One of the most controversial areas of historiography over the last century has been the use of psychoanalysis to aid our understanding of historical personalities, groups, or trends. Reactions to this approach have been diverse, from the belief of Peter Loewenberg (German-American historian and psychoanalyst) that it is ‘the most powerful of interpretive approaches to history’, to Jacques Barzun’s assertion that, ‘events and agents lose their individuality and become illustrations of certain automatisms.’ 1
Many historians apply some psychological
Psychoanalytic criticism is a form of literary criticism which uses some of the techniques of psychoanalysis in the interpretation of literature. Psychoanalysis itself is a form of therapy which aims to cure mental disorders ‘by investigating the interaction of conscious and unconscious elements in the mind’ (as the Concise Oxford Dictionary puts it). The classic method of doing this is to get the patient to talk freely, in such a way that the repressed fears and conflicts which are causing the problems are brought into the conscious mind and
the 1970s has been remarkable for the wide range of positions that exist within it. Debates and disagreements have centred on three particular areas, these being: 1. the role of theory; 2. the nature of language; and 3. the value or otherwise of psychoanalysis. The next three sections will look at each of these in turn.
Feminist criticism and the role of theory
A major division within feminist criticism has concerned disagreements about the amount and type of theory that should feature in it. What is usually called the ‘Anglo-American’ version of feminism has
and contemporary construction of the field.
Little work has been done in printmaking related to semiotics,
feminism, or psychoanalysis. This paper is a call for a new history
and historiography of printmaking and, more than anything, is a call
for dialogue that would examine the ways in which printmaking
relates to the important theoretical issues of our time.
recently, the lips of Angelina Jolie or Julia Roberts (‘Major lippage’ as the central duo sums Roberts up in Wayne’s World ).
Psychoanalytic work on star spectatorship has tended to be less empowering of women as viewing subjects, often restricting them to such unattractive options as passive or even masochistic identification with the female clotheshorses that have often featured in narrative cinema. So, while Jackie Stacey’s important study Star Gazing ( 1994 ) is influenced by psychoanalysis, it also draws upon an alternative resource in star studies
Every piece of historical writing has a theoretical basis on which evidence is selected, filtered, and understood. This book explores the theoretical perspectives and debates that are generally acknowledged to have been the most influential within the university-led practice of history over the past century and a half. It advises readers to bear in mind the following four interlinked themes: context, temporal framework, causation or drivers of change, and subjectivities. The book outlines the principles of empiricism, the founding epistemology of the professional discipline, and explores the ways in which historians have challenged and modified this theory of knowledge over the past century and a half. It then focuses upon three important dimensions of historical materialism in the work of Marxist historians: the dialectical model at the basis of Marx's grand narrative of human history; the adaptations of Marxist theory in Latin America; and the enduring question of class consciousness. The use of psychoanalysis in history, the works of Annales historians and historical sociology is discussed next. The book also examines the influence of two specific approaches that were to be fertile ground for historians: everyday life and symbolic anthropology, and ethnohistory. The roles of narrative, gender history, radical feminism, poststructuralism and postcolonial history are also discussed. Finally, the book outlines the understandings about the nature of memory and remembering, and looks at key developments in the analysis and interpretation of oral histories and oral traditions.
models have so far proved inadequate to the intellectual challenges posed by worldwide capitalist structural transformation. The pressing and difficult task facing us in the present, as I see it, is to regain a more robust sense of the social, but to do so precisely on the richer and more supple epistemological terrain opened up by the cultural turn. 2
Another former social historian (her first book in 1974 was entitled The Glassworkers of Carmaux ) and frontrunner in the cultural turn is Joan Wallach Scott, though her most recent ‘turn’ is to psychoanalysis. She
Schopenhauer, Horkheimer retained the notion that society is able to put ‘man’s need for metaphysics’ to work for many different ends. If one substitutes ‘eros’ or ‘libido’ for ‘need for metaphysics’, one arrives at the version of this idea that Critical Theory adopted from Freudian psychoanalysis. The integration of psychoanalysis into Marxian social theory was arguably Horkheimer’s most momentous contribution to social theory, although it was not an idea he came up with on his own. In 1928 Horkheimer underwent psychoanalysis with Karl Landauer (1887–1945; Landauer died in
“difference” are raised.’ As exemplar, she showed how situating an analysis of Indian feminism historically in relation to colonialism, nationalism, and British feminism could improve our understanding of both non-Western and Western feminism. 29
Secondly, theorists have suggested that an essential category ‘woman’ (singular) does not exist due to the fragmentary nature of identity: each woman’s subjectivity is divided and conflicting. Psychoanalysis offers tools for uncovering and interpreting subjectivity, which can be viewed as made up of unconscious ideas, partly the
Action and Habermas’ other work. Thus, in Knowledge and Human Interests , he draws on psychoanalysis as a model for his critical theory. Psychoanalysis attempts to cure patients by helping them recognise the psychological repressions which bring them into contradiction with themselves. ‘Analysis has immediate therapeutic results because the critical overcoming of blocks to consciousness and the penetration of false objectivations initiates the appropriation of a lost portion of life history; it thus reverses a process of splitting-off’ (Habermas, 1971: 233). Through