Psychoanalytic Criticism Essay

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Psychoanalytic Criticism and Jane Eyre WHAT IS PSYCHOANALYTIC CRITICISM? It seems natural to think about literature in terms of dreams. Like dreams, literary works are fictions, inventions of the mind that, although based on reality, are by definition not literally true. Like a literary work, a dream may have some truth to tell, but, like a literary work, it may need to be interpreted before that truth can be grasped. We can live vicariously through romantic fictions, much as we can through daydreams. Terrifying novels and nightmares affect us in much the same way, plunging us into an atmosphere that continues to cling, even after the last chapter has been read — or the alarm clock has sounded. The notion that dreams allow such psychic explorations, of course, like the analogy between literary works and dreams, owes a great deal to the thinking of Sigmund Freud, the famous Austrian psychoanalyst who in 1900 published a seminal essay, The Interpretation of Dreams. But is the reader who feels that Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights is dreamlike — who feels that Mary Shelley's Frankenstein is nightmarish — necessarily a Freudian literary critic? To some extent the answer has to be yes. We are all Freudians, really, whether or not we have read a single work by Freud. At one time or another, most of us have referred to ego, libido, complexes, unconscious desires, and sexual repression. The premises of Freud's thought have changed the way the WHAT IS PSYCHOANALYTIC CRITICISM? Western world thinks about itself. Psychoanalytic criticism has influenced the teachers our teachers studied with, the works of scholarship and criticism they read, and the critical and creative writers we read as well. What Freud did was develop a language that described, a model that explained, a theory that encompassed human psychology. Many of the

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