Module Details

PA976-7-AU-CO: Freud In Contexts

Year: 2017/18
Department: Centre for Psychoanalytic Studies
Essex credit: 15
ECTS credit: 7.5
Available to Study Abroad / Exchange Students: No
Full Year Module Available to Study Abroad / Exchange Students for a Single Term: No
Outside Option: No

Supervisor: Dr Matt Ffytche
Teaching Staff: Leonardo Nascimento
Contact details: Senior Student Administrator, Telephone: 01206 873745, Email: cpsgrad (Non essex users should add to create the full email address)

Module is taught during the following terms
Autumn Spring Summer

Module Description

This module explores the intellectual, cultural and social context of psychoanalysis. It asks two questions, which guide our studies throughout the module:

Firstly, does the context of psychoanalysis explain the theories of psychoanalysis, or do they stand beyond their context? One might say, at one extreme, that they are a form of literature or history, and therefore wholly of their context; at the other extreme, one might say that psychoanalysis is a science and, while a study of, say Freud's biography, might tell us a lot about his interests, it tells us nothing about psychoanalysis, any more than biographies of Einstein explains relativity. Is 'context' a meaningful idea?

Secondly, would any account of 'context' be satisfying or complete without a psychoanalytic dimension? Is a biography or a social history adequate without a psychoanalytic dimension?

We might add a third question: Was psychoanalysis simply a product of its culture or did it change the culture in which it developed?

Learning Outcomes

The aims of the module are:

to provide historical, philosophical, and cultural background that will enrich understanding of the origin and nature of psychoanalysis
to foster a critical approach to the history and theory of psychoanalysis and more particularly, to the nature and validity of evidence and interpretation

By the end of the module you should be able to:
show how psychoanalysis emerged out of, differentiated itself from, and continues to develop in relationship to specific but complex socio-cultural conditions (both immediate and long-term);
discuss psychoanalysis with a critical awareness of its diversity and the complexity of its past and of the disputed histories of that past, and of its continual change in the present;
demonstrate how psychoanalysis 'bites its own tail', i.e., provides critical theoretical perspectives both on the events and circumstances of its own past and on the disciplines (e.g., biography, history, philosophy) by which we might try to establish and evaluate its past;
deploy various critical and academic skills (e.g., how to evaluate historical sources, philosophical arguments, or cultural artefacts) in the investigation of the theories and texts of psychoanalysis;
understand the process and limits of interpretation as a form of enquiry.

Learning and Teaching Methods

In general, each seminar will include an overview of the topic under discussion, presented by the seminar leader, followed by more focused study based on group work and the set readings. At least half of every seminar will normally be devoted to group work and discussion. Attendance at, and participation in, seminars is a requirement of the module. Some attention will also be given in the seminars to methodological issues (e.g., how the tools of historical, philosophical, cultural, or psychoanalytic investigation can be most effectively deployed in addressing each selected topic). In addition, as occasion arises, there will be some clarification of psychoanalytic concepts and themes relevant for parallel and later modules.


100 per cent Coursework Mark


This module is assessed by one 3000 word essay


  • Anzieu, D. (1986) Freud's Self-Analysis, London: Hogarth and the Institute of Psycho-Analysis, 32-45.
  • Breger, L. (2000) Freud: Darkness in the Midst of Vision, New York: Wiley
  • Brunner, J. (2001) Freud and the Politics of Psychoanalysis, New Brunswick/London: Transaction.
  • Freud, S. (1905) 'Fragment of an Analysis of a Case of Hysteria' (Dora) SE 7: 1-122.
  • Freud, S. (1925) 'An autobiographical study', in Historical and Expository Works on Psychoanalysis, The Pelican Freud Library vol. 15, London: Penguin, 1993.
  • Gilman, S. (1990) 'Freud's Jewish Identity', in E. Timms, R. Robertson (eds) Vienna 1900: From Altenberg to Wittgenstein (Austrian Studies I), Edinburgh: EUP, 1990, 174-77.
  • Pick, D. (1993) 'Why War?' in War Machine: The Rationalization of Slaughter in the Modern Age, New Haven and London: Yale University Press.
  • Pick, D. (1995) 'Freud's group psychology and the history of the crowd', History Workshop Journal 40: 39-61
  • Schorske, C. (1980) 'Politics and Parricide in Freud's Interpretation of Dreams' in Fin-De-Siècle Vienna: Politics and Culture, New York: Knopf.

Further information