Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Psychoanalytic Criticism and the Impact of Parents

The Psychoanalytic Criticism, more specifically the Oedipus Complex, studies the impact of parents in a child's life. "Essentially, the Oedipus complex involves children's need for their parent" (Brizee).  
Three interesting points are:

Freud believed that our unconscious was influenced by childhood events

Freud organized these events into developmental stages involving relationships with parents and drives of desire

Freud argued that we develop defenses: selective perception, selective memory, denial, displacement, projection, regression, fear of intimacy, and fear of death, among others.

"Apparently Mr. Rochester has lost his mother young, a frequent 
feature in the lives of victims of depersonalization, and the hy- 
pothesis that he is trying to reconstitute a family of sorts at Thorn- 
field Hall gets some support from the fact that his housekeeper 
there and its titular head in his absence is Mrs. Fairfax. If we ex- 
cept the connections made by his disastrous marriage, she seems 
to be his only surviving relative; she is distantly related (by mar- 
riage) on his mother's side, presumably bears his mother's family 
name (it is his own given name), and is about the same age his 

mother would be if his mother were alive."

Jane Eyre: The Apocalypse of the Body
Paul Pickrel
ELH , Vol. 53, No. 1 (Spring, 1986) , pp. 165-182
"Deconstruction involves the close reading of texts in order to demonstrate that any given text has irreconcilably contradictory meanings, rather than being a unified, logical whole" -

Interesting Quote by prominent American deconstructionalist Hillis Miller, "Deconstruction is not a dismantling of the structure of a text, but a demonstration that it has already dismantled itself. Its apparently solid ground is no rock but thin air."

Deconstruction came about as a response to formalism and structuralism and criticises western logic.

Deconstructionalists deny that any book has one unified meaning from beginning to end.

Jane Eyre and JSTOR:

"I would put it even more strongly: deconstruction, 
as an institutional practice, has enabled the very field of theory, or, rather, 
what goes under the name deconstruction has legitimated the site of theory, 
the institutional field we find ourselves situated within-Nealon; Jonathan 
Culler, Robert A. Hall, Jr., and Nealon's other respondents in the May 
Forum; and me. So let's dispense with this death business or at least 
interrogate it for the trope that it is."

Nihilism, modern day nihilism and its new meaning




JSTOR Findings



Interesting Readings

  • The difference between Woolfolk and me is that I make a very sharp distinction between an analysis of Western culture and a sociological critique of one element of that analysis: the implicit or explicit use of the concept of nihilism. By dismissing this one element in the analyses of Comte, Durkheim, or Toc- queville, on logical and sociological grounds, I am not dismissing their complete analyses, being perfectly aware that I am a dwarf, standing on the shoulders of these giants. Ungar says that my analysis of nihilism is somewhat "elliptical." I guess he is too polite to say that it is circular. I don't think it is, but let me try to explain the struc- ture of my argument. I am trying to do two things: 1. To show that the critique of nihilism is much older than Nietzsche and that it has a respectable tradition in France. Camus was wrong in saying that Nietzsche was the first. It is interesting to see that there is a continuity, so that Maistre's analysis from the early nineteenth century is echoed in 1985 by Kundera (cited by Ungar). This is the history of ideas component of my argument. 2. To show why the concept of nihilism was used. This is the sociology of knowledge component. Now, to do this properly, the French tradition is much more appropriate than the better known German one, for two reasons: the social upheavals that accom- panied the process of modernization were manifest and more frequent in France, with every generation having its own nation-wide revolution; and the intellectuals participated more actively in every social or political issue. That makes for a setting that is more appropriate for a sociological analysis than the German situation. In Germany, upheavals were suppressed, and the intellectuals hardly participated in the political debate; so it becomes a bit difficult to relate ideas to social positions. Ideas tend to be politically neutral. This is the reason why the German use of the concept has a metaphysical rather than social or political scope and could be more systematic, aspire to universality, and therefore dominate intellectual life in this century. German thinkers latinized and coined what Joseph de Maistre during the French Revolution called "rienisme": nihilismus.
  • How does ter Borg establish that nihilism is a label rather than a condition? He does so by examining the use of the idea in the French sociological tradition. He con- tends that the critique of nihilism is used against groups with little in common. What is common is not the property of the object, but a relation of fear between subject and object, or "losers" (the French revolution hurt their class interest) and "winners" (the revolution advanced their interes
Feminist Criticism Feminist Criticism
  • In certain time periods the world was so male dominated and people have tried to prove the hatred of women in these times. An example of this would be medicines given to both men and women, but they were only trialed on men, so women were exposed to these drugs where they might cause serious damage because their bodies are different than men's.
Gender(s), Power, and Marginalization Gender(s)
  • Over time the differences between men and women have changed, the "what it means to be masculine and feminine".
Reader-Response Criticism Reader-Response
  • Each person reads a novel with different backgrounds, opinions, views on life, and therefore can all lead to different takes on the novel.
JSTOR: Jane Eyre's Imagination JSTOR
Thesis: "The intense and varied imagining is at times undisciplined, unrelated to the novel's real imaginative logic: in this, as in other ways, the distinction between the narrator and the heroine begins to blur."

Tying the Knot in the Economic Warp of "Jane Eyre"
THESIS: "Often insightful, ambitious, strong, and forthright, Jane is also too ashamed, bitter, weak, and indirect to acknowledge that abhorrent economies of wedlock and happiness have corrupted her."

Psychoanalytic criticism

The relationship between writer and text

This approach would concentrate on Brontë's own experience, such as:
  • Her lack of a mother
  • The time she spent at Cowan Bridge School
  • Her supposed isolation and ignorance of sexual love.
These can be seen to result in a romantic plot that operates as a kind of wish-fulfilment. Such interpretations are not always based on reliable biographical knowledge (see Author section).

Analysis of character in psychological terms

Here, critics might concentrate on how characters behave, treating them aspsychological cases:
  • Mrs Reed would be a suitable character for study, particularly in relation to the loss of her husband and her inability to handle responsibility
  • The highly repressed Mr Brocklehurst, with his distaste for the ‘natural', could be seen as an example of a man who uses strict religious practices as a means of concealing his own psychological problems
  • Women had been associated with ‘the flesh' and sexual passion – thus Bertha Mason, the deranged creature who lives in Rochester's attic and has a hold on his life can be seen as symbolic of his lust / passion
  • St John Rivers is an example of a personality undergoing conflict between a sense of duty and his passionate feelings for someone else. This is seen in Chapter 32 (volume 3, Chapter 6), where he allows himself to give way to his feelings for a set time
    The maiming of Rochester at the novel's end could be seen as a sort of castration of his passion and physical prowess – although that does not take account of his subsequently fathering children by Jane.

Christopher's Input

"we don't have clear access to any but the most basic facts of history...our understanding of what such facts a matter of interpretation, not fact"- This is quite possibly one of the most relatable things I have heard in my senior spring. The fact that there are so many holes in history and that we are filling them in without having anything concrete is pretty true. ..."history is a series of events that have a linear, causal relationship: event A caused event B; event B caused event C; and so on" This is a pretty cool idea because if one thing happens then that ALWAYS directly causes something else to happen. Purdue Online "New Historicism is a literary theory based on the idea that literature should be studied and intrepreted within the context of both the history of the author and the history of the critic" This is interesting because it is talking about how when we are analyzing literature, we not only should use the book, but more historic facts that can be realted to the story. Cliff Notes
"It is a literary approach where critics see the text as if it were a kind of dream. This means that the text represses its real (or latent) content behind obvious (manifest) content."\

psychoanalytic literary criticism is described as analyzing a text that is not shown in the text but analyzing it in a deeper sense and reading between the lines in order to understand the thoughts of the characters and the real meaning of what they are saying.

Psychoanalytic Criticism in Jane Eyre

Psychoanalytic Criticism
  1. Object is to psychoanalyze the author or a specific character in a book by using steps of psychoanalysis, originally developed by Sigmund Freud
  2. Critics may view specific characters as actual psychological case studies
  3. Identifies different Freudian concepts such as Oedipus complex, Freudian slips, and Id, ego and superego, etc.
    • Oedipus complex - the desire to be sexually involved with your parent of the opposite sex; derived from the story of Oedipus who kills his father as a child because he wants all the attention from his mother and feels threatened by his father
    • Freudian slips - n error in speech, memory, or physical action that is interpreted as occurring due to the interference of an unconscious subdued wish, conflict, or train of thought guided by the super-ego and the rules of correct behavior
    • Id, ego and superego - three parts of the psychic apparatus defined in Sigmund Freud's structural model of the psyche; they are the three theoretical constructs in terms of whose activity and interaction mental life is described.
      • id is the set of uncoordinated instinctual trends
      • super-ego plays the critical and moralizing role
        • can stop you from doing certain things your id wants you to do
      • ego is the organized, realistic part that mediates between the desires of the id and the super-ego
  4. Jungian: feministic approaches to psychoanalysis; often considered the romance theory whereas Freud is the comedy theory
Psychoanalytic Literary Criticism

This journal talks about the different views and powers between Rochester and Jane Eyre. Examples are sexual and social dependence, and the male view of defining women as objects.
In the Window-seat: Vision and Power in Jane Eyre
Modernism vs Postmodernism
form (conjunctive, closed)antiform (disjunctive, open)
art object/finished work/logosprocess/performance/antithesis
narrative/grande histoireanti-narrative/petite histoire
This is a great example of modernism because
when a person has paranoia they are annoyed
and talk to themselves
this is a great example of post modernism
because when a person has schizophrenia
they hear multiple voices showing that in post modernism there are many lenses or voices to criticism not just one singular voice
as shown in modernism
God the FatherThe Holy Ghost


Feminist Criticism

Some common space in feminist theories:
  • Biology determines our sex, but culture determines our gender
  • Gender issues play a part in every aspect of human production and experience, including the production and experience of literature, whether we are consciously aware of these issues or not
  • Feminism can be categorized in three waves: first wave that highlighted the inequalities between men and women from the eighteenth through twentieth centuries and called for women's suffrage, second wave calling for equal working conditions during the 1960s and '70s, and third wave feminism which expands on marginalized populations' experiences
Examples of feminist writers and activists:
  • First wave: Mary Wollstonecraft, Susan B. Anthony, Victoria Woodhull
  • Second wave: Simone de Beauvoir, Elaine Showalter
  • Third Wave: Alice Walker

Jane Eyre Psychoanalytical Criticism

The Unconscious, the Desires, and the Defenses

·         The unconscious is influenced by events that happen during one’s childhood

o   Relationships with parents

o   Drives of desire and pleasure

§  5 Stages of Psychosexual Development: Oral, Anal, Phallic, Latent, Genital

Id, Ego, and Superego

·         Id

o   energy for basic drives, primitive and instinctive component of the personality

·         Ego

o   decision making component of the personality, realistic ways to satisfy the id’s demands

·         Superego

o   Controls the id’s impulses (sex and aggression)

Oedipus Complex

·         Children’s need for their parents

·         Boys and girls wish to possess their mothers

o   As they age they believe that they cannot have all of their mother’s attention because of their fathers àrage against the father

·         Different for boys and girls

o   Boys identify with fathers eventually in hopes of getting a woman like their mothers

o   Girls shift their sexual desire from the mother to the father
Nile Hardy

  • Is a method of interpretation or analysis, of someones past experiences, though process, and senses.
  • There are four unique patterns of Structuralism, they are comic, romantic, tragic, and ironic.
  •  In every language there is a conventional connection between symbols(words) and external objects(meaning), the connections vary between languages, but Structuralism argues that there are underlying universal connections. 
  •   One problem with Structuralism is people argue that it takes the individuality of the story.

What Did Jane Eyre Do? Ideology Agency, Class and the Novel
By Chris R. Vanden Bossche 

Thesis:  To Be Done

Postcolonialism Criticism/Reader-Response Criticism/Gender and Queer Studies

Postcolonialism Criticism
Drawing from post-modern schools of thought, Post-colonial Studies analyse the politics of knowledge (creation, control, and distribution) by analyzing the functional relations of social and political power that sustain colonialism and neo-colonialism — the how and the why of an imperial régime’s representations (social, political, cultural) of the imperial colonizer and of the colonized people.

Reader-Response Criticism
- Reader-response theory recognizes the reader as an active agent who imparts "real existence" to the work and completes its meaning through interpretation. Reader-response criticism argues that literature should be viewed as a performing art in which each reader creates their own, possibly unique, text-related performance. It stands in total opposition to the theories of formalism and the New Criticism, in which the reader's role in re-creating literary works is ignored.

Gender and Queer Studies
 For example, gender studies and queer theory maintains that cultural definitions of sexuality and what it means to be male and female are in flux: "...the distinction between "masculine" and "feminine" activities and behavior is constantly changing, so that women who wear baseball caps and fatigues...can be perceived as more piquantly sexy by some heterosexual men than those women who wear white frocks and gloves and look down demurely" (Richter 1437).

Postcolonialism and Jane Eyre(Sue Thomas):

Constructionist Criticism in Literature


  1. Structuralism forms the basis of Semiotics. (the study of signs and symbols and their use or interpretation.)
  2. Structuralism introduces the idea of the "subject" as opposed to the idea of the individual.
  3. Through structuralism, literature is seen as a whole: it functions as a system of meaning and reference no matter how many works there are.
I learned that structuralism is present in many aspects of our lives. Ranging from literature, to the way we conduct business around the world. I also learned that "language exists in patterns, certain underlying elements are common to all human experiences".

I think you all would appreciate how this draws from the natural sense of reading, and makes connections with normal things we find throughout our lives.

Source 1
Source 2

JSTOR Essay 

Victorian Literature and Culture (Idolatry in "Jane Eyre")

The idolatry that Kathleen Vejvoda talks about in her essay is directly related to Structuralism/Semiotics because the use of idols in literature connects to the idea that structuralism uses symbols to analyze/criticize literature.

Marxist Literary Criticism

Essential Questions for Marxist Literary Criticism
  • Does your novel support the economic and social status quo, or does it advocate change?
  • What role does the class system play in your novel?
  • What is the author's analysis of class relations?
  • What does the author's work say about oppression? Are social conflicts ignored or blamed elsewhere?
  • Does the text raise criticism about the emptiness of a life in bourgeoise society?
  • Are characters from all skill levels equally sketched?

A Marxist Criticism of the Itsy Bitsy Spider

Marxist, Moral, and Feminist Criticism

Marxist Criticism
- has to deal with social classes; essential question is "who does it beneift?"
Moral Criticism
Literary criticism is an analysis – the study, evaluation, and interpretation – of literature

Feminist Criticism
Feminist criticism is concerned with "...the ways in which literature (and other cultural productions) reinforce or undermine the economic, political, social, and psychological oppression of women"


In-Class Stuff

Structuralism and Semiotics believe that, like in language, everything in life has underlying connections with everything else, just like all languages are all connected in small, similar ways
One of the biggest discussion points in

Semiotics, Structuralism, and Television -

Super Simple Chart that Displays the Basic Idea of Semiotics

A Structuralist Criticism of Alfred Hitchcock -

This article was called "Colonialism and the Figurative Strategy of 'Jane Eyre'," written by Susan L. Meyer. The article’s thesis was that Charlotte Brontë used race in Jane Eyre to showcase gender issues. This is a slight combination of both gender and feminist criticism, as well as a bit of post-colonial criticism, as the article’s usage of race as a contrasting point shows that race (relating to previously British-controlled countries and/or colonies) was another key issue in the day Jane Eyre was written.

Post-Colonial Criticism (1990s-present)

Waylon Jin

Mr. O'Brien British Literature E Block

March 8, 2014

Post-Colonial Criticism

Post-Colonial Criticism- A type of cultural criticism, post colonial criticism usually involves the analysis of literary texts produced in countries and cultures that have come under the control of European colonial powers at some point in their history("The Bedford Glossary").
    • History is Written by the Victors
    • A Unique Perspective on Empire
    • Power, Hegemony, and Literature
Interesting Points 
  • in Things Fall Apart, Achebe details the strife and devastation that occurred when British colonists began moving inland from the Nigerian coast. Rather than glorify from the European point of view, Achebe illustrates destructive events.
  • influenced by Marxist thought, by the work of Michel Foucault
  • It is not a question of restoring precolonial cultures, but rather showing how former colony and colonizer can establish a mutually respectful relationship in a post colonial world.
Thesis- Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe was a perfect example 
of what effect new ideas and technology can have on societies that have 
been isolated for generations and have created a unique culture and 
society because of it.

^Post Colonial Criticism is the school of criticism.

  • Nigeria is analyzed with the effect of British colonialism on it. Achebe is the author of the novel and originating from the colonized country. He does not demonstrate the misconception of European influence, but the actual devastating effects in it.
^Thesis-. Bronte uses references to colonized races to represent various social 
situations in British society: female subordination in sexual relationships, fe- 
male insurrection and rage against male domination, and the oppressive class 
position of the female without family ties and a middle-class income.