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psychoanalytic criticism

Modern psychology has had a tremendous effect on both literature and literary criticism. Sigmund Freud's psychoanalytic theories changed our notions of human behavior by exploring new or controversial areas like wish-fulfillment, sexuality, the unconsciousness, and repression. Psychoanalytic criticism usually examines the author's writings in the framework of Freudian psychology. A central doctrine of Sigmund Freud is the Oedipus complex, the view that all males unconsciously wish to displace their fathers and to sleep with their mothers. According to Freud, hatred for the father and love of the mother, normally repressed, may appear disguised versions of repressed wishes. Thus one might interpret William Faulkner's "A Rose for Emily" as such an example: Emily' s father always re- pressed her sexual desire to marry. Although she cannot literally resist her father's oppression while she is alive, she does so after he dies. Nevertheless, she has internalized her father's sexual repression. In fulfilling her sexual desire by sleeping with a man, she represses that desire by sleeping with a dead man. A theme of this short story may be that sexual desire must be repressed, but that it will still erupt in extraordinary ways. This eruption is referred to as the "return of the repressed."

One way of understanding psychoanalytic approaches to literature is to say that there are two major schools of thought: the American and the French. The American school of criticism leans toward accepting and applying Freudian concepts to literary texts. Between 1910s and 1930s psychoanalytic critics and Freud in particular, researched the author's childhood and read the text, its characters and symbols to understand the author's psyche. In addition to psychoanalyzing authors, they also analyzed the neuroses of fictional characters. Later in the 1950s and 1960s, some American psychoanalytic critics moved from psychoanalyzing authors and characters to studying the dynamics between the reader and the text. Norman Holland has spent his career evolving his own brand of psychoanalytic criticism. He assumes that each reader has a "characteristic way of dealing with the demands of outer and inner reality." That is, each individual has an essential core self with an "identity theme" that never changes. Holland believes that readers use texts to deal with their own psychological issues and to help them achieve successful solutions within their identity themes. By accepting Freud's theory of two human instincts: the death instinct, or the desire to die, and the sexual instinct, or the desire to live, Peter Brooks believes that these instincts explain fictional narratives. That is, novels "drive toward the end" (the death instinct), yet they also resist ending (the sexual instinct). If the sex instinct underlies narrative, then this calls for an "erotics of reading," or the study of how reading always involves desire. Harold Bloom, another influential American psychoanalytic critic, explains literary history by applying the Freudian Oedipal complex to literature, for Bloom conceives of the artist as a son in a struggle with his poetic father. Since the son has not yet achieved fame the way the precursor has, he wants to become the precursor. He must kill the father and his influence. Although his precursor is already dead, yet he has a powerful influence385 on society and on the son in particular, the son kills the father in his imagination (the literary work). Bloom, based on Freudian principles, suggests that the son kills the father and his influence through "misreading." "Misreading" occurs when the son internalizes but rewrites the precursor. Thus, "misreading" signals the son's independence from the precursor.

The French school of psychoanalytic criticism not only has changed how we think about literature, writing, reading, and language, but also alters our understanding of the sciences and philosophy. Unlike American school of criticism, the French drastically revises Freud. Iacquds Lacan is the foremost French psychoanalytic theorist, but his theory is difficult. Lacan's major revision of Freud is his belief that language forms our identity. Lacan maps out three domains, the Real, the Imaginary and the Symbolic, all of which anticipate, participate in, or are mediated by language. The Real, according to Lacan, is the actual world and-everything in it, all of which remain unknowable to the individual. Individuals in the Imaginary and Symbolic stages try to master the Real, but they cannot directly experience it. The Imaginary is the world of images, fantasy, wish fulfillment; it appears to be a utopian state of oneness with the mother. And the Symbolic is the realm in which the child learns to use language and becomes subject to the father's rule. Lacan's concept of language is crucial to his belief that individuals are fragmented. Lacan believes that "the speaker is subjected to language rather than master of it." Lacan asserts that language; which we think accurately communicates and orders our understanding, actually only obstructs it. Thus, when the child acquires language, it is also barred because its unconscious urges are repressed from the conscious.

To sum up: psychological criticism is a diverse category, but it often employs three approaches` First; it ' investigates the creative process of the artist, that is, how does the nature of literary genius related to normal mental functions? The second major study is of a particular artist, employing psychology to understand the subject's motivations and behavior. The third common area of psychological criticism is the analysis of fictional characters. Freud's studies of Oedipus is the prototype for this approach that tries to bring modern insights about human behavior into the study of how fictional people act.

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