Sabina, with her sexual habits involving her mirror, Tomas and his apparent need to engage in sexual interactions with as many women as possible, Simon's pseudo-Oedipal rejection of the mother in favor of a romanticized ideal of his father, and Tereza's recurring nightmares and traumatizing childhood experiences. In fact, many of Tereza's psychological problems are strongly reminiscent of post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD. It is the manner in which Tereza exemplifies PTSD that drives many of the events of the plot, and her mental instabilities are central to the action of the story.
First, how does Tereza exemplify PTSD? This can be answered most easily by examining the common symptoms that occur in PTSD victims and applying them to Tereza. In Bessel van der Kolk and Alexander McFarlane's article, "The Black Hole of Trauma," the authors establish and explain six different issues that affect victims of PTSD. The first issue for PTSD victims that is identified is that victims "experience persistent intrusions of memories related to the trauma" (Trauma 492). Throughout Kundera's novel, Tereza has not only recurring memories of the psychosexual trauma inflicted upon her by her mother, but also experiences repeated nightmares that allude to her insecurities caused by more recent traumas, such as Tomas' unfaithfulness to her.
The next issue that Kolk and McFarlane identify is that victims of PTSD "sometimes compulsively expose themselves to situations reminiscent of the trauma" (492). One way in which Tereza carries out this element of PTSD is that she encourages Tomas to move out into the country late in the novel, to a living situation she had been attempting to flee by coming to Tomas earlier in the novel.
The third issue facing PTSD victims, according to Kolk and McFarlane, is that "they actively attempt to avoid specific triggers of trauma-related emotions" (492). In this, Tereza excels. Over the course of the novel, Tereza will either try to leave Tomas, or lead him away from other women, several times. By isolating herself from Tomas, or Tomas from areas where he can easily gain access to other women with whom to cheat, Tereza is attempting to avoid the feelings of betrayal Tomas induces when he seemingly inevitably commits adultery.
A fourth issue PTSD victims suffer, according to the "Trauma" article is that victims "react to certain physical and emotional stimuli as if there were a continuing threat of annihilation; they suffer from hypervigilance, exaggerated emotional response, and restlessness" (495). This is another symptom of PTSD at which Tereza excels. After Tereza first sleeps with Tomas, she is stricken with fever and is restless, and later, when she is in perfect health, Tereza would hold onto Tomas' "wrist, finger, or ankle. If he wanted to move without waking her, he had to resort to artifice" (Being 14). Even asleep, Tereza is exhibiting hypervigilance, not allowing Tomas to escape her.
The fifth issue facing PTSD sufferers that the authors of "The Black Hole of Trauma" identify is that victims "have problems fantasizing and playing with options...they have problems ignoring what is unimportant and selecting only what is most relevant" (Kolk 497). While Tereza seemingly has few problems fantasizing, such as when she visits Sabina or experiences a recurring nightmare, Tereza does indeed have great difficulty ignoring details such as odd scents on Tomas or incongruities in his schedule--even though it is probably incorrect to say that those details are unimportant, because they do serve as strong evidence of Tomas' continuing infidelity. This attention to detail causes Tereza to relapse into nightmares and to seek further means of escaping her life with Tomas, up to and including an attempt to commit suicide by firing squad, only to back out at the last moment.
The sixth issue of PTSD Kolk and McFarlane discuss involves how a PTSD victim will alter his or her defense mechanisms and personal identity, stating that "After abuse, the victim's view of self and world can never be the same again: it must be reconstructed" (Trauma 497). This stage of PTSD is difficult to see in Tereza outright, as her initial trauma occurs at a point before the reader is ever introduced to her. The reader does not get to see what Tereza was like before the psychosexual torment her mother subjected her to, only how Tereza was during and after said abuse. The book leaves the hypothetical "healthy Tereza" to the imagination of the reader, who can only assume that without the traumas of her childhood, Tereza would have been a different, more emotionally stable and less obsessive person.
So, while in many ways an excellent example of early childhood trauma on a human being, Tereza is still not a perfect example of PTSD. Without seeing an emotionally healthy and stable version of Tereza's character to use as a point of comparison, it is difficult to see the exact points of change the trauma induced. Instead, Tereza is useful only as an example of how victims of PTSD might behave in reaction to a life-changing trauma.

Works Cited
Kolk, Bessel van der and Alexander C. McFarlane. "The Black Hole of Trauma." Literary Theory: an Anthology. Eds. Julie Rivkin and Michael Ryan. Pgs. 487-502. 1998. Malden: Blackwell P. Print.
