Psychoanalysis and the Unconscious of the Text/SE2148 Ways of Reading/WK 2

Psychoanalysis and the Unconscious of the Text
  1. Catherine Belsey, Critical Practice, 2nd edn (London and New York: Routledge, 2002), pp. 95-113.
  2. Arthur Conan Doyle, ‘Charles Augustus Milverton’, in The Return of Sherlock Holmes (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1981), pp. 162-80.
  3. Recommended reading from Bennett and Royle: Chapters 17 (‘Me’) and 25 (‘Ideology’) which you might wish to download from here:

Seminar Activities

In groups, discuss the following tasks. Write your key points on the flip chart in front of you. Make sure to support your answer with references to Belsey’s chapter and the main text.

  • Think about the character of the three women in ‘Charles Augustus Milverton’ in relation to incompleteness, omissions, contradictions. Can you think of any examples related to that? How their implicit character and sexuality motivated the narrative?
  • Think about the ‘plurality of the text,’ what difference does Freud’s theory of the unconscious make to your reading of the text? How does your understanding of psychoanalysis approach affect your literary analysis of ‘Charles Augustus Milverton’? What did you become aware of?
  • Discuss the ‘project’ in Sherlock Holmes story ‘Charles Augustus Milverton’ and the final disclosure. Compare the conscious textual intention of the text to the unconscious ones. Consider where else the story could have ended? How the repressed find its way to return?

Out-of-the Box Question

Much of the story has to do with the tension and the anxieties of the Victorian and Edwardian times, for instance, repressing the issue of sexuality. What other subject-matters have been repressed in the text? How did they come to the surface?

(Hints: Social and economic-class struggle, exploitation of the poor, ‘the profession of Marriage’)

Wrap up

With the help of your notes and the module reader, sum up in your brochure the terms, key findings and examples for the psychoanalytic approach.

Preparation for Next Week

  1. Roland Barthes, ‘The Death of the Author’, in The Rustle of Language, trans. by Richard Howard (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1986), pp. 49-55.
  2. Leo Tolstoy, ‘The Kreutzer Sonata’ and ‘Postface to The Kreutzer Sonata’, in The Kreutzer Sonata and Other Stories, trans. by David McDuff and Paul Foote (London: Penguin, 2008. NB: You do not need to read the other pieces in the book.

Recommended Reading

Chapter 3 from Bennett and Royle: ‘The Author’


If you wish to submit a piece of formative writing, you should produce a 750-word précis of one of the theoretical set texts by 5pm on Friday 14 February emailed to:

Extra Treat

Snaps of the amazing discussion presented by Group A, B and C during the seminar.

Happy weekend 😊

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