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Psychological Theory: Frued vs. Jung

As a class, we have studied psychological criticism and how it applies to literature; however, we didn't ever go into detail about the different psychological theories that exist that we pull from when using this critical approach. While many psychologists have been mentioned in the essays we have read: Freud, Lacan, Adler, Jung, etc, in this blog, I will focus on only two and attempt to differentiate the often overlapping theories of Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung.

To begin with, let's focus on Freud. The elder of the the two renowned psychiatrists, Freud (1856-1939) is best known for his theories on the unconscious mind involving issues of repression and sexual desire (Wikipedia). 225px-Sigmund_Freud_LIFE.jpg He is the acclaimed creator of the practice of psychoanalysis, which focuses on the interpretation of dreams to reveal unconscious desires. According to Freud, the mind can be divided into three parts: the id, the ego, and the superego, which respectively refer to our instincts, our reality, and morality. maybe_maybe_not.gif Often times, the id (our instinctual desires) clashes with the superego (our moral concepts) as our id seeks to fulfill our basic needs while the superego seeks to achieve the ideal.

As a young, up and coming psychiatrist, Jung (1875-1961) 225px-Mem_dream_reflec_Jung.jpgbecame a follower of Freud, particularly supporting his theory of the unconscious and methods of dream analysis (Wikipedia); however, his theory diverged from Freud's sexually charged analysis to a wider encompassing focus of the unconscious rooted in spirituality. Like Freud, Jung divides the individual into three parts: "the self: the shadow, or the darker, unconscious self (usually the villain in literature); the persona, or a man's social personality (usually the hero); and the anima, or a man's "soul image" (usually the heroine)" (Hamilton Burris--check it out! This site is a great overview of what we've been learning in class). Like Freud, Jung argues that in order to maintain a healthy mental state, a person needs to successfully balance these three aspects of his/her existence.

In light of their similar theoretical beliefs, Freud and Jung became professional friends, working closely together and influencing each other for a number of years. This friendship ended, however, as the two became increasingly argumentative about their different concepts of the unconscious. One website details this difference stating, Freud "depicted the unconscious as a receptacle underlying the conscious mind, whose task is to contain rejected and un-encountered events, feelings, thoughts and experiences of the resenting conscious mind." Meanwhile, Jung viewed the unconscious as a two layer concept: "a personal unconscious, right under the conscious mind, taking in personal psychic contents and down below the collective unconscious, containing the accumulating experience of all humanity." Furthermore, while for Freud, everything derives from sexuality, Jung believed that "there is much more to life than sexuality, which is but a part of a greater wholeness, which underlies the process of Individuation and constant search for meaning."

Thus, in applying a psychological approach to literature, we, as writers, need to be aware of exactly whose psychological theory we are employing. Just as there are subtle differences between the theories of literary critics (for example contrast the deconstructivist theories of Derrida with those of Paul de Man), there are differences between psychological theories. As a result, perhaps it is not enough to say that we are doing a psychological reading of "The Yellow Wallpaper"; we may need to be more specific and claim that we are doing a Freudian or Jungian reading of the text.

Comments (1)

marichele merculio:

I would ask your help with my study. What do you think is the most appropriate theory to apply to my thesis: Passion and Sexuality in SElected Mexican and Korean telenovela?


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