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MA2054 Psychoanalysis and Cinema

Tutor: Steven Marchant

Teaching: 10hrs lecture, 10 hrs seminar

Value: 0.5 unit

Availability: Autumn or Spring


When Sigmund Freud invented psychoanalysis in the late 19th century it was as an investigation into the fantasy life of human beings. For Freud this was first of all a matter of dreams, delusions and hysterical symptoms, but as his work developed he began to explored the role of unconscious fantasy in other areas of human imaginative creation, including art and literature, myth, and children's games. For us, on this course, the question of the organising role of unconscious fantasy in human affairs is asked in relation to cinema.

The course outlines key Freudian concepts and uses these to analyse individual films. It asks: In what ways does unconscious fantasy organise popular cinema? How has fantasy been treated as a theme in cinema? How can psychoanalysis help us analyse cinema? In what was has the cinema responded to, and worked with, Freud's ideas?

The first two sessions are introductory, they explore some of Freud's founding ideas (e.g. on the Oedipus complex)  in relation to two key films from the Hollywood 1940s: Citizen Kane and Cat People. The second part of the course (weeks 3 to 7) looks at a number of films telling more-or-less the same story: a young woman comes to live in an old house haunted by mysterious past events. We look at versions of this story from the 1940s, the 1970s and the 2000s, exploring what remains constant in the treatment of the story and what changes. The third and final section of the course (weeks 8 to 10) focuses on the films of David Lynch and Freud's essay on 'The Uncanny'.


Screening schedule (updated for 2011-12): 

1. Citizen Kane (1941, Orson Welles)

2. Cat People (1942, Jacques Tourneur)

3. Rebecca (1940, Alfred Hitchcock)

4. Gaslight (1944, George Cukor)

5. Celine and Julie Go Boating (1974, Jacques Rivette)

6. The Stepford Wives (1974, Bryan Forbes)

7. The Messengers (2007, Danny and Oxide Pang)

8. Mulholland Drive (2001, David Lynch)

9. Blue Velvet (1986, David Lynch)

10. Lost Highway (1997, David Lynch)




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