Kundera, Milan. The Unbearable Lightness of Being. 1984. NewYork: Harper. Print.

Posted by: douglas at April 2, 2012 02:25 PM

Sarah Coffin-Karlin
Dr. B. Lee Hobbs
ENG 435
30 March 2012
Psychoanalysis Précis: Nancy Chodorow, “Pre-Oedipal Gender Configurations”
This excerpt from Nancy Chodorow’s 1978 The Reproduction of Mothering discusses Freud’s Oedipus complex in the context of both genders—boy and girl—and both parents—mother and father—with emphasis on the mother’s care of the child. Chodorow uses the research of several well-known psychoanalysts to argue that in the first “pre-Oedipal” stages of life, children become attached to their mothers, who are the primary caretakers in a “traditional family situation” (Rivkin 470). The boy’s relation is that of Freud’s discovery, in which the male child develops heterosexual tendencies towards his mother, but these emotions are eventually repressed by admitting defeat to his rival father.
The pre-Oedipal relationship between mother and daughter, Chodorow explains, is much different in both time and motive. The oneness between the two tends to last longer, because girls have a similar attachment and longing for symbiosis. At around the age of five, the girl will learn what a penis is, recognize that she does not have one, and come to resent her mother for her lack of the male sex organ. She will turn to her father and possibly fall victim to the Electra complex—the mother as rival and the father as the “desired object” (472).
The reason children become so attached to their mothers in the first place is because she is the first “love object” that they are aware of. That symbiosis is stronger for some mothers than others, or missing altogether: Chodorow cites a survey conducted by Robert Fliess that noted mothers who were either “asymbiotic” or all too symbiotic: “I am you and you are me” (476).
After discussing many more factors and citing some Greek philosophers, Chodorow concludes that mothers and daughters are close because of their shared gender, and boys are excluded earlier for the dichotomy of penis versus vagina. While the mother loves and cares for children of both genders, the pre-Oedipal relationship between mother and daughter lasts longer because of the kinship shared between them in terms of gender and maternal tendencies.

Work Cited
Chodorow, Nancy. “Pre-Oedipal Gender Configurations.” 1978. Literary Theory: An Anthology. 2nd ed. Eds. Julie Rivkin and Micheal Ryan. Malden: Blackwell, 2004. 470-86. Print.

Posted by: Sarah Coffin-Karlin at April 12, 2012 10:03 AM

Socioeconomic Tensions and the American Family in August Wilson's Fences
In August Wilson's play, Fences, the Maxson family is shaped very much by their financial and social circumstances. There is evidence for this in the behavior of the father in relation to his family—especially his son—and the origins of this behavior in his own previous experiences, the desires and fears of the mother for her family, and the aspirations of the son, causing his eventual entrapment into the life his father had lived. How does the socioeconomic situation of the family cause their behavior in the play?
First, let us examine the father in the play, Troy Maxson. Troy is a man embittered by his past experiences, particularly his frustrated baseball career. This is evinced early on in the play by Troy's complaint that "That's it! Man batting .269, understand? .269. What kind of sense that make? I was hitting .432 with 37 home runs!... if you could play. . . then they ought to have let you play" (Fences 16). Here, Troy is voicing his frustrations at being denied the chance to live out his dream of being a major-league ball player, and his belief that America is still too racist to allow a black man to progress to fame and fortune in the sporting arena. Here, Troy is expressing a symptom of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder by taking a traumatic event from his life and allowing it to shape and control his thought processes, or, as van der Kolk would put it, Troy has had an "alteration in [his] psychological defense mechanisms and in personal identity. This changes what new information is selected as relevant" (Trauma 492). Because Troy was denied access to his dream as a younger man by a racist power structure inherent to the American sociopolitical structure of his childhood, he now views the world through a lens that focuses on racism and racist ideology.
What was the origin of the racist power structure that suppressed Troy? The America of Troy's youth was an America that had just gone through the turning of the century. At this time, the dominant socioeconomic group, the group with all the material wealth and power, was predominantly white, and as Sinfield asserts, "groups with material power will dominate the institutions that deal with ideas. That is why people can be persuaded to believe things that are neither humane, nor to their advantage" (Materialism 749). The major concern of the power structure at the time was keeping the lower classes in their place, and one way to do that was to control which members of the lower classes had access to the means of achieving wealth in a society that places value on material gain. The easiest way to restrict "undesirables" from achieving upward socioeconomic mobility was by creating or otherwise supporting a socially institutionalized form of racism that the other members of the lower classes would exercise, making the members of the lowest classes of society struggle against one another instead of the upper class. Only through extraordinary effort and/or by ingratiating oneself with the bourgeoisie who controlled access to the means of achieving success and rank could a member of the black society participate in the socially accepted celebrity status world. So, only the members of the black society that were willing to "play along" were allowed to "play ball."
