I really thought I was done. No more Freud, at least for this class. And then I started reading Klages’ chapter on Feminist theory and I realized how wrong I was. Klages looks at two prominent poststructuralist feminist theorists, Helene Cixous and Luce Irigaray. And both of them are deconstructing psychoanalysis, both Freud and Lacan. The section on Cixous wasn’t too bad, looking mostly at Lacan. But the section on Irigaray has been non-stop Freud. And while I realize that there are many problems with Freud’s psychoanalysis, especially in regards to women, Irigaray seemed to go out of her way to be ridiculously radical.
Tag Archives: psychoanalysis
I think that Assignment #4 is the last one that deals with Wallace Stevens’ “Anecdote of the Jar,” so I’d like to share some of the ideas I came up with for interpreting this poem. Most of them are a bit weird, but I came up with them late Monday night so I had something to work with in class. They’re also dealing with chains of association for psychoanalysis, so they are based off of wordplay, metonymy and metaphor. Some of these ideas were brought up in class by other people, so sorry if there is overlap. Most of them I didn’t think through all the way, so they’re rather unfinished.
1. The food idea. I thought the jar could be metonymy for a kitchen, or some other place where you get food (such as a pantry or a grocery store). The wilderness could then be like the ingredients, being assembled into a coherent whole. I guess the jar could also be a recipe in this interpretation. The hill could be a table or a mixing bowl. The one problem I identified with this interpretation was: “The jar was gray and bare” (10). This line does not fit with a recipe, or with the ingredients being assembled (unless the recipe is a burnt failure).
2. Jar as car. This idea was based off of very obvious wordplay. Cars pollute, so this explains lines 10 and 11 of the poem. I tried to take this idea a bit further, looking at the jar as a ship. Ships can also pollute, especially when they have smokestacks (and this helps to explain line 8 – “And tall and of a port in air”). With the jar as a ship, the wilderness could then be the water the ship is sailing on. Of course, this runs into problems when you get to line 9 (“It took dominion everywhere”); how does a ship take dominion over all the water? I guess it could sail everywhere, and so take dominion that way. Nonetheless, this was a bit weak.
The jar could also be an actual port between water and an island (which I guess would be the hill). Again, not that strong, but I thought it accounted for the latter part of line 8 nicely.
3. Of course, there are the original ideas I had for the first two assignments that dealt with this poem: the jar as culture/urbanization/pollution, and the wilderness as nature/the natural world. I didn’t bother thinking this through for this assignment because it felt like I would be restating what I argued in the other ones. But basically, the jar is taking over the natural world, functioning as a city, dividing the wilderness and taming it. The wilderness was whole, but became divided into three: the jar world, the tamed wilderness directly surrounding the hill (the suburbs of the jar world) and the still wild wilderness.
4. Assignment #4 calls for a Lacanian interpretation, so I thought of the wilderness as the ideal self of the jar. The jar tries to be like the wilderness, but it can’t, as per lines 10 and 11 (“The jar was gray and bare./It did not give of bird or bush”). This is one of the ideas that I expanded on for my assignment, so I am not going to go into more detail here.
5. I thought the jar and the wilderness could be people. The jar could be a man. The jar lacks eggs, which are symbolic of fertility. The wilderness, as a producer, is linked with fertility, and so it is a woman. The jar is “gray and bare” without the wilderness. You need both to successfully produce, but the jar has tamed the wilderness too much and so the world around them has become stagnant. I thought this idea could be expanded on to critique patriarchy, but this was as far as I went with it.
6. I again went back to Lacan for my final idea. This time, I looked at the wilderness as a child in the realm of the Real. The jar is introduced, becoming the ideal self of the child wilderness (and also bringing the child into the realm of the Imaginary). And when the wilderness is tamed at the end of the poem, it has successfully entered the adult realm of the Symbolic. This ended up my main focus for my paper, but I also incorporated idea #4 as a play element that destabilizes the whole system.
So those were the 6 ideas I came up with Monday night for my psychoanalytic reading of “Anecdote of the Jar.” It was fun letting my mind make all kinds of wild connections (my favourite was the food idea). With that, I now bid Stevens’ poem adieu. It was a lot of fun to work with, especially because it was so ambiguous. But I found it a bit hard to keep switching frameworks for the same poem with only a couple of weeks between assignments. I’m excited to be looking at new things for the remaining papers.
A few weeks ago, I analyzed a dream using Freud’s method in “The Interpretation of Dreams” for another class. I don’t usually remember my dreams, so it was perfect timing for that assignment. Now that we’re talking about Freud, and now that we need to do a psychoanalytic reading of “Anecdote of the Jar,” I thought I’d share my dream analysis here on this blog.
This is what I dreamt: I was in Victoriaville mall with my friend, Kyle. I tell him that in the past, my brother and I used to go up to the second level above the food court and shimmy around the outside of the railing. He decided that sounds like fun, so he left me to try it. There is a father with some young children, a boy and a girl, who are watching him. The father complains to me about Kyle going around the outside of the railing; it is a bad influence for his children. We all go upstairs to find Kyle sitting at a table, waiting for us. The balcony is a strange, unstable shape and Kyle is sitting at the spot that juts out over the green. After sitting for a little while, he decides it is a good idea to start jumping up and down in an effort to tip the balcony over onto the green. (Names have been changed).
