Readings in Literature and Critical Theory (Post-1800)

L657 — Fall 2021

Patricia Clare Ingham
Days and Times
11:30a - 12:45p TR (4 CR)
Course Description

*Meets with CTIH T600 Special Topics in Critical Theory*

Topic: The Feeling Body: Psychoanalysis, Phenomenology, and Embodied Cognition

What is the place of psychoanalysis in the age of the brain? If cognitive science once seemed to render psychoanalysis yesterday’s news, recent neuroscientific conceptualizations of embodied or distributed cognition have returned us to perplexing questions familiar from a century of psychoanalytic work: what is the nature of the unconscious? What explains the persistence of psychic trauma in excess of history, or the event? How are we to understand how and why emotional states (depression or anxiety, e.g.) are ‘catching’? What is the role of ‘mirroring’ in art, in mothering, or in our motor neurons?

This course will stage a conversation across three fields: psychoanalysis, phenomenology, and cognitive science, so as to assess a recent set of integrative accounts of body and mind. Rather than duplicate stale oppositions of biology to history, organism to environment, or neuroscience to psychoanalysis, we will read neuroscience alongside psychoanalytic theory. How and why does Norman Doidge’s “Psychoanalysis as a Neuroplastic Therapy,” return us to Freudian theory and praxis? What are the implications of Catharine Malabou’s account of ‘negative plasticity’ (in The New Wounded) for a reading of Freud’s account of the repetition compulsion in Beyond the Pleasure Principle?

Attention to the affordances as well as to methodological and evidentiary differences will frame our turn to recent work on embodied cognition, particularly some persuasive models of ’enactivism,’ those mixed accounts that accommodate both the body in environment and the effect of thinking and feeling on accounts of both. We will read Giovanna Colombetti’s The Feeling Body’ (MIT, 2014) and Elizabeth Wilson's Gut Feminism (Duke, 2017) alongside the standard psychoanalytic theories with which they engage. Possible topics under discussion include trauma (and trauma theory); aesthetics and aesthetic experience; biologism and its vicissitudes; models of the unconscious; theories of interpersonal attunement; attachment theory. No previous familiarity with either psychoanalysis or neuroscience is expected, but everyone should come with an open mind. I welcome your suggestions.

Other theorists under study are likely to include, Sigmund Freud, Melanie Klein, Norman Doidge, Jacques Lacan, Sandor Ferenczi, Donald Winnicott, Laura Otis, Vittorio Gallese, Catharine Malabou; Françoise Davoine and Jean-Max Gaudillière.

Interested in this course?

The full details of this course are available on the Office of the Registrar website.

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