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Unit information: Freud and Shakespeare in 2015/16

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Unit name Freud and Shakespeare
Unit code ENGL30028
Credit points 20
Level of study H/6
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1 (weeks 1 - 12)
Unit director Mr. Donaldson
Open unit status Not open




School/department Department of English
Faculty Faculty of Arts

Description including Unit Aims

This unit will investigate Shakespeare's plays in psychoanalytic interpretation, and the usefulness of psychoanalysis in interpreting Shakespeare’s plays, by looking at plays that Freud wrote about, and at plays that Freud did not write about but which seem peculiarly susceptible to Freudian readings (for example, Henry IV, 1 & 2, Othello, Coriolanus, The Winter's Tale, and The Tempest). It will also investigate Freud's responses to Shakespeare, in his supposed person as well as in his plays, and the consequences in psychoanalysis and for literary criticism of Freud's ideas about art and the artist, more generally.

Intended Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of this unit students will have (1) developed a sound knowledge and critical understanding of the usefulness and consequences of Freud’s responses to Shakespeare; (2) developed a detailed familiarity with and understanding of the relationship between psychoanalytic interpretation and literary criticism; (3) reflected upon the psychoanalytic themes of Shakespeare’s works; (4) written critically and analytically upon these themes

Teaching Information

1 x 2-hour seminar per week.

Assessment Information

  • 1 essay of 2,000 words (40%)
  • 1 essay of 3,000 words (60%)

Both elements will assess ILOs (1), (2) and (3) through the demonstration of (4) advanced skills in critical essay writing.

Reading and References

William Shakespeare, Hamlet, King Lear, Macbeth.

Sigmund Freud, essays, including 'Psychopathic Characters on the Stage', 'The Theme of the Three Caskets', 'Some Character-Types Met With in Psychoanalytic Work', 'The Uncanny', 'Mourning and Melancholia', and 'On Narcissism: An Introduction'.

Janet Adelman, Suffocating Mothers: Fantasies of Maternal Origin in Shakespeare’s Plays, Hamlet to The Tempest (London: Routledge, 1992).

Harry Berger, Jr., Making Trifles of Terrors: Redistributing Complicities in Shakespeare (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1997).

Stanley Cavell, Disowning Knowledge: in Six Plays of Shakespeare (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 1987); reprinted as Disowning Knowledge: in Seven Plays of Shakespeare (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003).