Before I get into the analysis, I just want to clarify a few things. Victoriaville is the mall by the Brodie bus terminal. What I call “the green” is an area by the food court that used to be green carpet. It’s on a lower level from the rest of the mall. With those things clarified, here then is the analysis that I wrote for my assignment:
I then tried to follow Freud’s method of dream analysis from “The Interpretation of Dreams.” Analyzing the dream in this fashion allowed me to make many connections to both my past and present. One of these connections includes the fact that I had been thinking about my friend Kyle of late. The two of us went to Walmart where he bought a movie we had to watch that night, even though I had brought some other movies along and I really did not want to watch the new one. This incident reminded me that Kyle thinks only of himself, much like a child; my dream shows this by having Kyle acting like a child.
Another connection was to Victoriaville itself. The level above the food court, where most of my dream takes place, is where a public library was once located. I work at the public library, and was scheduled to work today at the County Park branch, which is also located within a mall. Other than once hosting a library, Victoriaville was also the place where my brother, mother and I would meet my grandmother. My brother and I spent many afternoons playing on the green (it used to be an area of green carpet, but I believe it is now grey tile) while my mother and grandmother had coffee. Last night, before going to bed, I was thinking I needed to get some exercise. When the green appeared in my dream, I immediately connected it to my need for activity. Also at that time, the balcony was a mysterious, special place because we were not allowed up there alone while my mother and grandmother were having coffee.
A third and final connection I will only make tentatively. I asked myself what Freud would think of this dream, and came up with some rather disturbing answers. The father figure in the dream had two kids, a boy and a girl. This structure parallels my own family when my mother is not present. Freud might relate this lack of the mother to what he terms the Electra complex, which is the version of the Oedipus complex that occurs in girls. These complexes are “Freud’s hypothesis that little boys want an exclusive relationship with their mothers, and little girls want an exclusive relationship with their fathers” (Westen 408). I also thought that Freud would relate the jumping up and down at the end of the dream to sex, perhaps symbolizing the motions of sex.
Analyzing the dream in this way allowed me to make many connections between my memories and the events in the dream. I was also able to make more connections when I looked at the dream from another angle. Examining the dream in the way that Freud would brought some vastly different interpretations than those I initially made while looking at the dream from my own perspective. Suddenly I was seeing sexual conflicts such as the Electra complex, as well as myself in a strange maternal role. These latter connections, brought on by Freud, really emphasized the importance of framework for interpretation. Changing the framework brought different aspects of the dream to the foreground of my analysis, while bringing others into the background. This is exactly how literary theory works in English studies: you choose the framework you want to use, which will allow you to concentrate on certain aspects of the text while ignoring others.
Freud’s method of analysis as demonstrated with my dream was a fascinating mental exercise. While this method created many interesting connections, some were much stronger than others. The ideas about my friend Kyle and about work are stronger connections because these were matters I was thinking of before having the dream. The ideas about the Electra complex and sex are not as strong because they had no basis in my thoughts prior to this analysis. For this reason, I think that Freud’s method should not be taken too seriously, especially when using his framework to generate these connections.
Freud, Sigmund. “The Interpretation of Dreams.” Literary Theory, An Anthology. Ed. Julie Rivkin and Michael Ryan. 2nd Ed. Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2004. 397-414.
Westen, Drew. Psychology: Brain, Behaviour, & Culture. 3rd ed. New York: Wiley, 2002.
When I did my quick Google search last night, I came across this picture. It made me laugh, so I thought I’d share.
I found this on Bryn Robinson’s blog, http://www.innkblotz.ca/2008/09/saturday-morning-freud-cartoons.html
There are all kinds of funny cartoons you can find if you Google Image Search “psychoanalysis.”
Here’s another one I laughed at:
This one comes from Smartdog’s Weblog, http://smartdogs.wordpress.com/2009/04/17/psychoanalysis-behaviorism-and-myth/
Here’s one more, from Evidencesx’s World (http://evidencesx.wordpress.com/2008/06/17/%E2%80%9Cblogging-is-less-expensive-than-a-psychoanalysis%E2%80%9D/):
Dr. Pound talked about psychoanalysts “probing” for the latent content. This made me think of Freud literally using a brain probe. I drew a crappy stick-figure diagram in the margins of my notebook, and decided to see if anyone else had ever thought to draw a picture of this. Finding nothing on Google, I decided to redraw my stick figures on paint, so enjoy!
I dreaded the second chapter
Of every psych text.
Methods and history.
Acknowledge. Move on.
But now here in English
When I thought I was free,
I find you still haunt me
Much worse than before.
Id versus ego.
Iceberg of consciousness.
Your thought changed the world
But it’s time to move on.
My dreams are just dreams
When I remember them.