This essay argues that psychoanalytic literary criticism has largely failed because it has assumed that literature and psychoanalysis share common analytical ground. It contends that psychoanalytic approaches necessarily deform literature, that literary readings deform psychoanalytic theory, and that the assumption of commonality between poetics and psychoanalysis causes psychoanalytic literary criticism to go astray. Advocating the opposite approach, the essay sets poetics against psychoanalysis, contending that where their mutual tension and disfigurement is recognized and investigated, psychoanalysis and literature can become genuinely available to one another.
Poetics contra Psychoanalysis
Alexander Freer is junior research fellow in English at Trinity College, University of Cambridge. His recent essays on Percy Bysshe Shelley’s poetics, the aesthetics of dreams, and theories of the lyric appear In Philosophy and Literature, Critical Quarterly, and Modern Philology, respectively.
Alexander Freer; Poetics contra Psychoanalysis. Poetics Today 1 December 2019; 40 (4): 619–643. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/03335372-7739057
Download citation file: