Shakespeare in Psychoanalysis

Shakespeare in Psychoanalysis

Shakespeare in Psychoanalysis

Shakespeare in Psychoanalysis

Synopsis

The link between psychoanalysis as a mode of interpretation and Shakespeare's works is well known. But rather than merely putting Shakespeare on the couch, Philip Armstrong focuses on the complex and fascinatingly fruitful mutual relationship between Shakespeare's texts and psychoanalytic theory. He shows how the theories of Freud, Rank, Jones, Lacan, Erikson, and others are themselves in a large part the product of reading Shakespeare. Armstrong provides an introductory cultural history of the relationship between psychoanalytic concepts and Shakespearean texts. This is played out in a variety of expected and unexpected contexts, including: *the early modern stage * Hamlet and The Tempest *Freud's analytic session *the Parisian intellectual scene *Hollywood *the virtual space of the PC

Excerpt

In our time, the field of literary studies has rarely been a settled, tranquil place. Indeed, for over two decades, the clash of opposed theories, prejudices and points of view has made it more of a battlefield. Echoing across its most beleaguered terrain, the student's weary complaint 'Why can't I just pick up Shakespeare's plays and read them?' seems to demand a sympathetic response.

Nevertheless, we know that modern spectacles will always impose their own particular characteristics on the vision of those who unthinkingly don them. This must mean, at the very least, that an apparently simple confrontation with, or pious contemplation of, the text of a 400-year-old play can scarcely supply the grounding for an adequate response to its complex demands. For this reason, a transfer of emphasis from 'text' towards 'context' has increasingly been the concern of critics and scholars since the Second World War: a tendency that has perhaps reached its climax in more recent movements such as new historicism or cultural materialism.

A consideration of the conditions - social, political or economic - within which the play came to exist, from which it derives, and to which it speaks will certainly make legitimate demands on the attention of any well-prepared student nowadays. Of course, the serious pursuit of those interests will also inevitably start to undermine ancient and inherited prejudices, such as the supposed distinction between 'foreground' and 'background' in literary studies. And even the slightest awareness of the pressures of gender or of race, or the most cursory glance at the role played by that strange creature 'Shakespeare' in our cultural politics, will reinforce a similar turn towards questions that sometimes appear scandalously 'non-literary'. It seems clear that very different and unsettling notions of the ways in which literature might be

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