Chapter 6: Psychological Approaches

A Handbook of Critical Approaches to
I. Aims and Principles
A. Abuses and misunderstandings of the
psychological approach
The approach is abused when it is made an
exclusive approach
B. Freud’s Theories
 Theory of the unconscious (id, ego, superego)
 Most of what we do is motivated by the
unconscious, especially sexually (libido)
 Phallic and yonic symbols
 Child development
 Oedipus complex, fixation
C. Other Theories
 Inspired by Freud, Jacques Lacan developed
his own version of the unconscious
 Symbolic Order & Realm of the Father
 Realm of the Mother
 Mirror Stage
II. Psychological Approach in Practice
A. Hamlet: the Oedipus Complex
 Theory of Ernest Jones, Norman N. Holland on
Hamlet’s misogyny and ambivalence toward
father figures
B. Rebellion against the father in Huckleberry Finn
 Huck’s rejection of parental authority parallels
his rejection of values of his society, especially
racism, slavery, and religion; river as maternal
symbol; Jim as androgynous; story of the child
C. Prometheus Manqué: The Monster Unbound
 Novel’s subtitle points to Oedipal struggle, but
revenge turns on Victor’s entire family
D. “Young Goodman Brown”: Id over Superego
 Theme of innocence betrayed; allegory,
symbolism, ambiguity; town = superego,
Brown = ego, forest = id; obsession, taboos;
Brown is not a mature man
E. Sexual Imagery in “To His Coy Mistress”
 From teasing wit to brutal assault
F. Morality Principle Over Pleasure Principle in
“Everyday Use”
 Narrator = ego; Dee = id; Maggie = superego

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