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    Critical Psychological Analysis of Literature

    by Nishank Khanna
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    Psychological analysis of literary works evolved as modern psychology itself began to take form during the early twentieth century. Although this type of critique employs the concepts expressed by many noted sociologists, including Carl Jung, Alfred Adler and Otto Rank, none have contributed as heavily to this field of study as Sigmund Freud has. While many aspects of his theories have been discounted by contemporary psychologists, the fundamental ideas he expressed have withstood the test of time. Five of these, in particular, form the basis of the psychological analysis of authors and the books they write.

    The Primacy of the Unconscious

    Freud believed that every individual has a conscious and an unconscious mind. Moreover, he believed that it was the unconscious mind that plays the largest role in shaping someone's personality. He maintained that the vast differences between real and apparent motives are a result of this delineation between the two aspects of the soul.

    The Iceberg Theory of the Psyche

    Freud believed that the psyche, or "soul", of an individual was shaped like an iceberg. The small part that remained above the surface for all to see was the ego, the individual's self image that he projected to the world. Below the surface, much larger, the pleasure-principle, the id, remained away from public view. Lining this iceberg was the superego, representing parental influences. Between the conscious mind (the ego) and the unconscious mind (the id), at the "waterline" of the iceberg, was a line separating the two parts of the individual. Occasionally, the id would poke through that line, but, in most psychologically well-adjusted people, this barrier was a strong one.

    Dreams are an expression of our unconscious mind

    One of Freud's best-known theories states that the conflict between the ego and the id is continued while we sleep. He believed that these two aspects of our psyche expressed themselves while we sleep, using a language of symbolism and hidden meanings. He believed that id-driven dreams were outbursts of instinct and repression and that realistic dreams were an example of our ego's iron control over our soul even while we sleep.

    Infantile behavior is essentially sexual

    Freud believed that during an individual's formative years, he or she was entirely governed by his developing id. This developing unconscious often takes sexual and/or hostile mannerisms, as in the case of the Oedipus complex, in which a young boy falls in love with his mother and is jealous of and hateful toward his father for the attentions he receives from her. Freud also believed that any repression or neurosis formed during this time period would later surface as damaging outbursts in the mature adult.

    The relationship between neurosis and creativity

    Freud's last theory applies more to the author than the characters in his works. Freud believed that those who create (artists, poets, etc.) are using their creativity as a sort of therapy. He believed that an individual relieved his or her own neurotic tension through their creative work. In addition, these individuals give us insights into the nature of reality and the people who inhabit it. Thus, psychoanalyzing a work of literature can give us great insight into the unconscious of the author.

    These five concepts can be employed in the study of characters and their actions in a literary forum, as well as giving us insight into the nature of man in general.
    If you're writing a Critical Psychological Analysis of Literature essay and need some advice, post your Nishank Khanna essay question on our Facebook page where fellow bookworms are always glad to help!

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