The Psychoanalysis and the Humanities minor is designed to provide an interdisciplinary focus on the potential uses of psychoanalysis to study and research human behavior, the arts, contemporary culture, politics, and more. Students will have the opportunity to study psychoanalysis in relation to any number of other fields or approaches, including semiotics, literature, history, film studies, gender and sexuality.
This minor is based on an inter-school collaboration between the Gallatin School and CAS (Department of Comparative Literature) and does not restrict students in any major, school, or program.
Five courses are required for the minor: 20 credits consisting of one required course and four electives. A minimum grade of C is required in both the required course and the electives to count towards the minor. Courses taken pass/fail will not count towards the minor. The required course is not a prerequisite of the elective courses. All courses may be taken in any order.
To request the evaluation of a new course as an elective, please contact the Steering Committee.
The required course is not a prerequisite of the elective courses. All courses may be taken in any order.
“Freud” IDSEM UG 1839, 4 units
This course aims to give students an understanding of the fundamental concepts, vocabulary and theories of Sigmund Freud, the so-called “Father of Psychoanalysis.” We will read closely a wide range of texts by Freud, covering the earliest incarnations of Freudian psychoanalysis to its final formulations, including concepts of the subject, drive theory, the “talking cure,” transference, dream interpretation, and more. Our sights will also be set on the ways in which psychoanalytic thought has, from its very beginnings, been in fruitful dialogue with the humanities, broadly speaking—most specifically, literature, philosophy, and the arts, although we will also consider its relevance as a clinical practice. The course is organized by modules consisting of the following categories: Sexuality; Drive Theory or Freud as Biologist; Freud as Anthropologist; Psychoanalysis and Mythology; Psychoanalysis and the Arts/Literature; Freud as Sociologist; Freudian Symbolism: The Symptom; Psychoanalysis—The Talking Cure.
Four elective courses are required for the minor. Please check Albert and departmental websites for course availability by semester, meeting times, and prerequisites.
“Topics in 18th Century Literature: Comparative Melancholies” COLIT-UA 175, 4 units
Twentieth- and twenty-first-century thinkers looked back to the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries as they theorized the black dog dogging modernity: melancholy. Our course will return to these earlier texts, putting early modern, Enlightenment, and Romantic literatures in conversation with modern and post-modern psychoanalytic, philosophical, and political-theoretical works. Our course will be both formal and historical. We will ask how our primary texts understand (and create) structures of melancholy and how these texts communicate the losses we cannot avow. And we’ll also examine how varying forms of melancholy have shaped our subjectivities and societies as we study a history of melancholy coinciding with and subtending modernity’s origins – a history that includes the emergence of the modern nation-state, of the colony, and of capital.
Our seventeenth- and eighteenth-century texts will include: Shakespeare, Hamlet; Burton, The Anatomy of Melancholy (selections); Defoe, Robinson Crusoe; Charles Brockden Brown, Wieland; Claire de Durfort Duras, Ourika; Goethe, The Sorrows of Young Werther; and poems by Coleridge, Blair, Young, Keats, and others. Among our modern readings will be works by Freud, Lacan, Benjamin, Butler, Fanon, Brown, Klein, Kristeva, and others.
“Topics in 20th Century Literature: Paranoid Narratives” COLIT-UA 190, 4 units
It’s no secret that we live in an age of paranoia. What began as a psychiatric diagnosis may now be the predominant form taken by our experience of politics and of technology. But could there be something about the very structure of narrative itself—its “voices” and its “speakers”—that is paranoid, or gives rise to paranoia? Tracing psychoanalytic theories of paranoia (Sigmund Freud, Melanie Klein), and attending no less to their narrative structure, we address this question and others by reading key autobiographical and fictional works, such as may include Daniel Paul Schreber’s Memoirs of My Nervous Illness, George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, James Ellroy’s American Tabloid, as well as political writings and documents by Richard Hofstadter, Michel Foucault, Julian Assange (Wikileaks), South African AIDS denialists, and Rwandan génocidaires.
