West European Studies | History and Psychoanalysis
W605 | 25057 | Spang
A portion of the above class reserved for majors
Above class open to graduates only
Above class meets with WEUR-W605
Often cited as a key figure in modern Western thought, Sigmund Freud
remains as controversial a figure today as he was a century ago.
Discoverer of a new science, founder of a new discourse, or just a
self-obsessed erudite, Freud is (in)famous for his theories of
unconscious desire and omnipresent sexuality. Less notorious, but
equally significant, was his understanding of psychoanalysis as a
specifically historical practice, one way of dealing with the past’s
multiple meanings for the present.
In this course, we will explore a range of topics, issues, and
methods that link the discipline of history to the practice of
psychoanalysis. In it, we look both at the history of psychoanalysis
and at efforts to put history "on the couch." We will compare
Freud's own exercises in cultural analysis (such as "Why War?"
and "Civilization and its Discontents") with the psychohistory of
the 1950s and 1960s and with more recent attempts, often by feminist
scholars, to integrate psychoanalytic theory with history writing.
We also consider the legacy of psychoanalysis for later modern
European and North-American social thought, including the work of
the Frankfort School and of Slavoj Žižek. After an introductory
period spent reading some of Freud's key texts, possible seminar
topics include: hysterics and feminists; fantasies and facts of
seduction; transference, counter-transference, and the "objective"
subject; psychoanalysis as a "Jewish science"; memory and trauma;
psychoanalysis and/as cultural critique.
Reading knowledge of German or French would be useful but is
certainly not required. All students are welcome, but those with
interests in modern cultural and intellectual history, in
cultural/literary theory, in the relation memory to history, or in
the history of science and medicine may find the course especially
helpful. Early modernists may want to note how many major scholars
in their field have been interested in psychoanalysis: Michel de
Certeau, John Demos, and Lyndal Roper are only the first three names
that come to mind.