Fall 2024


PSP 789-1 / CPLT 751R-1/FREN 775-1 - Primal Scenes: Literature & Psychoanalysis, and Political Passions

Elissa Marder

Monday 4:00-6:45 pm, Candler Library 125

In this course, we shall examine how the two fundamental insights of psychoanalysis (sexuality and the unconscious) put psychoanalysis into a primal relation to literature and the political.  Beginning with a close reading The Interpretation of Dreams, we will explore how Freud derives his model of the human psyche through dreams by appealing to literary language, literary figures, theatrical spaces, and events as he explains the complex operations of the dream-work. After looking at the place that Freud accords to hysteria, (and feminine sexuality) as the bedrock of the human psyche, we will consider how Freud’s writings challenge the notion of the human and open up ways of rethinking the political dimension of psychic life. Throughout the course, we will focus on how the Freudian notion of the ‘primal scene’ challenges traditional conceptions of temporality, repetition, and the status of the historical event. Throughout, we will remain attentive to the psycho-political dimension of mourning, anxiety, secrets, fantasy, magical thinking, and denial. Texts may include: Major works by Freud including The Interpretation of Dreams and the Case Histories; selected works by Lacan, Theban Plays (Sophocles), Phèdre (Racine); The Ravishing of Lol V. Stein (Le Ravissement de Lol V. Stein) (Duras); Beloved(Morrison); Muriel (dir. Alain Resnais) Additional readings may include works by: Jacques Derrida, Jean Laplanche, Nicolas Abraham and Maria Torok, Wilfred Bion, André Green, Shoshana Felman, Sarah Kofman, Anne Dufourmantelle, and Leo Bersani. 

This course will be taught in English. Works originally written in French can be read in translation.


PSP 789-1 / PHIL 789 - The Political Unconcious

Noelle McAfee

Thursday 1:00-4:00 pm, Bowden 216

Taking up the “political unconscious,” this seminar focuses first on Freud’s most relevant texts and concepts and then moves into trajectories of psychoanalysis since Freud and the various ways that psychoanalytic theory has been expanded and deployed in 20th century and contemporary social and political thought. We will explore a number of current debates in psychoanalytic political theory, along with questions that current political events give rise to: Is there a place for the death drive – including the idea that human beings are naturally disposed to aggression, or is aggression a deformation due to trauma? How if at all can communities deal with transgenerational transmissions of trauma? What kinds of means are effective for working through trauma, including memorials and testimonies? What is at the root of the authoritarian personality that seems disposed to fascistic tendencies? What is giving rise today to right-wing nationalist movements that can be understood psychoanalytically? What impedes people’s and peoples’ ability to deal with strangers in their midst?