Chapter 6: Psychological Approaches


A Handbook of Critical Approaches to


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 as victim (betrayal-of-innocence theme)

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