A Handbook of Critical Approaches to
Literature
I. Aims and Principles

A. Abuses and misunderstandings of the
psychological approach
The approach is abused when it is made an
exclusive approach
B. Freud’s Theories
 Theory of the unconscious (id, ego, superego)
 Most of what we do is motivated by the
unconscious, especially sexually (libido)
 Phallic and yonic symbols
 Child development
 Oedipus complex, fixation
C. Other Theories
 Inspired by Freud, Jacques Lacan developed
his own version of the unconscious
 Symbolic Order & Realm of the Father
 Realm of the Mother
 Mirror Stage
II. Psychological Approach in Practice
A. Hamlet: the Oedipus Complex
 Theory of Ernest Jones, Norman N. Holland on
Hamlet’s misogyny and ambivalence toward
father figures
B. Rebellion against the father in Huckleberry Finn
 Huck’s rejection of parental authority parallels
his rejection of values of his society, especially
racism, slavery, and religion; river as maternal
symbol; Jim as androgynous; story of the child
C. Prometheus Manqué: The Monster Unbound
 Novel’s subtitle points to Oedipal struggle, but
revenge turns on Victor’s entire family
D. “Young Goodman Brown”: Id over Superego
 Theme of innocence betrayed; allegory,
symbolism, ambiguity; town = superego,
Brown = ego, forest = id; obsession, taboos;
Brown is not a mature man
E. Sexual Imagery in “To His Coy Mistress”
 From teasing wit to brutal assault
F. Morality Principle Over Pleasure Principle in
“Everyday Use”
 Narrator = ego; Dee = id; Maggie = superego
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Chapter 6: Psychological Approaches