rary CriticismFreudian Literary Criticism

Like Marx, Freud’s theories have provided literary critics with an interpretive structure with a level of meaning and significance left unspoken or undeveloped by Freud himself. Freud used theoretical language for a quantifiable therapeutic end: a rational understanding of the mind. Art was merely a sublimated form of the childish desire to play. “Might we not say that every child at play behaves like a creative writer?” (Freud 651). Rather than founding its ideas upon the assumption that all art is escapist and unhealthy, and all artists being essentially neurotic, Freudian literary criticism dedicates itself to the examination of the theoretical vernacular he applies to the human mind. In defining the aspects of the unconscious mind, the pleasure principle, the repetition-compulsion, Freud implies that the mind is a metaphor making machine. “Freud discovered in the very organization of the mind those mechanisms by which art makes its effects…which makes poetry indigenous to the very constitution of the mind” (Trilling 17). By examining literature within these parameters, Freudian critics hope to better understand and explicate the fundamental connection between personal consciousness and art.

Works Cited

Freud, Sigmund. “Creative Writers and Daydreaming” The Critical Tradition. Ed., David H. Richter, New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1989.

Trilling, Lionel. “Freud and Literature” The Liberal Imagination: Essays on Literature and Society. New York: Viking Press, 1968.