Freud and the Literary Imagination
This course examines a set of central themes that emerge from Sigmund Freud’s theories of the dream, the nature of literary creativity, the operation of the human psyche, and the substance of human culture. We will take as our starting point the hypothesis that Freud conceives the psyche as a kind of writing machine, an “author” that produces fictional narratives that share many properties with the prose fiction generated by creative writers. For this reason, our focus throughout the quarter will be restricted to prose narratives. The course will concentrate on literature produced in the wake of Freud’s theories, that is, on texts that consciously or unconsciously develop Freudian ideas. The class is structured around a set of themes that will be developed on the basis of paired readings: in each case we will examine a text or excerpt from Freud’s psychological works in conjunction with the reading of a literary text that exemplifies the issue or issues highlighted in Freud’s theory. Literary works treated include writings by Franz Kafka, Thomas Mann, Arthur Schnitzler, Robert Musil, Ingeborg Bachmann, and others.
Book list: Sigtmund Freud, The Freud Reader Arthur Schnitzler, Lieutenant Gustl Franz Kafka, The Metamorphosis and selected short stories Thomas Mann, Death in Venice Robert Musil, Young Torless Ingeborg Bachmann, The Book of Franza