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3.7 Psychoanalytic Literary Criticism: A Process Approach

When you write a critical paper using a psychoanalytic approach, you need to determine the focus you will use. Will you focus on the author? On the characters or the narrator? On the formal construction of the text? Often, a reading will draw from all three levels (as does Waldoff’s interpretation of Keats). Since psychoanalyzing an author requires considerable biographical research, many students opt to focus on character, theme, or text. You should also be guided by the following:

  1. You must clearly define your psychoanalytic approach to the work—Freudian, Lacanian, Jungian, or some combination. You could explore ideas in a journal entry to help you focus on your critical approach. You should then construct a working thesis that will be your guide. Ask yourself the following: How does my psychoanalytic approach help my reader better understand the work I am interpreting? Is my application of psychoanalytic theory too reductive or forced onto the literary work?
  2. You then need to reread the text through the psychoanalytic lens, taking notes and jotting down quotations that can be used for support in your paper. At this stage you should be amassing evidence to support your working thesis.
  3. You should then construct a more concrete working thesis and informal organizational plan that will guide you as you write your draft. Remember, your paper must be organized around a clear focus/thesis.
  4. You should finally get some feedback on your paper by sharing your draft with your instructor and classmates. Use this feedback for revision.

Peer Reviewing

After you have written a first draft, you should get some feedback from classmates. Use the relevant peer-review guide found in Chapter 10 "Appendix A: Peer Review Sheets".