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Module description

In this module we situate psychoanalysis in the context in which it emerged in late nineteenth-century Vienna, in relation to Empire, Europe's colonial expansion and decolonisation movements. You will study key concepts in psychoanalysis such as the unconscious and the drive; gender, sexuality and sexual difference; love, hate and ambivalence; dreams and fantasy; melancholia and intersubjectivity; and discuss them as both clinical and social forms of analysis.

You will debate the social, political and ideological implications of these theories as well as approaching psychoanalysis as an open and dynamic body of thought that has been received, critiqued and revised. We will also examine the complex relations psychoanalysis has had with social and political theory, feminism and queer theory, and post-colonial studies.

Indicative syllabus

  • Concepts of the 'subject' and 'subjectivity' in psychoanalytic theory
  • The origins of psychoanalysis: Freud and his times
  • Freudian concepts such as the unconscious and repression; defences; drives and objects; the Oedipus complex; transference
  • The Kleinian story: phantasy; envy and destructiveness; paranoid-schizoid and depressive positions; reparation
  • Lacanian provocations: language and the subject; imaginary, symbolic and real
  • Critical responses to psychoanalysis from feminism, queer theory and critical race studies

Learning objectives

By the end of this module, you will be able to:

  • grasp key issues in schools and traditions of psychoanalytic theory
  • understand core concepts in the study of psychoanalysis
  • show a deepened capacity for reflexivity and a capacity for thinking critically about knowledge production and 'theory'
  • critically engage with and use psychoanalytic theory in the analysis of individual and collective experience.