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Psychoanalyzing society

ASU course dives into the intersection between psychoanalysis, social thought.

Graphic illustration of the human head with various dots and connecting lines.
October 11, 2022

What have Sigmund Freud, post-Freudian theories and the feminist movement taught us about history and society?

In spring 2023, ASU students will have a chance to investigate this topic through a course dedicated to psychoanalysis and social thought. The course is relevent for students majoring in psychology, history, literature, philosophy, religious studies, pre-law and related fields.

Taught by Associate Professor Kent Wright, with the School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership, CEL 394 (Class # 27633) will be held during Session C, from 3 to 4:15 p.m., on Tuesdays and Thursdays, on the Tempe campus.

In this course, students will become acquainted with Freud’s own writings on topics focusing on the antagonism between civilization and instinctual life, “crowd psychology” and “human nature.”

They will read Freud’s writings through Peter Gay’s “The Freud Reader,” supplemented by Ernest Gellner’s “The Psychoanalytic Movement.” Students will then turn to two leading traditions of post-Freudian psychoanalysis: the German “Frankfurt School” approach, stemming from the theories of Max Horkheimer, Theodor Adorno and Herbert Marcuse; and the French tradition, commonly associated with Jacques Lacan.

In the later part of the course, students will read selections from Horkheimer and Adorno’s “Dialectic of Enlightenment,” Marcuse’s “Eros and Civilization,” Lacan’s “Ecrits” and “Seminars,” and classics of psychoanalytic feminism by figures such as Juliet Mitchell, Nancy Chodorow and Joan Copjec.

“At the end of the spring semester,” says Wright, “students will have a thorough working knowledge of Freud’s presentation of the fundamentals of psychoanalysis.

"We will engage with his main books and essays, develop a robust sense of the important extensions and applications of psychoanalytic thinking in two distinct national traditions and one central zone of social thought where psychoanalysis has played a key role: in modern feminism.”

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