“Junior Theory Seminar: Literature & Psychoanalysis” COLIT-UA 200, 4 units
The goal of our seminar will be to develop a familiarity with psychoanalytic theory and the practices of reading that it encourages. We will read key works by Sigmund Freud, Daniel Paul Schreber, Melanie Klein, Jacques Lacan, and Jacques Derrida, as well as relevant works of literature.
“Topics: "I've been meaning to write to you": Epistolary Archives and Confessions” COLIT-UA 302, 4 units
This course will explore the form of the letter in classical antiquity, in Biblical literature, in early European literature, and in critical theory. We will explore the materiality and history of the letter as form as well as the philosophical and literary performances and interventions letters and letter writers make. Texts will include letters by Horace, Cicero, Ovid, St. Paul, Abelard & Heloise, Petrarch, Clément Marot, Jacopo Sadoleto & John Calvin, John Donne, John Milton, and modern treatments of the epistolary form by Sigmund Freud & Wilhelm Fliess, Jacques Lacan, Jacques Derrida, and Chris Kraus. Along the way, we will also explore the history and technology of letter writing from classical antiquity through to the European Renaissance.
“Readings in Contemporary Literary Theory: Conflict” COLIT-UA 843, 4 units
Conflict is an underlying theme in many, if not most, contemporary theorists. In this class, we will explore some of the forerunners of this conflict thinking in Marx, Nietzsche, and Freud, as well as in its uses, sometimes critical, by, among others, Carl Schmitt, Melanie Klein, Jacques Derrida, Judith Butler, Slavoj Zizek, and Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak. In order to measure the explanatory power of our theorists, we shall read them over against more literal accounts of conflict—the famous war memoirs of Ernst Jünger and Michael Herr.
“Readings in Contemporary Lit: The form of Planetary Criticism/Death Drive/Aesthetics of Catastrophe” COLIT-UA 843, 4 units
This course will examine theories of the death drive in the aesthetics of catastrophism drawing on classic texts by Freud, Italo Svevo, Melanie Klein, Lacan, Georges Bataille and Marguerite Duras, as well as recent work on worlds as places of catastrophe, dystopia, planetary dysphoria (depression), and earthly extinction (Ray Brassier’s “nihil unbound,” Eugene Thacker’s “dark pantheism”). The aim will be to emphasize psychical processes in diagnoses of planetarity, while trying to avoid a heavy-handed reliance on allegories of World System or the Planet or Capital that impute subjective personalities to political entities and geographic phantasms. We will experiment with an “ecology” of what Melanie Klein called “the depressive position,” as it suffuses every aspect of everyday life.
“Marx, Nietzsche, and Freud” GERM-UA 240, 4 units
This course examines the work of Marx, Nietzsche, and Freud, three German authors who in different and decisive ways provided a radically new understanding of the notions of interpretation, history, the subject, politics, religion, and art. The purpose of this course is to provide a comprehensive engagement with and a dialogue between these three thinkers. The seminar underscores their prevailing actuality and thereby strives to delineate the origin of much modern thinking.
“Buddhist and Western Psychology: A Comparative and Historical Approach” IDSEM-UG 1211, 4 units
This course introduces basic concepts of Buddhist Psychology, and then compares Buddhist insights into the nature of the mind with the modern depth psychologies of Freud and Jung. Special attention will be given to theories of the self in Buddhist and Western texts, for it is the idea of the "false self" that has emerged as a key common ground between Buddhist and Western forms of Psychology. While Western psychology attributes the false self to the deficiencies of upbringing, Buddhist psychology takes the false self as its starting point, to claim that traditional models of therapeutic intervention fail to free people from narcissistic craving. Our goal is to bring this insight, and classical Buddhist strategies for healing the mind, into conversation with the models and strategies of Western psychology. Texts may include: Olendski, The Radical Experiential Psychology of Buddhism ; Suler, Contemporary Psychoanalysis and Eastern Thought; Gay, The Freud Reader ; Epstein, Thoughts Without a Thinker ; Jung, Psychology and the East ; Meckel and Moore, Self and Liberation: Jung and the Buddhist Dialogue ; Gethin, The Foundations of Buddhism ; Bhikku Bodi, In The Words of the Buddha (translation of suttas from the Pali Cannon).
