Followup for the Freud Lecture: text of the lecture and further reading


The Lecture was part of a series of six lectures known as Theories of the Mind. They are here. This includes two lectures on Freud: the lecture I now given is a cut down version of these two lectures.

The set of six lectures would be a good place to start followup reading. It will introduce you to the work of Jung, Freud's friend and follower who broke away to found another version of analytical psychology, and Lacan, known as the French Freud, whose extremely radical revision of Freud is the most important and current version of psychoanalysis for literary students. He is not easy, however...

Highly recommended further reading is as follows.

The best introduction to Freud is Freud's own Introductory Lectures on Psychoanalysis. Freud is a writer of amazing clarity and precision: these are fascinating, and will give you a solid grounding in his extraordinary ideas.

England is a sceptical country, and Freud's views have been incorporated here very often as simply a kind of interesting myth. In America, it is different. There Freud's theories were taken extremely seriously, and used at the highest levels to manipulate popular opinion and influence the mass market. The story of how this was done -- Freud's nephew ran the campaign -- is revealed in a brilliant BBC documentary called The Century of the Self. All of it is in Google Video. I really recommend that you watch at least the first of the four films. If you had any doubt as to how important Freud might be, these films will convince you.

Unlike Freud, no-one would accuse Jung of precision, but he writes very well: intuitively, powerfully, and with what many take as wisdom. See what you think: read his autobiography, Memories, Dreams, Reflections.

Jung has become strangely fashionable recently, though largely without explicit acknowledgement. Apparently if you want to write movie scripts for Hollywood nowadays you are nowhere unless you have read Vogler, The Writer's Journey (I was told that by a BBC producer, so it must be true). This book is heavily dependent on Jung. As is the recent, extraordinary The Seven Basic Plots: Why We Tell Stories, by Christopher Booker (there is now several copies of this big expensive book in the library, including one on short loan in OLRC). It summarises and analyses a very large number of works of literature (very readably and skilfully) in order to demonstrate that there are, really, only seven basic stories. You have to be careful with this, because misuse or simplification of it can be very crass (a trap that Booker falls into himself) but with that caveat you will find in this book a dramatically different way of being a literary critic that could stand you in very good stead.

When Jung was 84 he gave a 30 minute interview for UK TV: Face to face with Carl Jung. It's here.

And Lacan? Don't read Lacan. He makes no sense until you have some idea of what he's actually on about; even then, he makes no sense. It's very frustrating, in fact infuriating. Nonetheless I have to say that from a position of twenty years ago of simple fury at this irresponsible French charlatan, I have now moved, slowly and painfully, to a place where he is more influential on my writing and thinking than either of the other two.

The best books I know on Lacan are by Bruce Fink: A Clinical Introduction to Lacanian Psychoanalysis, and The Lacanian Subject: Between Language and Jouissance.

Correction (2010): there are now two brilliant short introductory books on Lacan. They are not an easy read, but they are brilliantly clear. Both by Catherine Belsey: Poststructuralism: A Very Short Introduction and Culture and the Real. Both are extraordinary. Both are strongly recommended. You might even buy them... the other hand, you can also get both of them in Questia, an online library, and thousands of other humanities books as well, available from any computer 24/7, for a cheap subscription. If my daughter were reading English, coming up to her third year, the first thing I would tell her to do is: subscribe to Questia. It's so useful, and so easy, it's like cheating.

More about Questia (and much else besides) on my website, in section 1.1.

If, like me, you like getting information from novels, here are some that deal with various kinds of psychoanalysis and analytical psychology. The comments in italics are mine; those in roman type are from the web page that I got this from.

The White Hotel by DM Thomas (1981)
An opera singer reveals her horrifying past in the course of her analysis with one Sigmund Freud. 'Horrifying' is right: only read if you are feeling strong.

Regeneration by Pat Barker (1991)
Booker Prize-winning tale of Dr WHR Rivers's work with shellshocked First World War soldiers, including Siegfried Sassoon. A good book.

Possessing the Secret of Joy by Alice Walker (1992)
Walker casts Jung as the analyst who helps her heroine to heal from the trauma of female genital mutilation. Not read this yet; Alice Walker is wonderful.

Where Three Roads Meet by Salley Vickers (2007)
A dying Freud discusses the myth of Oedipus with a mysterious visitor in 1930s Hampstead. This is really really worth reading. Salley Vickers is a practicing Jungian analyst.

And, finally, the best: Doris Lessing, The Golden Notebook. Lessing got a Nobel Prize for Literature, mostly because of this book (which is not to downgrade the rest of her large output). Lessing was analysed by a Jungian, and the heroine of this novel was too. In the final section, itself called the Golden Notebook, she meets with someone who manifests the Jungian Shadow archetype for her, and releases her from writers' block. Really impressive.

Further reading is here.