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Psychoanalysis and Contemporary Society MA

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  • Objectives
    Are you: * Wishing to develop or extend your interest in psychoanalysis? * Interested in psychoanalytic approaches to contemporary social issues? * Keen to explore Freudian and post Freudian analysis, theoretically as well as clinically? This MA is designed to provide you with a training in classical and contemporary psychoanalytic theory. Since psychoanalytic knowledge is derived from clinical practice the theory cannot be taught outside its relation to practice. This course maintains a constant attention to the relation between theory and practice. It provides you with a clinical grounding through its emphasis on the clinical writings of Freud, Klein and Lacan. Classic case studies, contemporary cases and case presentations by practising analysts are central to this course. The MA also offers the opportunity to develop a psychoanalytic approach to contemporary socio-cultural issues, in particular to questions of the image and of feminist/political theory. It is organised upon the conviction that psychoanalytic theory needs to be understood in its own terms and that it produces a thinking that can be properly called psychoanalytic. The world can be thought in psychoanalytic terms and its problems and their solutions can be understood psychoanalytically.
  • Entry requirements
    This degree is relevant to a wide range of graduates in the Social Sciences, Humanities and Fine Art, as well as those with professional interests in psychotherapy and analysis who wish to develop and apply their skills to the issues and areas on which this degree focuses. Previous and current students have included art and film students, teachers and art historians as well as psychologists and analysts - and recently included a performance artist. Many overseas students have also undertaken this degree not only from most European countries but also from Latin America and elsewhere.
  • Academic Title
    Psychoanalysis and Contemporary Society MA
  • Course description
    This MA is designed to provide you with a training in classical and contemporary psychoanalytic theory. This course maintains a constant attention to the relation between theory and practice. It provides you with a clinical grounding through its emphasis on the clinical writings of Freud, Klein and Lacan. The MA also offers the opportunity to develop a psychoanalytic approach to contemporary cultural issues, in particular to questions of the image and of feminist/political theory.

    Course Details

    The course engages with the issue of the relation between the psychoanalytic and social fields by exploring how to think a psychoanalytic social theory. Unlike many approaches to theorising the social in relation to the psychoanalytic field, it does not approach this question by adding "psychoanalysis" to an already existing theory of the social world, nor by reducing the social to the psychic. Rather, it questions how we can provide a specifically psychoanalytic account of social relations. In thinking the relation between psyche and sociality, it engages with the issues raised by the psychoanalytic and feminist accounts of sexuality. These issues are taken and further explored in an examination of psychoanalysis as social theory, particularly as developed by Slavoj Zizek. This work enables us to consider social relations as real, imaginary and symbolic relations between subjects. The social in the psychoanalytic field is rethought as constituted in phantasmatic and symbolic relations between subjects. Rethinking the social relation in this way raises questions about the relation between social change and the clinic, bringing the question of sociality within the field of clinical practice. In this way, the social relation is re-inscribed in the psychoanalytic relation.

    The relation between social change and the clinic is also explored through the aesthetic object. If we take seriously the proposition that the world is psychoanalytic, then we can take the aesthetic object and treat it psychoanalytically. Unlike much work in this area, this course does not begin with the particular disciplinary formulation of the art object as a function of art history, art criticism or a clinical reading. Instead, it questions how we can provide a psychoanalytic account of the aesthetic object and what a psychoanalytic practice in the field of art might be. We can only do this by starting with the knowledge acquired in psychoanalytic clinical practice. Nonetheless the psychoanalytic field of art has its own autonomy. This course and the work of the students on it will contribute to the development of that autonomous field. The knowledge derived from the encounter with the cultural object has implications for the clinic. After all, when Freud could not solve the riddle of sexual difference he told us to go to the poets for enlightenment. Cultural practices can signal social change. A psychoanalytic understanding of these practices can raise questions for clinical practice.

    Modules are subject to variation and students are advised to check with the School whether a particular module of interest will be running in their year of entry.

    Typical modules (all core)

        * Foundations of Psychoanalytic Theory
          Main topics of study: the origin and development of psychoanalysis; sexuality and the unconscious; neurosis, perversion, psychosis; the foundations of psychoanalytic technique; Freud's case-studies; the second topography; the work of Melanie Klein, Donald W. Winnicott, Jacques Lacan; psychoanalytic theories of psychosis; psychoanalytic views on addiction; the so-called ‘new symptoms' in contemporary society.

        * Clinical Interventions in Psychoanalysis
          Main topics of study: the case-study of the Rat Man; the case-study of the Wolf Man; paradigmatic cases in the psychoanalytic literature; differential diagnosis; the direction of the psychoanalytic treatment; interpretation, transference and countertransference; the position of the analyst; psychoanalysis and suggestion;
          professional case presentations and their clinical difficulties; a case of auto-erotic asphyxia; psychoanalytic theory development and clinical practice.

        * Symptom and Society
          Main topics of study: Freud's cardinal works on culture and society; the Lacanian concept of the object; recent psychoanalytic developments on the issues of groups, social identity and community life; the relationship between contemporary symptoms and the so-called ‘decline of the paternal function' within Western society; sadism; murder; the representation of violence and the question of ethics; psychoanalytic interpretations of representations of violence (Pasolini's ‘Saló; Lars von Trier's ‘Dogville'; Michael Powell's ‘Peeping Tom').

        * Research Methods in Psychoanalysis
          Main topics of study: psychoanalytic epistemologies; knowledge and truth in psychoanalysis; induction, deduction and abduction; the logic of psychoanalytic discovery; the validation of psychoanalytic theory and practice; how to set up a psychoanalytic research project; logical reasoning and the anticipation of certainty; the object and the subject in psychoanalysis; how to access psychoanalytic resources; how to develop a psychoanalytic argument; the interface between theory and practice in psychoanalysis.

        * Dissertation
          Recent examples of dissertations by students taking this course include:
              o Psychoanalysis and racial identity: exploring the impasse;
              o The perverse prostitute, the neurotic woman, the stereotyped female;
              o Psychosis and the image;
              o On nightmares.

    Assessment

    Individual modules are assessed. There is also a final 15,000 word dissertation.

    Careers

    After undertaking this degree you will be equipped to understand and further develop your interests in pschychoanalytic practice and the psychoanalytic study of contemporary social issues. Some students have gone on to teach and lecture in this area; others have become (Lacanian) analysts, or taken other intensive analytic training courses; several students have subsequently undertaken PhD degrees not only directly in psychoanalytic studies but also in Art History; others have used their degrees in different kinds of ways through careers in business and the commercial sector, or in youth work and management. The diversity of career paths taken by graduates from the degree emphasises its enriching role in a wide variety of ways in developing both personal and professional opportunities.

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