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SUBJECTIVITY, PSYCHOANALYSIS AND CRITICISM – Important Questions Answer | Critical Thinking

Table of Contents


How do you define subjectivity?

Ans: The term subjectivity has a wide range of definitions. The linguist, semioticians, discourse theorists and feminists have defined subjectivity in their own way. There is no satisfactory definition of the human self. There is no such theory which can offer obvious definition of the human subject. According to Paul Smith, subject is the synonymies of the terms individual and personal. In psychoanalytical discourse subject means the self. The subject is the specially subjected object of social and histirical forcs and determinations.

Linguistics defines the subject as the first person pronoun. The human subject has sense of identity , an inner core of being and ego. In human subject all all mental and moral attributes belong. A subject is an active being located in a structure of rights and obligations. The subject has a sense of moral responsibility. A subject is a person located in a spatio – temporal structure of things and events. A person is a biological who requires acquiring languages and other social skills. To be a person in any type of society the subject should have a mastery of linguistic and social practices. Different societies have different criteria to be decide what it is to be a person. Kaja Silverman is a discourse theorist. She defines the term subject as a location shared between theoretical discourses. The term subject foregrounds the relationship between enthology, psychoanalysis and semiotics. Human subject helps us to conceive of human reality as a construction. Human subject is at the center of signifying activities.

Chris Weedon agrees that the subject is not necessarily stable. She emphasizes the role of language in the construction of identity. human subject is integral to the structure of language. Human subject proceeds speech acts, thoughts and writing. Language is the production of human subject. Language that human subject uses and articulates always exists in historically specific discourse. Identify of human subject is possible because of their relation to language. Language is  produced by human subject that not only provides identity to human but ensures their existence.

How are literature and psychoanalysis related?

Ans: Psychoanalysis is a clinical and therapeutic methodology to deal with literature. It had a long and complex relationship to practices of reading and writing. Psychoanalysis is primarily concerned with why people write and how texts affect their readers. Psychoanalysis is the active practice performed upon the passive text. It hopes to uncover the repressed meaning of the text. Psychoanalysis interprets literature. It is the knowledge of literature. If literature is an object, then psychoanalysis is a subject. According to Felman, psychoanalysis  can be interrogated by literature. The work of literary analysis resembles the work of the psychoanalyst. Literary text is to be known or viewed by us as a subject of knowledge. Psychoanalysis  itself is a subject to know literary objects. The author is the master to the produced text.

There is a necessary connection between psychoanalysis and literature. Literature provides a practice ground for analyst.literature informs the theoretical principles on which the analytical methodology is based. Psychoanalysis is an approach to literary text. Psychoanalysis considers the literary text as the expression of unconscious. It is through or by literature human unconscious comes out. For Freud, creative writing is the best way to release oneself from unconscious. So creative writing or literary text is the field to apply psychoanalytic theory. According to Felman, literature is the language which psychoanalysis uses in order to speak of itself. Literature is not simply outside psychoanalysis. Literature is the inherent reference by which psychoanalysis names its findings.

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What is Freudian psychoanalysis?

Ans: Signund Freud pioneered the technique of psychoanalysis. His theories are directly and indirectly concerned with the nature of the inconscious mind. Freud believes that human beings are controlled and guided by unconscious. Unconscious origins are within the process of human growth. Sexual desire is common on both male and female where males also wish for higher ambition. Erotic wish is developed within bodily organism. Freud developed an idea that human mind has three different components: the Id, the Ego, and the superego. The id represents the unconscious part of the human mind. The ego is conscious part which regulates and opposes the unconscious part. The superego balances both id and the ego.  It makes moral judgments that have been formed by our parents, our schools or our religious institutions. The ego and the superego control human desires. The repressed desires emerge only in dreams and in creative activity that produce a work of literature.

The unconscious is the store house of those painful experiences and emotions, those wounds, fears, guilty desires and unresolved conflicts that we do not want to know about. Sigmund Freud and other classic psychoanalyst believe that human beings are motivated and driven by desires, fears, needs and conflicts of which they are unaware. The unconscious comes into being when we are very young through repression. It results due to unhappy psychological events. People often try to repress their unhappy events. Hiding fears and conflicts do not result well. Repression does not eliminate our painful experiences and emotions. Rather, it gives them force by making them the organizers of our current experiences. Our conflict feelings about the painful experience and emotions will definitely have influences in our doings. We hang onto our repressed wounds, fear, guilty desires and unresolved conflicts until we find a way to know and acknowledge them.

We human beings try our best to hide our guilt, fears and wishes. Repression alone can’t eliminate our painful experiences and emotions. The more one tries to repress such unconscious factors of life the more s/he gets influenced from its organized force. Defenses are the processes by which the contents of our unconscious are kept in the unconscious. We deliberately repress some conflicting issues because we fear knowing them or the way of handling them. It is not easier to handle the by the way they appear and reappear. For psychoanalysts dream reflects repressed human desires and wishes, especially, those desires which don’t have easier outlet. Dreams results from the free expression of unconscious. During sleep our repressed experiences and emotions take the forms of its expression. Even in our dreams there is some censorship and some protection against frightening insights. All the forms of wishes and desires can’t be expressed in dreams, these kinds of dreams are called dreams having latent content. Latent dreams can’t be readily recognized through the process of displacement and condensation.

Dreams displacement occurs whenever we use a “safe” person, event or object to represent a more threatening person, event or object. In displacement one form of dream is substituted by another form. Condensation occurs during a dream whenever we use a single dream image or event to represent more than one unconscious wound or conflict. Displacement and condensation both occur while we dream; these processes are referred to collectively a primary revision. While interpreting our dream, our goal is to recall the manifest content and try to uncover the latent content. We may forget certain parts of the dream or remember those parts somewhat differently from how they actually occurred. This process, which takes place when we are awake, is called secondary revision.

Manifest dreams can be well interpreted the way we interpret symbols of any kind. Dreamers of the same culture share the same symbolic meaning of some common images. There is no one-to one correspondence between a given symbol and its meaning.  We must know the context in which a particularly dream image occurs. Dreamers create all the characters in their dreams. Each person whom we dream is really a part of our psychological experience.

Discuss sexual identity and psychoanalysis.

Ans: Development of sexual identity is one of the most important or well known theory of Freud. Under his theory Oedipus complex, Freud asserts that sexual identity is constructed on the basis of guilt and repressed incestuous desires. According to him, the gender of a child is not solely dependent on his or her genitalia, but on the development of his or her psyche. Human anatomy does not constitute masculinity or femininity.

According to the theory of Oedipus complex, the sexual development of boys and girls differs. Both boys and girls begin their sexuality by desiring the mother. The mother becomes their first love object. The children expect fulfillment of their desire from their powerful and capable mother. Eventually, the boy child begins to see his father as a sexual rival for the mother. But being small and relatively helpless, he fears castration by the father as punishment for his unacceptable desires and represses them. For his sexual desires, he turns to other women when he reaches puberty. The little boy sees the female lacking penis and becomes afraid for the safety of his own.

The sexual development of the little girl is different. During the period of sexual definition, the girl sees the penis and desires it. The girl compares herself with a boy playfellow and feels inferior lacking penis. Lack of penis makes her feel that see has ‘come off short’.  It makes her feel inadequate. For a certain time, she still consoles herself with the expectation that when she grows up she will acquire penis. The female child does not understand  her lack of penis as a usual loss. It makes her conclude that her penis is lost by castration. The girl discovers that she has suffered castration already. She lacks the penis, and the masculine power. The girl turns to envy penis. For their adequacy, the girl desires to have sex with her father and gets ready to bear a baby child from him. Such unconscious brings a girl closer to her father. The daughter feels her father’s presence as the way to achieve penis. But she finds it impossible so, she turns towards other males during her puberty.

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What is Lacanian psychology?

Ans: Among the psychoanalyst in the recent year, Lacan has had the greatest influence in literary theory. He reinterprets Freud in the light of structural linguistics and he is perhaps best known in theoretical circles for his pronouncement that the “unconscious is structured like a language”. There are three stages of human development. They are the mirror stage or the imaginary stage, the symbolic stage and real stage.

Mirror stage:

At some point between six and eight months, mirror stage occurs. This is still a preverbal stage. The child does not have words to express those feelings. The mirror stage is the pre-linguistic stage. In the mirror stage, the child discovers his own image, which becomes ‘other’ to the self, thereby establishing subjectivity. In this stage there is no split in personality. The baby treats mother as mirror and identifies itself with her. As a result when the language intervenes?   The child knows that the identification was false. As the baby develops, the love to the mother increases and the father is seen as threatening to its desire. During this stage, the infant develops a sense of itself as a whole rather than a formless and fragmented mass.

Imaginary stage

Mirror stage imitates the imaginary order. Imaginary stage is the world of images. This is not the world of the imagination, but a world of perfection. It is a world that the child experiences through images rather than through words. And it is a world of fullness, completeness and delight because with the child’s sense of itself as a whole comes the illusion of control over its environment. The infant still perceives itself as inseparable part of its mother. It feels that it is in a union of mutual satisfaction with his mother. It feels that mother is all it needs.

Symbolic order

Language is first and foremost a symbolic system on signification. Acquisition of language is the initiation into the symbolic order. Our entrance into the symbolic order involves the experience of separation from others. In this stage, the desire of the mother gets broken down. For Lacan, the child’s acquisition of language means a number of important things. Separation from our mother constitutes our most important experience of loss.  It is one that will haunt us all our lives. To fill this separation we start seeking other unions like perfect mate, more money, car, big house and so on. Symbolic order changes our mother into another. Our relationship to our lost object of desires is so personal, individual and private. The lost object of desire is our preverbal fantasy union with our mother. That’s why during our youth we consciously associate with that fantasy union.  The use of language in general implies a loss, a lack. The symbolic order ushers in the world of lack.

Real stage

Real is beyond all our meaning- making systems which lies outside the world created by the ideologies society uses to explain existence. We experience the real when w have a moment in which we see through ideology. The real is something we can know nothing about. There is no absence in real. It emerges outside the language, and resists symbolization absolutely.

Ideology is like a curtain. Our whole world is embroidered upon that curtain. The real is behind that curtain. We can’t see the real as we can’t see the hidden part of curtain. Trauma of the real terrifies us because it tells us that the meanings society has created for us are just, and it gives us nothing in place of those meanings.

In real stage, language remains insufficient to deal with the personal diaries. Due to the inadequacy of signifying system, the desired object is never possible to acquire. There is always mismatch between language and desires. Signifiers seek for signified. One signifier seeks another for its introduction. There are multiple signified and desires which keep duality alive.

How does Lacan perceive language?

Ans: For Lacan the unconscious is structured like a language. The subject learns and internalizes the structures of society and different of gender by  language. Human identity is the construction of language and linguistic system. Development of sexuality and physic is the process of linguistic practice and behavior. For Lacan and his psychoanalysis threes no signified but only the chain of signifiers. A sign never takes the subject to the reliable concept of signified. The interplay between signifiers never reveals in the production of signified. Signified is something that is abstract and beyond human approach. Language affects our experiences of our bodies and minds. Our experience of our own sexuality is bound by the functions of language. It is because of language we know the difference between men and women. All the gender concept, thoughts, differences are the products of linguistic signifiers. Human body has no relation to define someone male and female but it is only the concept developed through language. The sign ‘woman’ indicates more than one signified, including lady, girl, lesbian, xx chromosomes and so on. Local insists that language operates authority over the signified. When, human beings arrive at the age of symbolic order s/he has to replace all the forms of unconscious by linguistic items. In symbolic stage human beings are accompanied by language but this language itself is incomplete, inadequate and imperfect. It is through language we know the difference between ourselves and other.

Whole/hole- this is the best example of Lacan to prove his chain of signifiers. Both the words whole and hole have the same pronunciation. They are homonymy. They are similar in their sound image but the former word ‘whole’ indicate fullness and completeness. It is related to phallus. But the next word hole indicates female genital organ, the hole means in psychoanalysis feminine quantities. It means incompleteness, lack, loss and inadequacy. For Lacan, phallus is the privileged signifier. This is one signifier but it has two different understandings for men and women. To some extent, men find themselves closer to phallus but women find themselves far from it.

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