Psychoanalysis. Psychoanalysis was founded by Sigmund Freud (1836-1939) as a study of mental processes and the therapeutic treatment of neurosis. In particular, Freud's theory of the unconscious established a basis of explanation for psychic processes in sexuality. In the 1920s Freud introduced the well-known distinction between the id, the ego and the super-ego. This model suggested that the untrammelled instinctual drives (the id) and the constraining mores of society (super-ego) could be brought to a point of reconciliation in the ego or social individual. The implication that the purpose of psychoanalysis was to heal a perceived psychic division and so 'normalize' the patient was taken up especially by 'ego-psychology' in the United States. This was rejected by the radical French psychoanalyst, Jacques Lacan (1901-81) who maintained that Freud's major discovery had been the unconscious and that this revealed how the subject was irremediably split. This emphasis, along with Lacan's appropriation of a structuralist linguistic model, aligned psychoanalysis with other trends in poststructuralist thought opposed to the humanist assumption of the unified, coherent subject.

Lacan's semiotic reading of Freud also confirmed the rhetorical and narrative nature of psychoanalysis itself. This is evident not only in the description of psychoanalytic practice as the 'talking cure', in which a patient (the analysand) tells their story to the analyst who then interprets and shapes this much like a text (Bowie 1987; Brooks 1994), but also in the derivation from literature and figurative construction of leading concepts. Many of these have in turn had a wide influence upon literary and cultural criticism and across the Humanities (Wright 1984; Donald [ed.] 1991). In addition to the theory of the unconscious and the general notion of the repressed, the most influential are probably the oedipus complex, the uncanny, and transference. These have been employed chiefly in the discussion of subjectivity, sexuality and sexual difference, but in relation also to particular modes or genres: the gothic and fantastic, or the uses of memory in autobiography and historical fictions, for example. Psychoanalytic approaches have often been combined in such readings with feminist and poststructuralist strategies, although this engagement has been marked as much by debate and revisions to major premises, especially concerning the Oedipal complex, as by their adoption.

An alternative tradition in psychoanalysis has been associated with, Melanie Klein (1882-1960) and her psychoanalysis of children. The child is seen to feel love and hatred for the object of the mother, alternating between a 'persecutory anxiety' and a 'depressive anxiety', which respectively describe the fear of attack from the hated object and a wish to restore a loving relationship. Although Klein was not herself a feminist, her work has been welcomed by feminist scholars as eliciting a pre-Oedipal relationship between women and the mother (Mitchell [ed.] 1986; Woman: A Cultural Review 1990; Rose 1993). For further commentary on the influence of psychoanalytic theory on feminism see Wright [ed.] (1992).

A strikingly polemical challenge to the perceived political implications of the Oedipal complex has been advanced by Gilles Delenze and Felix Guatarri (1983). They view the emphasis on lack and unfulfilled desire in the Freudian notion of the unconscious as complicit with the deprivations of capitalism and instead propose a liberating 'schizoanalysis' in which a released libidinal energy will escape or 'deterritorialize' the repressive constraints of bourgeois society.

Finally, the scientific credentials of Freud's methods and findings have also been criticized. In recent years he has been charged by Frederick Crews (1997) with having manipulated both patients and evidence (a view that in part accords with the feminist critique of Freud's authoritarian treatment of woman patients in particular. See Helene Cixous' re-staging of one of Freud's most famous case histories, Portrait of Dora, 1976). Crews' criticism also has implications for the topical issue of 'false memory' syndrome and the question of child sexual abuse. [Brooker 1999]


Discipline founded by Freud, whose example we follow in considering it under three aspects:

a. As a method of investigation which consists essentially in bringing out the unconscious meaning of the words, the actions and the products of the imagination (dreams, phantasies, delusions) of a particular subject. The method is founded mainly on the subject's free associations, which serve as the measuring-rod of the validity of the interpretation. Psycho-analytical interpretation can, however, be extended to human productions where no free associations are available.

b. As a psychotherapeutic method based on this type of investigation and characterised by the controlled interpretation of resistance, transference and desire. It is in a related sense that the term 'psycho-analysis' is used to mean a course of psycho-analytic treatment, as when one speaks of undergoing psycho-analysis (or analysis).

c. As a group of psychological and psychopathological theories which are the systematic expression of the data provided by the psycho-analytic method of investigation and treatment.

