Psychoanalytical criticism is a form of literary criticism or literary analysis which uses some of the techniques of psychoanalysis, such as conscious and unconscious; ego, superego, and id; Oedipus complex theory; transference; dream work; etc. Psychoanalysis has not only applied in literature, it has also been applied in sociology, anthropology, ethnology, religion, and mythology, arousing the interest of audience that had no inclination towards the clinical realm.
The pioneering figure of psychoanalysis is Sigmund Freud. He was an Austrian neurologist and mainly known as the father of psychoanalysis. Psychoanalytic criticism adopts the methods of “readings” presented by Freud to interpret the works of literature. Literature works like dreams; it expresses the secret unconscious desire and concerns of the author. The author creates his work out of his own imagination or experience. In other words, it is the written manifestation of the authors mind: conscious and unconscious.
Freudian interpretation has always been of considerable interest to literary critics. As the unconscious or subconscious like poem, novel, and play cannot speak overtly and clearly, but can speak through images, symbols, and metaphors. Similarly, literature does not make direct statements about life and expresses experience through images, symbols, and metaphors. Thus, the statements are not always clear and comprehensive, they often carries the hidden controversial meanings that can be dug by applying psychoanalytical interpretation of the text.
Psychoanalytical interpretation investigates evidence of covert emotions, conflicts, guilt, anxiety, and other psychological feelings of the author of a particular text. Psychoanalytical critics unearth all disguised feelings that may be represented in the form of a character or symbol.
In literary interpretation, the critics give central importance to the conscious and unconscious aspects. For instance, in the psychoanalytical interpretation of D.H Lawrence’s Sons and Lovers, we find that this novel can be interpreted by using Freud’s theory of Oedipus complex. By the using this theory as a tool to understand the text, one can easily find the traces of eccentric relationship of Paul with his mother. Paul transfers his guilty and incestuous feelings to Miriam and Clara, but is unable to satisfy himself because of his Oedipus complex. In the end of the novel when his mother dies, his repressed feelings for his mother slip out of his mouth:
“my love …… of my love,…. my love”
Freud’s Dream work is also related to literary criticism. All the characters, motivation, and events represented in dreams are very literary. Dreams are just like literature. They do not make clear statements. Both tend to communicate indirectly, avoiding direct presentation and represent meanings through concert embodiments of time, symbol, place, or person.
The importance of this approach is that it endorses the importance of literature. The literature is basically built on codes which carriers some covered meanings. The approach not seeks to highlight what author intends to say, it rather underlines what author was hiding unconsciously during the process of writing the text.