Troy's relationship with his son also highlights his socioeconomically-induced PTSD. Troy's frustrations with white society lead him to believe that it is impossible to achieve success as a black athlete in America, so he vehemently denies his son the chance to become an athlete. This is an example of "Compulsive reexposure to trauma" (Trauma 493), which Troy epitomizes by victimizing his own son in the same manner in which he himself was victimized by white society. Ironically, by victimizing his son in this way and denying him the chance to become an athlete, Troy is unconsciously reinforcing the sociopolitical power structure that suppressed him as a young man.
Rose, the mother in the family, is also a woman paralyzed by her socioeconomic situation and a fear of traumatic experience. In the play, Rose is described as "ten years younger than Troy" and that "her devotion to him stems from her recognition of the possibilities of her life without him: a succession of abusive men and their babies" (Fences 12). Because of her place in the American socioeconomic power structure, Rose cannot see herself as having a better life with anyone other than Troy, as the other men available to her would in all likelihood be physically abusive or neglectful of their fatherly duties to any children they would have. Rose does not see herself as having a chance at becoming a successful businesswoman, or think of attending college, or even of supporting herself with a well-paying job that would allow her to own a home in her own name. The social values of Rose's time period simply would not allow for a woman, especially a black woman, to demonstrate such economic ambition, even though the previous decade had celebrated and urged women as workers with such famous poster icons as "Rosie the Riveter." During the WWII years, these campaigns were designed to keep factory jobs filled when the men who would normally be working were off fighting a massive global conflict. This is because that, at the time of the war, the bourgeoisie needed manpower to maintain production, but the majority of the normal labor force was not available. After the war ended, the owners of the means of ideological production no longer needed women to be motivated to work, so "Rosie the Riveter" was de-emphasized in favor of the stay-at-home mother. So while Troy may have faced racist ideology that altered his own worldview, Rose had to face the dual issues of both racist and sexist power structures that would suppress her own desires and ambitions.
The product of the family is its offspring, and for Troy and Rose, that offspring is Cory. Cory is another example of how trauma can shape an identity. In many ways Cory is the audience's way of seeing what Troy would have been like as a child and how Troy made his transition from hopeful, athletic youth to an embittered adult. In the early portions of the play, Cory is already clearly following in his father's footsteps, but with the hope for greater success, as Cory is being suggested for a sports scholarship by his coach, a chance which Troy never had. However, Troy systematically squashes Cory's chances at the scholarship, first by ordering Cory to give it up, then by telling the coach not to allow Cory to play. Here, Cory is being subjected to the same kind of victimization that Troy had been subjected to, albeit not at the hands of an identifiable agent of the dominant power structure.
The conflict between Cory and Troy comes to a head late in the play when Cory shows his father disrespect by attempting to walk over him without saying "excuse me." In the ensuing argument, Troy makes his argument for why Cory should pay him respect by making an argument for his economic contributions to the family, saying that "you done got so grown that your daddy don't count around here no more… Around here in his own house and yard that he done paid for with the sweat of his brow" (Fences 78). For Troy, respect and recognition is expected because of the labor he sold to the white bourgeoisie—whom he despises—in order to earn the money that paid for the house, the food, the clothes, and all the other amenities of life that Cory has taken for granted.
Ironically, even though Cory comes to revile his father for the infidelity to Rose, for the obstruction of the fulfillment of the athletic career, and for swindling Gabriel's money away, Cory is still strongly reminiscent of his father at the end of the play. Once again, the specter of PTSD has arisen, as the traumatized son reenacts the life of his tormentor. For, at the end of the play, it is revealed that Cory has joined the military like his father before him.
In considering the origins of Cory's trauma, one has to wonder, how different would the Maxson's lives have been if they had been in a higher socioeconomic class? Would Troy have been a successful athlete if there had been no racist power structure denying him? How would this have affected the father's relationship to his son? Speculation on these subjects is fruitless, however, as there could never be a definitive answer to the "only if" arguments engendered by such questions. What is clear, however, is that the combination of racist power structures and values, the economic standing of the family, and life-altering experiences of the father all contribute and control the flow of the Maxson's lives.