“Mad Science/Mad Pride” IDSEM-UG 1311, 4 units
In recent years, questions of madness, psychiatry, and psychopharmaceuticals have been the subject of considerable strife and controversy. This class uses narrative theory to map out the terrain of these conflicts and explore competing approaches to psychiatric concerns. We start with an overview of narrative theory as relevant to issues of mental difference and suffering. Key narrative topics we discuss include plot, metaphor, character, and point of view. With this theory as our guide, the alternative approaches we consider include biopsychiatry, psychoanalysis, cognitive therapy, family therapy, feminist therapy, spiritual approaches, and creative approaches. We conclude with a consideration of the Icarus Project idea that sometimes madness is best seen as a “dangerous gift.”
“Literary and Cultural Theory: An Interdisciplinary Introduction” IDSEM-UG 1314, 4 units
In this course, we will examine several questions that arise for students interested in the relation of theory to interdisciplinary study. What is theory essentially? How does it help us to develop approaches and shape questions for study? What are some influential theoretical schools and theoreticians? What do they say and how might they be related to one another? We will proceed through readings from Structuralism to Post-structuralism, focusing on language, feminism, psychoanalysis, deconstruction and interpretations of power and discourse. Authors considered may include Levi-Strauss, Roland Barthes, Michel Foucault, Jacques Derrida, Jacques Lacan, and Luce Irigaray.
“Jung and Postmodern Religious Experience” IDSEM-UG 1328, 4 units
C.G Jung wrote: “I am not addressing myself to the happy possessors of faith, but to those many people for whom the light has gone out, the mystery faded, and God is dead.” The course unfolds around the question: How does a person locate meaning in the postmodern age when traditional belief systems have been emptied of symbolic authority? In his discovery of the symbol making function within the human psyche, Jung offers a possible answer. Variously described as the religious, imaginative or creative instinct, this psychological function offers the possibility of losing and finding multiple meanings throughout the cycles of life. We begin by defining pre modern, post modern and post secular within their historical context with special attention to the role of language. We identify the influences that shaped Jung’s discovery, focusing on the classical elements that characterize a religious experience. Finally, we look to figures in the history of culture that have lost and found meaning, Jung himself in his Red Book and the Buddha. Readings may include selections from the Collected Works of C.G. Jung; Julia Kristiva, This Incredible Need to Believe ; Nietzsche, The Gay Science ; William James, The Varieties of Religious Experience ; Gaston Bachelard, Poetics of Reverie ; Ernst Cassirer, Language and Myth ; Caputo’s The Prayers and Tears of Jacques Derrida and On Religion ; Richard Kearney, Anatheism .
“Psychoanalysis and the Visual” IDSEM-UG 1468, 4 units
At least since Freud’s “Dream Book,” psychoanalysis has taught us that psychic life is thoroughly steeped in images. This course will pursue the implications of Jacques Lacan’s theory of the subject. By examining a range of psychoanalytic texts alongside several films and photographs, we will consider Lacan’s proposition that the “I” comes into being though the subject’s identification with his or her mirror image. This is ultimately a problem for sociality itself, for we learn to relate to others by way of how we relate to ourselves, our primordial other. Readings include the writings of Borch-Jacobsen, Descartes, Fanon, Freud, Heidegger, Lacan, Laplanche. Visual materials include North by Northwest, American Psycho, The Thin Red Line, as well as several bodies of photographic images.
“Guilty Subjects: Guilt in Literature, Law, and Psychoanalysis” IDSEM-UG 1504, 4 units
This seminar will explore guilt as the link between the three broad disciplinary arenas of our title. Literary works from ancient tragedy to the modern novel thematize guilt in various ways. Freud places it at the center of his practice and his theory of mind. While law seems reliant mainly upon a formal attribution of guilt in order to determine who gets punished and to what degree, we might also suggest it relies upon “guilty subjects” for its operation. With all of these different deployments of the concept, we might agree it is a central one, yet how to define it remains a substantial question. Is the prominence of guilt in modern Western culture a vestige of a now-lost religious world? Is it, as Nietzsche suggests, an effect of “the most profound change man ever experienced when he finally found himself enclosed within the wall of society and of peace?” Freud seems to concur when he argues that guilt must be understood as a kind of internal self-division where aggressivity is turned against the self. Is guilt a pointless self-punishment, meant to discipline us? Or does it continue to have an important relation to the ethical? Readings may include Freud, Nietzsche, Foucault, Slavoj Zizek, Toni Morrison, Ursula LeGuin, W.G. Sebald, and some case law, among others.
