René Magritte, Le Modèle rouge, 1935

Interpreting Freud

Fire Historical and Cultural Arts Collaborative
1249 Portage Rd
Kalamazoo, MI 49001

Sigmund Freud is one of the key nineteenth century European thinkers who transformed the way many people view themselves and their place in the world. Rather than the calm, rational, calculating individuals who populate so many early Enlightenment texts, people were discovered to be driven by biological needs like any other animal; pushed by impersonal social forces flowing from our productive activity; buffeted by psychological impulses we can barely discern. To paraphrase Freud, humans are not “masters in our own houses.”

Scholars, artists, and healers of all sorts have been inspired by Freud’s ideas about human consciousness. Freud posited a fragile human process of adaptation to the “natural” and “social” world, one that often went awry. This process was precarious, perverse, and sometimes random, given the role of chance in the trajectory of anyone’s life. Yet, Freud saw the possibility of integrating life’s difficult experiences and healing psychic trauma through the narration of those experiences. This “talking cure” became Freud’s method of psychoanalysis. Following Freud, psychoanalysis and psychoanalytic ideas have extended to many reaches of interpretive work, where symbols, texts, looks, and gestures are read as traces in a larger archive of both human and natural history. While Freud’s work has been transformed, critiqued, and reevaluated numerous times, many of his key insights and ideas are still integral to our contemporary understanding of not only psychology, but also everyday life. How can we understand ourselves, our society, and our motivations? And how do we account for that which we don’t know or cannot access about ourselves?

In this course, students will be introduced to Freud’s theory of mind through close readings and discussion of some of his major works. Each week we will read texts by Freud, as well as commentary on Freud by key interlocutors from multiple disciplines and approaches. Students will read texts, conduct short writing exercises, and participate in class discussions to develop collectively our understanding of both Freud’s controversial contributions to the study of human consciousness and how we can think about mind and consciousness today.

Course Schedule

Wednesday, 6:30-9:30pm
July 05 — July 26, 2017
4 weeks


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