Annotated Bibliography
Kolk, Bessel A. and Alexander C. McFarlane. “The Black Hole of Trauma.” Literary Theory: an Anthology. Second Ed. Eds. Julie Rivkin and Michael Ryan. 1998. Pgs. 487-502. Malden: Blackwell P. Print.
Sinfield, Alan. "Cultural Materialism, Othello, and the Politics of Plausibility." Critical Theory: an Anthology. Second Ed. Eds. Julie Rivkin and Michael Ryan. Pgs. 743-62. 1998. Malden: Blackwell P. Print.
Wilson, August. Fences. 1957. New York: TCG. Print.

Posted by: douglas phillips at April 20, 2012 09:13 AM

Brooke King
Dr. Hobbs
ENG 435
2 April 2012
Electrifying Sabina’s Love
Ever since Sigmund Freud introduced the psychological concept of the Electra complex. According to Freud, girls can develop the Electra complex during the phallic stage, also known as the psychosexual stage of development, where they begin to realize that boys have penises and girls do not, and as such, she develops penis envy and transfers her love from her mother to her father (Bernstein 429). Many scholars, like Sheila Powell have been connecting the Freud definition of the Electra complex to the myth about Electra. The obsession about the myth of Electra extends far back into history, where the Greek poetics of Sophocles and Euripides used the myth to create tragic plays and poetic verse (Powell 156). However, Freud’s interpretation of the Electra myth brought about the psychoanalytical approach of interpreting latent incestuous sexual desires of children towards their parent of the opposite gender. In Milan Kundera’s novel, The Unbearable Lightness of Being, his character Sabina, although erotically in touch with her physical needs, has an underlying sexual drive that at times is projected from one person to another, much like the Electra myth. Sabina exhibits several latent sexual tendencies for her grandfather, which produces a reflective desire for male companionship in the form of sexual fantasies, some of which surround the use of her grandfather’s bowler hat.
In the beginning of the book, Sabina is Tomas’s mistress, but the sexual undertone of the nature their relationship leaves Sabina in need of a real connection with Tomas. In Sabina’s letter to Tomas, she writes, “I want to make love to you in my studio. It will be like a stage surrounded by people. The audience won’t be allowed up close, but they won’t be able to take their eyes off us…” (Kundera 16). Sabina suffers from a part of the Electra complex that deals with adolescent feelings. As Powell puts it, Sabina’s ability to contain her feelings is limited by her capacity to understand the situation around her (158). Sabina has not yet fully developed psychologically and because of her adolescent tendencies, she must act out her fantasies, much like Electra acts out her rage on her mother by taunting her mother with sexually perverse feelings towards her father. According to the Cambridge Dictionary of Psychology, in the pre-oedipal stages of a girl’s development, the girl attaches with her mother, assimilating that she is a female and as such mimics her mother’s actions (Matsumoto). Betty de Shong Meador points out that a woman needs to make this attachment and can return to this identification, after she has identified and has worked through her experience with her father, understanding how the relationship between males and females works (123). This is the stage where girls assimilate feelings for the opposite sex and where they ascribe their father’s attributes towards finding a mate based on the ascribed attributes. Yet, it appears within the novel that Sabina lacks the certain foundation needed for her relationships with the opposite sex and that she has not fully matured out of this stage, partly due to the fact that she is attracted to the same sex, Tereza.
Instead of acting out her feelings of intimacy, complex rage, and abandonment issues towards her grandfather, Sabina acts out against Tomas’s wife Tereza (Kundera 28). Sabina taunts Tereza by continuing her affair with Tomas, seeking out friendship with Tereza, and having a sexually explicit encounter with Tereza at her studio (Kundera 66). Yet, Sabina’s latent sexual desires stem from a familial male figure. Tomas has has replaced Sabina’s grandfather and Tereza has replaced the female counter. In a sense, Sabina has found the female and male identifiers for which she can displace her feelings of abandonment and rage. Because Sabina lacks a foundational support for her crossover back to her post-oedipal self, Sabina is not allowed to transfer over and thus, is stuck in a liminal state of adolescence that is fed by her adult desire for sexual contact. Sabina exhibits the misunderstanding that occurs within the adolescent stage where the image of her heterosexual self is distorted by her relationship with her grandfather. Because this tie to her grandfather is so strong, Sabina cannot let go of her grandfather’s love and as such, a distorted incestuous tie with her grandfather developed. Yet, her displaced aversion and compulsion towards the opposite sex indicates that Sabina has displaced further her love for her grandfather by projecting it onto her lovers and displacing her adolescent aversion for the same sex by dominating a male space, creating a male sub-identity, when in contact with the same sex.