“Perversion” IDSEM-UG 1536, 4 units
For Sigmund Freud, perversion denoted all sexual deviances from the heterosexual and genital social norm, even as he acknowledged the ubiquity of such perversions. For Jacques Lacan, perversion meant a particular structure of desire, regardless of social norm, and was related to an ethical dimension. For Michel Foucault, who thoroughly rejected Freud’s “repressive hypothesis,” perversion was an effect of modern sexuality. The course will pursue the following questions and more: What is perverse? Is there a “cause” of perversion? Does it lie in the individual or in the epistemological and ideological formulations of a particular historical chronotope? This course will explore Freud, Lacan and Foucault’s three contrasting notions of perversion, alongside some feminist critiques of the psychoanalytic models, in relation to a selection of Japanese fiction and film depicting a variety of perversions. Readings will include: Freud, “Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality”; Deleuze, “Masochism”; Foucault, History of Sexuality Vol. I ; Kawabata, The House of the Sleeping Beauties ; Tanizaki, Naomi ; Kono, “Toddler Hunting”; Mishima, Confessions of a Mask ; some Yaoi manga; and selections from Lacan, Irigaray ( This Sex Which is not One ), and Grosz ( Space, Time and Perversion ). Films will include Patriotism and Okoge
“On Freud’s Couch: Psychoanalysis, Narrative and Memory” IDSEM-UG 1545, 4 units
In this course we will read closely and thoroughly a selection of Sigmund Freud’s papers, including “Three Essays on Sexuality,” and “Screen Memories,” and three of his classic case histories: “Fragment of an Analysis of Hysteria,” (Dora), “From the History of an Infantile Neurosis,” (the Wolfman), and “An Autobiographic Account of a Case of Paranoia,” (Dr. Schreber). In general, we will focus on how the psychoanalytic method takes narrative seriously—that is, “at its word,” or literally—at the same time as it recognizes that whatever is articulated may be in a negative or “canted” (in other words, “encoded”) relation to what it “means.” We will watch a selection of films alongside the primary texts. We will explore how time, memory and history signify in psychoanalytic frameworks, and ask what literature, film and poetics might share with psychoanalysis. Finally, we will debate the validity of what might be called Freud’s “reductionism” in relation to drive theory and the sexual instincts.
“Feeling, In Theory” IDSEM-UG 1699, 4 units
Over the past two decades, scholars from a wide range of disciplinary perspectives—literature, women’s studies, political science, and aesthetics, to name a few—have returned to the question of “affect,” also referred to as “feeling” or “emotion,” as well as “passion,” “pathos,” “mood,” or even “love.” This course aims to familiarize students with the field of “affect theory” by surveying some of the most important texts that ground it (such as Chaucer and Aristotle, Freud and Thompkins) as well as several that have emerged more recently (Massumi, Terrada, Ngai, among others). When we consider the stakes and claims of some of the more recent work on affect, it becomes clear that a central predicament is at hand: how are we to understand affective life now , after so many “deaths”—that of the subject, the author, art, and so on—have been announced by theories of postmodernism? How do we reconcile the resurgence of theories of affect when the end of the feeling subject is also touted by these same theories? This question leads us to our second challenge: to tackle the relationship between feeling and theory. While art and music have long been associated with emotionalism and affective life, what about the feelings that theory gives us? Alternatively, what is the affective life of theory? How does it harness, repress, produce, or otherwise make use of affect? While this course has no prerequisites, it is particularly appropriate for students who have strong feelings—love or hate—for so-called “theory.”
