The Psychic Life of Gender

The details
Psychosocial and Psychoanalytic Studies
Colchester Campus
Postgraduate: Level 7
Thursday 03 October 2024
Friday 13 December 2024
02 July 2024


Requisites for this module



Key module for

MA C89012 Psychoanalytic Studies,
MA C89024 Psychoanalytic Studies,
MA C890MO Psychoanalytic Studies,
MA L32112 Gender and Sexuality Studies,
MPHDC89048 Psychoanalytic Studies,
PHD C89048 Psychoanalytic Studies

Module description

This module focusses on the psychoanalytic case study as a distinct genre of writing in the Humanities and as a Social-Scientific method through which knowledge claims about gender and sexuality are constructed, contested, and reconfigured. Across the module, we will consider topics such as the history of hysteria as a female complaint; the gendered politics of the Oedipal schema; the relationship between gender identity and identification; the "queering" of desire; sexuality and the so-called "perversions"; and the binary organization of sex. Students will become familiar with psychoanalytic concepts and frameworks, and learn how to situate them historically and critically with reference to other discourses of sex, gender and sexuality (e.g. sexology, feminism, queer theory).

An emphasis on the case study brings a methodological focus to the module and provides students with distinct reading and research skills. By spending consecutive weeks on a 'single' case, we develop familiarity with a set of reading and writing practices such as iterative and 'contrapuntal' reading; close and 'distant' reading; practices of 'writing through' and 'writing back'. We also incorporate a practical workshop on the 'Single Case Archive' which foregrounds the epistemological debates in the social sciences regarding case study methodology. With our methodological framing in place (weeks 1; 2; 3), we then move on to our cases.

We begin with one of Freud's 'big five' case studies, 'Dora' (weeks 4; 5; 7). From a close reading of Freud's primary text, we pay special attention to the principle of psychic bisexuality, the nature of the symptom, and the gendered dynamics of the counter-/transference. Over the subsequent two weeks we sample some of the psychoanalytic, feminist, and inter-textual readings of the case that have attempted to re-voice Ida Bauer and thus ensured 'Dora's' relevance to the field of gender and sexuality studies well beyond her 'treatment' with Freud.

We close with 'Agnes' (week 8; 9; 10). Agnes can be read as the first psycho-social case study of a transitioning person, as well as a kind of 'test case' in the studies of gender identity as they were evolving in the mid-twentieth century. In our examination of this case, we pay attention to the co-construction of 'Agnes' by multiple disciplines and disciplinary authorities (principally, Robert Stoller and Harold Garfinkle). Again, through practices of re-reading, we go on to explore the place of 'Agnes' in contemporary transgender debates.

Module aims

The aims of this module are:

  • To introduce students to the sizable body of literature on psychoanalysis and gender.

  • To introduce students to interdisciplinary reading and writing practices associated with the case study.

  • To foster in students a critical awareness of gender as a social and discursive construct

  • To enable students to productively identify and critique the historical limitations of psychoanalysis with regard to contemporary perspectives on gender and sexuality.

Module learning outcomes

By the end of this module, students will be expected to be able to:

  1. Gain an understanding of key psychoanalytic concepts and frameworks for the study of gender and sexuality.

  2. Gain a secure understanding of key debates in the social sciences (and psychotherapy research) regarding the case study method.

  3. Gain an appreciation of the case study as a genre in the Humanities disciplines.

  4. Have familiarity with relevant feminist and queer literature on psychoanalysis including an awareness of the political limitations of some psychoanalytic formulations of gender and/or sex.

  5. Gain a critical and historically informed sensitivity to contemporary debates on sex, gender and sexuality,

Module information

Indicative Syllabus

  1. Introduction

  2. Making the case: A Social Sciences perspective. Pre-class engagement with

  3. Making the case: A Humanities / Literary perspective

  4. 'Dora' (1)

  5. 'Dora' (2)

  6. Reading Week

  7. 'Dora' (3)

  8. 'Agnes' (1)

  9. Agnes (2)

  10. Agnes (3)

Learning and teaching methods

This module will be delivered via: 

  • 9 x 2-hour class


This module does not appear to have a published bibliography for this year.

Assessment items, weightings and deadlines

Coursework / exam Description Deadline Coursework weighting
Coursework   Psychic Life of Gender: Explorations in the Case Study     
Coursework   Psychic Life of Gender: Explorations in the Case Study     
Coursework   Psychic Life of Gender: Explorations in the Case Study     

Additional coursework information

Case Study Archive skills test Descriptive Writing skills test 1 x 3000 word essay

Exam format definitions

  • Remote, open book: Your exam will take place remotely via an online learning platform. You may refer to any physical or electronic materials during the exam.
  • In-person, open book: Your exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may refer to any physical materials such as paper study notes or a textbook during the exam. Electronic devices may not be used in the exam.
  • In-person, open book (restricted): The exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may refer only to specific physical materials such as a named textbook during the exam. Permitted materials will be specified by your department. Electronic devices may not be used in the exam.
  • In-person, closed book: The exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may not refer to any physical materials or electronic devices during the exam. There may be times when a paper dictionary, for example, may be permitted in an otherwise closed book exam. Any exceptions will be specified by your department.

Your department will provide further guidance before your exams.

Overall assessment

Coursework Exam
100% 0%


Coursework Exam
100% 0%
Module supervisor and teaching staff
Dr Chenyang Wang, email:
Dr Chenyang Wang
Email Room 5A.202



External examiner

Dr James Burford
Warwick University
Assistant Professor of Global Education and International Development
Available via Moodle
Of 18 hours, 18 (100%) hours available to students:
0 hours not recorded due to service coverage or fault;
0 hours not recorded due to opt-out by lecturer(s), module, or event type.


Further information

* Please note: due to differing publication schedules, items marked with an asterisk (*) base their information upon the previous academic year.

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