Throughout the novel, Sabina references her grandfather as an important and loving figure. Yet, the one object that she associates with her grandfather is his bowler hat, which she uses to act out her sexual fantasies with Tomas, Tereza, and Franz. Powell states that Electra’s “idealization of her father seem to be an attempt to compensate for [a] painful abandonment… it is also an attempt to draw attention to a young woman who needs to act in accord with her feelings” (158). For Sabina, the bowler hat symbolizes her incestuous love for her grandfather, and by using it in all her fantasies, she is able to act out her latent sexual desires for her grandfather. In addition, the hat allows her to express her need to act in accordance with the sexual feelings of repression that she is feeling for her grandfather and her male partners. However, it is interesting to note that in the rendezvous with Tereza, Sabina only points out the hat, but does not don the hat on her head. “Next to the bed stood a small table, and on the table the model of a human head… Sabina’s wig stand sported a bowler hat rather than a wig, ‘It used to belong to my grandfather,’ she said with a smile” (Kundera 64). The hat is merely alluded to in the presence of Tereza because she has an aversion to the same sex as part of her misidentification with the same sex due to her distorted development in the pre-oedipal/ Electra stage of adolescence. The incestuous sexual feelings towards her grandfather are projected onto her male lovers and not onto the same sex because in order for Sabina to move forward with her life, she must have a male counterpart to help further herself, whether it is via career or personal life. It is because her grandfather had been absent from her life and “all he’d left behind was [the] bowler hat,” (Kundera 65) Sabina has displaced issues with her grandfather. She subsequently uses the bowler hat to transfer her desire for her grandfather onto her lovers. In the myth, Electra must have the same male counterpart in her life in order for her to find a suitor, marry, and have children. Electra projects her desire to have a male counterpart onto her father and in turn onto her brother, once her father is dead and gone. Yet, it is because this male counterpart does not exist wholly in a suitable capacity, Electra finds rage for her mother’s murderous act. Sabina similarly does the same because of the males in her life are her lovers and are not a suitable replacement for her grandfather. As such, she projects her rage out of Tereza because Tereza is holding onto Tomas with their marriage. Because Tomas is married to Tereza, Sabina cannot have him as a suitable male counterpart. Sabina further displays the Electra complex of same sex rage out on Tereza by following Tomas to Western Europe and rekindling her love affair with Tomas. While Sabina does not exhibit rage against Tereza violently, her displaced need for attention from male lovers stems from her need to be loved by her grandfather, as well as the fact that she does not assimilate herself as wholly female/woman.
In the novel, Sabina has a hard time placing her love on the appropriate sex, as well as having a hard time defining her own sexuality. Within the Electra complex, the division of the self occurs when a girl cannot differentiate, in what Powell calls, the inner self and the outer self: “During the time [when] a girl is acquiring knowledge, she may be taken up with the outside world. As she develops physically, her personal psychological preoccupation tends towards the inner world and the world of feeling, so she [tends to feel] pulled in two directions” (167). In terms of Sabina and her psychological development, she has not yet reached maturation and because of this, she feels disconnected with her outside self, or rather, the outside world that her inner self perceives. Because of this disconnection, Sabina cannot relate to her gender, causing confusing in sexuality and in turn an attraction to both sexes. Freud saw this as the unparalleled link between a girl’s sexual development and the bond between father and daughter (Bernstein 429). However, beyond the link of immaturity in sexual emotion is the process of defining ones sexuality. This is developed in the psychological adolescent stage where Freud insists the Electra complex occurs. Even as Sabina is stuck in this pre-oedipal stage of psychological adolescent maturation, she is still highly susceptible to the confusion and disconnect from sexual orientation that Powell suggests happens to girls/ women who become stuck in this stage. In the novel, Sabina reflects on her identity as a woman:
Being a woman is a fate Sabina did not choose. What we have not chosen we cannot consider either our merit or our failure. Sabina believed that she had to assume the correct attitude to her unchosen fate. To rebel against being born a woman seemed as foolish to her as to take pride in it. (Kundera 89)
Sabina, for the most part, is lost in her sexual orientation due in part to her immature psychological development. As such, her feelings become confused and she seeks out attention in order to try to come to terms with her sexuality and psychological need for unavailable men. This is done in order to cover up the need for her absent father figure, her grandfather. In the myth, Electra acts out in an attempt for her to draw attention. Yet, by doing so, Electra is able to seduce undesirable men, such as her father and brother. Sabina, for all her erotic sexual fantasies, desires men who she cannot have by acting out, but her desires are misplaced.
