Duped by Iago into believing that his beloved Desdemona has betrayed him, Othello is consumed with jealousy. His jealousy is so intense, in fact, that it leads him to kill Desdemona and then take his own life.
It's true that Hamlet takes center stage in most psychoanalytic discussions of Shakespeare. But it's not the only one of the Bard's works that can benefit from a psychoanalytic lens. There's actually an insightful reading of Othello in Klein's "Envy and Gratitude."
For both Freud and Klein, Shakespeare's Othello is valuable because it gets at the intensity of ambivalence: that grandly intimate connection between love and hate. This ambivalence crops up in Othello's relationship with Iago, as well as in his tragic love for Desdemona.
So put your Freudian hats on and let's get ready to rumble (with the psyche in Othello).
C. Auguste Dupin, Poe's detective-hero, solves a tough case using wit alone in this piece. Spoiler alert: the letter named in Poe's title turns out to be "hiding in plain sight."
Our boy Lacan had a field day with "The Purloined Letter," which he read as a parable of psychoanalytic interpretation. The analyst does something like what Poe's detective does, except that the patient's symptoms are the clues to solve the great mystery—and heal the great wounds—of neurosis.
Poe's story is a delight to read. We swear, you'll get into it. And it's also a good way to get excited about psychoanalysis.
If Freudian theory can sharpen our wits to Dupin's proportions, then it can't be all bad. So let's give it a go.
Woolf's gorgeous modernist novel, To the Lighthouse, is more a meditation on the meaning of art and life than a page-turner. Still, there is the single suspenseful question that lingers throughout, as announced in Woolf's title: Will they make it to the lighthouse?
Woolf's text also places death at the center of life. Freud's "Thoughts for the Times on War and Death" are totally hovering somewhere in the background. The same world that produced Freud's reflections on the First World War, in other words, made To the Lighthouse possible.
And we're here to tell you that Woolf's and Freud's world of war and death-desire is still very much our own. So let's briefly reconsider this text through a psychoanalytic lens.
This memoir looks back on modernist poet H.D.'s analysis with Freud. It's comprised of two short sections, written at different times. But her analysis—that is, her time on the couch, with Freud himself there listening—wasn't just about recovering from an illness. It was a journey of discovery and poetic invention.
One recent commentator has called Tribute to Freud "an account of genuine collaboration." But one of the most interesting things about H.D.'s text is the way it paints Freud in a different light from the one we've gotten used to. Under H.D.'s gaze, he looks less like a punishing father or grumpy old man, and more like a great teacher.
And maybe even a true friend. Feeling optimistic now? Try these questions on for size.
This famously disturbing poem follows the transformation of a dead father figure from a boot into a Nazi, and many other people and things. Eek.
Plath's traumatized speaker declares repeatedly that she's "finally through," with an insistence that's as childlike as it is disturbing. But it's not at all clear that this speaker will succeed in keeping the ghost of Daddy at bay. After all, he's haunted her for her whole life, and keeps haunting her still.
Let's consider how psychoanalytic lit crit might help us uncover some new meanings in this always-creepy piece.
An old master on another old master: Freud on Leonardo. Done and done, as we'd say. And it is truly a joy to read.
This book is clearly and brilliantly argued, even if it's kooky at times. The book focuses on the dense symbols that fill Leonardo's images. It also paints a compelling portrait of a great artist at work.
So let's start chipping away that paint, and see what's underneath.
You don't have to get all psycho-sexual and grandiose—you know, all Freudian—on us. Just use these questions as food for thought. We want you to enjoy bringing Freud's text into your own life. It's possible for this psychoanalysis business to be fun, we swear.
Freud is at the height of his lit crit powers in this dense text. And hold onto your seats, because it turns into a bumpy ride when Freud enlists etymology. Then, it gives us some serious goose bumps, because the doctor starts talking about someone called "The Sandman"…
Freud's last book spins a great yarn involving the founding of monotheistic religion. There are lots of twists and turns, and there's some very amateurish archaeology. So be prepared.
Oh, and here's a little spoiler to get you hooked: Moses, Freud says, didn't just walk like an Egyptian. He actually was an Egyptian.
Now let's unpack this text a little bit, shall we?
Klein's ideas are wild. And this is a great introduction to her account of the wild world of infant life.
She makes Freud's "polymorphously perverse" child look tame, in some ways, since the Kleinian infant is not just desirous. She's straight-up murderous. But not to worry: this isn't Chucky.
"Envy and Gratitude" is kind of like a horror film for a time, but it has an unexpectedly happy ending. So stick with it. And chew on these questions when you get a chance. They'll do your body good.
The Four Fundamentals are not for the faint of heart. In fact, they're barely readable for the most hardcore lit critics among us. But it's worth at least spending some time staring at the pages of this book.
If nothing else, the text will give you a sense of just how opaque Lacan's thinking can be. But you may find that there are lucid moments—on repetition, or the gaze, or the transference, meaning the relationship between patient and analyst—amid the labyrinth of technical terms and elliptical interpretations.
Have fun, we guess? And if you do give this work a go, we think these questions might help light your way.
If you think this tour de force by our fave feminist deconstructionist won't interest you, think again.
If you've got the theory guts to try and the endurance to stick this one out, you won't regret it. We promise. With astonishing intelligence and razor-sharp wit, Ronell demonstrates the relevance of Freud's trauma theory to the social landscape of the 1990s: including all the spectacles and the media-broadcast wars.
Avital Ronell places psychoanalytic theory alongside the Rodney King riots, to unbelievable effect. Seriously. See for yourself.