In classical psychoanalysis, there are many more concepts than the ones discussed earlier. Different psychoanalytic theorists may disagree on aspects such as the formation of personalities and the treatment of dysfunctional behavior. Similarly, among psychoanalytic literary critics, there is disagreement about how psychoanalytic concepts should be applied to the study of literature.
Some questions arise when using psychoanalysis to analyze literature:
- What role should an author's literary output play in psychoanalyzing their life?
- To what extent is it legitimate to psychoanalyze literary characters as if they were real people?
- Which psychoanalytic theorists provide the best insights when psychoanalyzing literary characters?
- What role do readers play in projecting their desires and conflicts onto the text they're reading?
Psychoanalysis and reader-response theory, which will be covered in chapter 6, share similarities in focusing on the psychological experience of the reader. Additionally, there may be overlaps of psychoanalysis with Marxism and feminism in chapters 3 and 4, as well as instances where Marxism and feminism reject the psychoanalytic perspective.
When reading psychoanalytically, not every psychoanalytic concept discussed will be present in every literary work. The goal is to identify which concepts are at play in the text to enhance our understanding of the work or to create a meaningful psychoanalytic interpretation if we plan to write about it.
From a classical psychoanalytic perspective, some aspects to consider in literary analysis might include the representation of oedipal dynamics or family dynamics in general, the psychological relationship to death or sexuality, how the narrator's unconscious issues influence the story, or any other psychoanalytic concepts that offer valuable insights into the text.The application of psychoanalysis to understand the behavior of literary characters has been met with objections, primarily due to the argument that literary characters are not real individuals with psyches that can be analyzed. However, proponents of psychoanalytic literary criticism argue that examining the behavior of literary characters through the lens of psychoanalysis offers valuable insights into the human psyche. This approach has been defended on two crucial grounds: first, the psychoanalysis of literary characters does not imply they are real people but rather representations of universal human experiences, and second, it is as legitimate as analyzing characters from other critical perspectives such as feminism, Marxism, or African American criticism.