While Freud calls this misplaced desire penis envy (Bernstein 429), it goes much deeper into the core of the psyche, where women differentiate from men emotionally. Freud says that in attempt to avoid disapproval from her mother, a girl will indentify and imitate her mother, and thus form the basis for her superego (Bernstein 429). Yet, where Freud starts, Powell continues: “Woman-as-Electra is undeveloped as a woman who can think for herself because she is enmeshed in a patriarchal culture with which she colludes by feeling that only a man can change the world for her and help her through the struggle” (171). For Sabina, the moment of realization comes when she realizes she is a woman in the sense of the word, but quit unique in compositional makeup. She is freer than the woman Powell speaks of, yet, Sabina seems trapped the notion of having a constant male companion or lover to help her through her life. Ultimately, this is why she rejects Franz (Kundera 91). Sabina is not in love with any of her sexual partners because none of them could measure up to the admiration and displaced love that Sabina had for her grandfather. Each lover lacked something that Sabina needed from a man. Her rejection of men and the collusion of feelings towards male lovers and her grandfather is what ultimately brings about Sabina’s understanding of her sexuality and her need for help. Sabina conclusively found that the only help she needed rested in herself. Sabina realized that the betrayal lay within herself and that in order for her to come to terms with her feelings and her identity, she would have to recognize that she was in fact the problem. In a fit of intoxication, Sabina came to realize that, “The road had to end somewhere! Sooner or later she would have to stop herself!” (Kundera 98). While intoxicated, Sabina revisited her childhood despairs, gradually noticing and owning up to her betrayal of feelings towards the males within her life, namely her father (Kundera 98). However, this gradual ownership of feelings allows Sabina to develop into her post-oedipal self. After coming to terms with her feelings of confusion and disconnect from her sexual orientation, Sabina confronts the only man that has ever truly loved her, Franz : “She had an overwhelming desire to tell him, like the most banal of women, Don’t let me go, hold me tight, make me your plaything, your slave, be strong!” (Kundera 98). Sabina finally is able to own her need for the desired traits in men that resembled her father’s and grandfather’s traits. By accepting them as part of her psychological reality, she allows her full maturation to occur. While her feelings are still congealed with her sexual desires for male companionship, her desires are more in tune with the role of women in her age and are less masculine in nature. She has fully developed beyond the Electra complex because she is no longer struggling with her sexual disconnection. She has fulfilled the role as a woman because she now sees herself a representative value rather than the “signified one of two human sexes” (Kundera 89). Towards the end of the novel, Sabina finally connects with her the psychological identification as a woman and begins to imitate the role of woman, forming her superego around her newfound sense of self (Kundera 256).
While both Electra and Sabina seem to be lost in their placement of desire and attention, both exhibit latent sexual desire for their father figures. Electra emulated her needs and desires onto her father because of the need for a father figure to help her through life. Yet, Sabina emulated her desires onto her grandfather’s bowler hat because of his inadequate ability to be there for Sabina. As a result, Sabina projected her desires for her grandfather onto her male lovers. Though Sabina may not fully have the incestuous Electra complex, she does exhibit some of the overall arching characteristics of the Electra complex, which explains her need for the bowler hat and for some of the more peculiar and erotic scenes within Kundera’s novel.

Works Cited
Bernstein, Douglas A. Essentials of Psychology. 5th ed. Mason: Cengage Learning, 2010. 425-59. Print.
de Shong Meador, B. “Forward into the Past.” Dreams in Analysis. Eds. N. Schwartz-Salent and M. Stien. Wilmette, Ill.:Chiron. 1990.121-53. Print.
Kundera, Milan. The Unbearable Lightness of Being. Trans. Michael Henry Heim. New York: Harperperennial, 2009. Print.
Matsumoto, David Ricky. Cambridge Dictionary of Psychology. Cambridge University Press, 2009. ebook Collection(EBSCOhost). Web. 29 march 2012.
Powell, Sheila. "Electra: The Dark Side of the Moon." Journal of Analytical Psychology 38.2, 1993: 155-74. Print.