“Madness and Civilization” IDSEM-UG 1782, 4 units
“Much madness is divinest sense,” Emily Dickinson wrote, further observing that “much sense [is] starkest madness.” The poet insisted that the majority sets and enforces the standard by which sanity is evaluated, and we will take this notion as our starting premise. How are social standards for what is and is not normal set? How are they enforced? What is at stake in maintaining definitions of mental health? How have these definitions changed over time? What is the price of transgressing the boundaries of sanity? What might be the privileges conferred by madness? Using writing as a way of reading closely and thinking critically, students will produce three analytical and literary critical essays and a research paper, as well as present on a topic or issue connected to the course theme. Our readings may include works by Michel Foucault, Chester Brown, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Anne Sexton, Sigmund Freud, and Ken Kesey. We will also consider a number of visual works by artists like Yayoi Kusama and Henry Darger.
“The Story of/in Psychoanalysis" IDSEM-UG 1829, 4 units
We spend our lives telling stories, listening to other people’s stories, trying desperately to remember a story, wishing we could forget a story, tell a different story. Joan Didion famously begins The White Album: “We tell ourselves stories in order to live….We live entirely…by the imposition of a narrative line upon disparate images…” But the process of trying to order our lives also has consequences. This course will be an inquiry into one particular type of story: the psychoanalytic story. Of what does this story consist? What role does the unconscious play in storytelling through dreams, distortion, and displacement? What role do dreams play in the stories that we live each day? What role does the analyst’s story play in the tales the patient comes to tell and understand as her own? These are some of the questions we will discuss throughout the semester as we attempt to find ways to talk about the phenomenology of stories that take place both consciously and unconsciously. Our primary texts will be theoretical readings in psychoanalytic theory, primary case material, and stories from psychoanalysts who write about their own internal processes. Readings may include selections from Sigmund Freud, Christopher Bollas, Janet Malcolm, Stephen Grosz, Thomas Ogden, and others.
“Psychoanalysis Beyond Freud” IDSEM-UG 1843, 4 units
This course looks beyond Sigmund Freud to the expansion of psychoanalytic studies in a sampling of diverse fields of application and engagement, as well as some later psychoanalytic schools. The course asks: how have theorists expanded psychoanalytic methodologies to think about semiotics, trauma, visual, literary and historical studies, gender and sexuality, race, sociopolitics, and more? Students also explore how later psychoanalytic schools modified Freud’s drive-based therapy with object relations, ego psychology, and etc.
"Psychoanalysis and Race" IDSEM-UG 1985, 4 units
The relationship between psychoanalytic conceptions of subjectivity and race is complex, fraught, and profoundly important. While some versions of psychoanalysis naively propose, as Tim Dean has pointed out, that “the Other has no color,” still other thinkers offer deep insight into race as a theoretical category and a lived experience by considering those things through the lens of psychoanalytic concepts such as fantasy, identification, projection, and negation, among others. This course explores psychoanalytic theory and race, their “discontents” with one another, as well as their points of intersection. In addition to reading closely texts in both fields of study, we will also look at other cultural forms including literary texts, artworks, visual media, and music as important sites where matters of subjectivity, relationality, colonialism, racial identity and race relations, and belonging get contested.
“Queer Identity & Popular Culture” MCC-UE 1408, 4 units
In this course, we will explore queerness as identity, practice, theory, and politics, all through the lens of popular culture. Our approach will be grounded in theories, methods, and texts of communication and media studies, thus it will serve as a complement to other queer theory and culture courses offered across the university. Readings will include both theoretical texts and case studies both historical and contemporary. Students will complete the course with a critical understanding of what it means to be and “do” queer in contemporary culture. Students will also be equipped to bring queer analytical tools to their everyday and professional encounters with popular culture.
Nina Cornyetz, Steering Committee Director
Faculty, Gallatin School of Individualized Study
Eve Meltzer, Steering Committee
Faculty, Gallatin School of Individualized Study
Emily Apter, Steering Committee
Faculty of Arts & Science, Comparative Literature
Gallatin Office of Student Services, Administrative Support