Freud Revisited: Psychoanalytic Themes in the Postmodern Age

Freud Revisited: Psychoanalytic Themes in the Postmodern Age

Freud Revisited: Psychoanalytic Themes in the Postmodern Age

Freud Revisited: Psychoanalytic Themes in the Postmodern Age


This book sees Freud as one of the last great exponents of Enlightenment rationalism; yet he also forms part of modernism—which shattered traditional forms in art—and he leads forward to certain postmodern ideas. The book examines some of Freud's themes that remain challenging and relevant today—for example, psychoanalysis as a form of narrative-construction, the creative nature of memory, the revolutionary nature of the knowledge gained through psychotherapy, and unconscious, which subverts any notion of stable human identity.


Freud revolutionized modern thought with his conception and development of depth psychology. The word ‘depth’ is critical here, for Freud postulated a fundamental incoherence in the human being, a division between the surface and what lies underneath – the unconscious.

The notion of the unconscious is perhaps one of the most important concepts of the modern age, for it introduces into the human self-image a fundamental gap, or what Lacan calls a ‘heteronomy’. Just as Darwin shattered human complacency through the historicization of the human being itself – found to have an origin in animal evolution, not in heaven – so Freud shattered any idea that human beings are homogeneous and rational. Whereas Christianity had conceived of a fundamental flaw introduced into humanity through the fall from grace, Freud showed us a fundamental split at the heart of the individual that is derived from our conception of ourselves as selves. That is, the fundamental conflict between ego and id – between the conscious and the unconscious, between the repressing force and the repressed – is said to lie at the heart of being a human self. We can no more remove this conflict than we can, in the Christian ethic, will our own state of grace. What we can do, however, in the Freudian schema, is to become more aware of our inner conflicts.

But this is only the beginning. The unconscious is the apex of Freud's achievements: underneath it lies an Everest of discoveries, postulates, theoretical schemes, empirical observations. Furthermore, Freud carried on reworking his ideas until his death. This partly makes his work difficult to summarize, since it never ceased to evolve – but also gives it an intellectual density that is unique.

I have not written this book as a technical introduction to psychoanalysis, nor as a popularized account of Freud's ideas. In fact, I feel that

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