Posted by: brooke king at April 22, 2012 09:15 AM

Tiffany Anne Carpenter
Dr. Hobbs
Eng 435- Literary Criticism
16 April 2012
Mock Conference Panel: “Re/Deconstructing the Sexual Politics of Milan Kundera”
Personal and Political Sexuality in Milan Kundera’s Unbearable Lightness of Being
In her article on the “Politics of Domesticity,” Nancy Armstrong considers the role of female intellectual labor and the importance of how gender in relationship to domestic fiction is often overlooked. She argues that most theorists and critics of New Historicism tend to leave out the role of women and instead focus solely on economic and social histories in relationship to men and politics, leaving a large portion of innovative thought out of the equation, thought that comes from the inclusion of women and their domain of the personal and emergence of sexuality.
She defines her idea of domestic fiction as “gender-inflected writing” and points out that in examining Foucault’s terms of “discourse, power, sexuality, [and] discipline” there are flaws because of the power of this system being dependent upon forms of consciousness, unconscious desire, and subjectivity (570). Armstrong shows her hesitation with the ideas of Foucault because of his lack of focus on gender in politics and she aims to bring the role of women’s intellectual labor to the forefront. She suggests “that modern institutional cultures depend upon the separation of the political from the personal and that they produce and maintain this separation on the basis of gender” and goes on to highlight the importance of varying sexual roles and gender roles in a household, marriage, and even society as a whole and how men and women have been often defined specifically by gender (573). She closes by exclaiming that she is attempting to “represent the discourse of sexuality as deeply implicated in the shape of the novel” and that in the end, although it might seem a simple feminist critic, she is only trying to highlight the importance of examining fiction not only as literature in the text itself, but though various perspectives that include the broad range of considering gender differences throughout history, as well as cultural and class perspectives in relationship to those gender roles in society.
One of the works that we have considered throughout the semester, The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera is a great example of how this type of gender focused critique can be applied.
For example, the questions of the Soviet idea of morality might be examined in relationship to personal desires and sexuality in respect to the characters of the work. Tomas, for example, is frequently finding new women to seduce and have affairs with, even in the midst of his marriage to Tereza because his views of love, lust, and sexual desire are separate from one another and his lifestyle and philosophy leaves him emotionally detached from the world around him. There is this exchange between people and their views of power; where control is established can often be related back to control in sexuality. Tereza wants power in a different way than Sabina in that respect; she wants control by desiring Tomas to be with her and her alone. She is this image of innocence and almost purity for Tomas, something that he can claim as his in one way and then continue to sleep around with other women to ensure his happiness in all realms of his personality and desire. Tereza wants control of her relationship with him and control of her body, wanting to limit the sexuality that she is trying to suppress because of her society and her psychological struggles with the image of her body. Sabina on the other hand, is submissive in how she reacts to the men around her in some ways by letting them take advantage of her body and use her sexually. However, she is controlling at the same time because she is strong and sexually independent, having sexual relationships with whomever she wants, whenever she wants and not thinking much of it. She acts on instincts and desires and can control her emotions enough to have sexual power within these relationships; it is almost as if she thrives on how inconsequential sex is to her and how she can dismiss her interactions as merely a game. This is an interesting philosophy for a woman be portrayed as embodying, especially for the time Kundera is writing. Like Armstrong mentions, the stereotypes and standards that society placed upon women would shun the lifestyle that Sabina is trying to lead through her sexual aggressiveness.
That approach might even be taken to another level in the consideration of how Sabina and Tereza view promiscuity in their society; Sabina has no problem sleeping around and finds sexual submission almost as a sense of freedom while Tereza has a predisposition to dislike the body, her body and the bodies of others, and feels almost ashamed and dirty as a result of sexual acts. For her, sexual desire is limited and almost harmful; the fact that her husband has affairs with other women and her “fling” with the man from the bar nearly destroys her internally because of her guilt and inability to cope with her own sexuality and the emergence of sexuality throughout the society around her with the people that she is constantly interacting with. She tries to avoid the focus of the sexual, and she ultimately suffers because of it because of how prevalent that emergence and focus, and even violence, of sexuality is around her, namely in her husband and his long-term mistress, Sabina.