Freud first used the terms 'analysis', 'psychical analysis', 'psychological analysis' and 'hypnotic analysis' in his early article on 'The Neuro-Psychoses of Defence' (1894a) (1). It was only later, in an article on the aetiology of neuroses published in French, that he introduced the name 'psycho-analyse' (2). The German 'Psychoanalyse' made its first appearance in 1896, in 'Further Remarks on the Neuro-Psychoses of Defence' (1896b) (3). The adoption of this term served as formal confirmation that catharsis under hypnosis and suggestion had been dropped and that the obtaining of material would henceforward depend exclusively on the rule of free association. Freud gave several definitions of psycho-analysis. One of the most explicit is to be found at the beginning of an encyclopaedia article written in 1922: 'Psycho-analysis is the name (i) of a procedure for the investigation of mental processes which are almost inaccessible in any other way, (ii) of a method (based upon that investigation) for the treatment of neurotic disorders and (iii) of a collection of psychological information obtained along those lines, which is gradually being accumulated into a new scientific discipline' (4).

The definition which we have proposed above is a more detailed version of the one given by Freud in this artide.

As regards the choice of the term 'psycho-analysis', we can do no better than quote Freud himself, who invented the name while in the process of following up his discovery: 'The work by which we bring the repressed mental material into the patient's consciousness has been called by us psycho-analysis. Why "analysis"—which means breaking up or separating out, and suggests an analogy with the work carried out by chemists on substances which they find in nature and bring into their laboratories ? Because in an important respect there really is an analogy between the two. The patient's symptoms and pathological manifestations, like all his mental activities, are of a highly composite kind; the elements of this compound are at bottom motives, instinctual impulses. But the patient knows nothing of these elementary motives or not nearly enough. We teach him to understand the way in which these highly complicated mental formations are compounded; we trace the symptoms back to the instinctual impulses which motivate them; we point out to the patient these instinctual motives, which are present in his symptoms and of which he has hitherto been unaware—just as a chemist isolates the fundamental substance, the chemical 'element', out of the salt in which it had been combined with other elements and in which it was unrecognisable. In the same way, as regards those of the patient's mental manifestations that were not considered pathological, we show him that he was only to a certain extent conscious of their motivation—that other instinctual impulses of which he had remained in ignorance had co-operated in producing them.

'Again, we have thrown light on the sexual impulsions in man by separating them into their component elements; and when we interpret a dream we proceed by ignoring the dream as a whole and starting associations from its single elements.

'This well-founded comparison of medical psycho-analytic activity with a chemical procedure might suggest a new direction for our therapy. [...] We have been told that after an analysis of a sick mind a synthesis of it must follow. And, close upon this, concern has been expressed that the patient might be given too much analysis and too little synthesis; and there has then followed a move to put all the weight on this synthesis as the main factor in the psychotherapeutic effect, to see in it a kind of restoration of something that had been destroyed—destroyed, as it were, by vivisection.

'[. . . .] The comparison with chemical analysis has its limitation: for in mental life we have to deal with trends that are under a compulsion towards unification and combination. Whenever we succeed in analysing a symptom into its elements, in freeing an instinctual impulse from one nexus, it does not remain in isolation, but immediately enters into a new one.

'[...] The psycho-synthesis is thus achieved during analytic treatment without our intervention, automatically and inevitably' (5).

A list of the principal general expositions of psycho-analysis published by Freud is to be found in the Standard Edition (6).

The fashionableness of psycho-analysis has led many authors to place a large number of works under this rubric even though their content, method and results have only the loosest of connections with psycho-analysis proper.


(1) Cf. FREUD, S., G.W., I,59-74; S.E., III,45-68.

(2) Cf. FREUD, S. 'Heredity and the Aetiology of the Neuroses' (1896a), G.W., I,407-22; S.E., III, 143-56. 7

(3) Cf. FREUD, S., G.W.,1,379,383; S.E., III, 162,165-66.

(4) FREUD, S. 'Two Encyclopaedia Articles' (1923a), G.W., 'XIII,211 ; S.E., XVIII,235.

(5) FREUD, S. 'Lines of Advance in Psycho-Analytic Therapy' (1919a [1918]), G.W., XII 184-86; S.E., XVII,159-61.

(6) S.E., XI,56.