It is also important to consider the female perspective in this continued relationship of power to the personal and the political by looking at the role of Sabina’s sexuality; how she handles relationships with others, her view of her own sexual identity and promiscuity, her view and understanding of the sexuality that is represented in those around her. A more in-depth examination might even look at Sabina’s perspective and fascination with the bowler hat and how it pertains to her in this way that she views it as this symbol of eroticism, sexual exploration and freedom, and even rebellion or betrayal. She uses this bowler hat as a way to leave behind her past and the conventions that might be seen in society; as a way to play up her sexual interactions with Tomas and allows him to overtake her in a sexual way, and even as a sense of almost having a separate identity when she wears the bowler hat to have sex with Tomas and Franz, leaving her inhibitions, emotions, and past behind her.
Another perspective that plays into the examination of the power struggle that comes from the role of sexuality in Kundera’s Unbearable Lightness of Being might be that of Jacques Lacan when he writes about how our unconscious desires are not based on our background or our instincts, and that they are very elementary in nature, depending on the role of the signifier in the things we see around us. Without going into depth on Lacan’s interpretations of the signifier and signified formula, it is interesting to note the importance of language and desire that the characters have throughout the work.
For Tomas, Tereza, and Sabina, sexuality is most obviously the overarching issue that plays into the way that they live their lives and interact with the people around them. While Tomas and Sabina are more aggressive in following through with their desires, Tereza is much more restrained and tends to deny herself whatever unconscious desires she might have stirring. Because she has such a horrible past that has given her negative feelings and traumatic experiences in relationship to the image of body and to her sexuality, Tereza struggles to continue suppressing her sexuality and desires because she is unable to break through those barriers and cannot move past her internal conflicts. Tomas and Sabina, however, are much more overt when it comes to their desires and they act upon them with little to no thought or consideration for the consequences. They have a much easier time acting spontaneously on their instincts and personal desires without having the internal struggles of what happens next, who they might be affecting in the process, etc. Instead, they are much more likely to behave based solely on their personal desires and wants and do things as they see fit in the moment. They might suffer or struggle with those decisions later, but living in the moment is much more their style, especially when it comes to their sexuality. In this way, Kundera uses these characteristics and extensive, graphic language to describe these scenes and the development of these characters to establish them and showcase the way that they operate in their environment and the way that they operate based off of their unconscious--which they essentially turn conscious because they are aware of them--desires, highlighting the importance of that language as Lacan points out.
Throughout The Unbearable Lightness of Being, Kundera weighs in on the question of sexuality in terms of how it emerges for his characters personally and how it emerges and is influenced politically. They struggle with internal conflicts, their unconscious desires, and individual motivations with how they react with others, how they form relationships, and how they use their sexuality. In addition, they struggle with the suppression of the Soviet society that traps them into behaving in certain ways because of societal and political restrictions. Some characters are stronger than others with their use of sexuality and use it as a way to escape the political unrest that they feel trapped in and others nearly crumble with it and limit their sexuality even more. For Tomas and Sabina, their emotional detachment allows them to take their personal sexuality and make it political by giving them the upper hand in the power struggle. Tereza, on the other hand, suppresses her sexuality and is submissive to society around her, forcing her to face her internal struggles in a stronger light because of her inability to detach herself from what’s happening around her and her inability to find her own identity.
Annotated Bibliography
Armstrong, Nancy. “Some Call it Fiction: On the Politics of Domesticity.” 1990. Literary Theory: An Anthology. 2nd Ed. Eds. Julie Rivkin and Michael Ryan. Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2004. 567-83. Print.
In her article on the “Politics of Domesticity,” Nancy Armstrong considers the role of female intellectual labor and the importance of how gender in relationship to domestic fiction is often overlooked. Her arguments provide a foundation for my research on the role of gender in Kundera’s portrayal of female sexuality.
Kundera, Milan. The Unbearable Lightness of Being. New York: Harper & Row, 1984. Print.
Milan Kundera’s work on the Unbearable Lightness of Being is a novel that considers the role of lightness and weight in the philosophical world and applies it to the characters of Tomas, Tereza, and Sabina. He explores the meaning of life, theories of Nietzsche, the role of fate, political commentary, and even the emergence of sexuality in the Soviet realm.
Lacan, Jacques. “The Instance of the Letter in the Unconscious or Reason since Freud.” 1957. Literary Theory: An Anthology. 2nd Ed. Eds. Julie Rivkin and Michael Ryan. Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2004. 447-61. Print.
Lacan’s article is an interesting source for my consideration on how the use of language and the role of unconscious desire plays out in the work of Milan Kundera because Lacan examines the role of psychoanalytic theory in terms of the use of language and reason through the formula of the signifier and the signified and what that means for human nature.

Posted by: tiffany.carpenter at April 23, 2012 07:55 AM

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