Psychoanalysis: Controversies and Contexts

The details
Psychosocial and Psychoanalytic Studies
Colchester Campus
Postgraduate: Level 7
Sunday 15 January 2023
Friday 24 March 2023
14 September 2021


Requisites for this module



Key module for

MA C89012 Psychoanalytic Studies,
MA C89024 Psychoanalytic Studies,
MA C890MO Psychoanalytic Studies,
MPHDC89048 Psychoanalytic Studies,
PHD C89048 Psychoanalytic Studies

Module description

This module explores intellectual, cultural, social and interdisciplinary contexts of the development of psychoanalysis and its theoretical and clinical ideas. This is firstly with a view to providing a better understanding of how certain concepts and issues arose in a particular historical and cultural climate, and how they were shaped by this; and secondly, as a way of drawing attention to certain complex or contentious facets of psychoanalysis which have become points of transition or dispute – either in a broader interdisciplinary context, or within the development of psychoanalysis itself.The rationale here is that
i) even where psychoanalysis presents itself as its own clinical construct, with its own specific objects and methodologies, it has often trespassed onto other disciplinary terrains (cultural interpretation, anthropology, philosophy, politics and so on) in the act of formulating its concepts and practices.
ii) Certain notions – such as 'instinct/drive' or the 'unconscious', or 'phantasy' – are complex terms which do not reveal their full implications without some knowledge of the broader cultural and scientific context.
iii) Certain ideas have become objects of dispute within psychoanalysis itself and it is therefore useful to supplement understanding of the 'theory' with some knowledge of the nature of the debate surrounding them.

Module aims

• To provide historical, philosophical, and cultural background that will enrich understanding of the origin and nature of psychoanalysis;
• To foster a critical approach to the history and theory of psychoanalysis.

Module learning outcomes

By the end of the module students should be able to:

Show how psychoanalysis emerged out of, differentiated itself from, and continues to develop in relationship to specific but complex socio-cultural conditions (both immediate and long-term);

Discuss psychoanalysis with a critical awareness of its diversity and complexity, of its past and of the disputed histories of that past, and of its continual change in the present;

Demonstrate how psychoanalysis provides critical theoretical perspectives both on the events and circumstances of its own past and on the disciplines (e.g., biography, history, philosophy) by which we might try to establish and evaluate its past;

Deploy various critical and academic skills (e.g., how to evaluate historical sources, philosophical arguments, or cultural artefacts) in the investigation of the theories and texts of psychoanalysis.

Module information

Students are reminded that they are required to come to seminars fully prepared to participate in the learning process. This means, minimally, having done the essential reading and being prepared and motivated to engage in debate and discussion, and to raise critical questions.

Learning and teaching methods

In general, each seminar will include an overview of the topic, presented by the seminar leader. Students may also be required to give brief presentations on set texts in certain weeks aimed at opening up discussion on the topic for that week. This will be followed by discussion and occasional group work aiming to get to grips with questions arising from the set readings. NB: In order for the Aims and Learning Outcomes to be achieved students are reminded that they are required to come to seminars fully prepared to participate in the learning process. This means, at a minimum, having done the essential reading and being prepared and motivated to engage in debate and discussion, and to raise critical questions.


  • Anne Hayman. (1994) 'Some Remarks about the 'Controversial Discussions'', in International Journal of Psycho-Analysis. vol. 75, pp.343-358
  • Heinz Hartmann, M.D. (1946) 'Comments on the Formation of Psychic Structure', in Psychoanalytic Study of the Child. vol. 2, pp.11-38
  • Niro Nascimento, Leonardo. (no date) On Brucke's Lab.
  • Ilse Grubrich-Simitis. (1988) 'Trauma or Drive—drive and Trauma—A Reading of Sigmund Freud's Phylogenetic Fantasy of 1915', in Psychoanalytic Study of the Child. vol. 43, pp.3-32
  • Frank J. Sulloway. (1992) Freud, biologist of the mind, Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press.
  • Herzog, Dagmar. (2017) Cold War Freud: psychoanalysis in an age of catastrophes, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Winnicott, D. W.; Winnicott, Clare; Shepherd, Ray; Davis, Madeleine. (1986) Home is where we start from: essays by a psychoanalyst, Harmondsworth: Penguin.
  • Rothgeb, Carrie Lee. (1905) 'Fragment of an Analysis of a Case of Hysteria', in The standard edition of the complete psychological works of Sigmund Freud, London: Hogarth Press and the Institute of Psycho-Analysis. vol. Volume VII (1901-1905): A Case of Hysteria, Three Essays on Sexuality and Other Works
  • Rothgeb, Carrie Lee. (1915) 'Instincts and their Vicissitudes', in The standard edition of the complete psychological works of Sigmund Freud, London: Hogarth Press and the Institute of Psycho-Analysis. vol. Volume XIV (1914-1916): On the History of the Psycho-Analytic Movement, Papers on Metapsychology and Other Works
  • Klein, Melanie. (1927) 'Symposium on Child-Analysis', in International Journal of Psycho-Analysis. vol. 8, pp.339-370
  • (2016) Psychoanalysis in the age of totalitarianism, New York: Routledge.
  • Caruth, Cathy. (1995) Trauma: explorations in memory, Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.
  • Winnicott, D. W. (1964, reprinted 1978) The child, the family and the outside world, Harmondsworth: Penguin Books.
  • Moi, Toril. (1990) 'Representation of Patriarchy: Sexuality and Epistemology in Freud's Dora', in In Dora's Case: Freud--Hysteria--Feminism, New York: Columbia University Press., pp.181-199
  • Laplanche, J.; Pontalis, J. B. (1973) 'The Language of Psycho-Analysis: Translated by Donald Nicholson-Smith', in The International Psycho-Analytical Library. vol. 94, pp.1-497
  • Niro Nascimento, Leonardo. (2017) 'Evolution in the brain, evolution in the mind: The hierarchical brain and the interface between psychoanalysis and neuroscience', in Psychoanalysis and History. vol. 19 (3) , pp.349-377
  • Riley, Denise. (1983) War in the nursery: theories of the child and mother, London: Virago.
  • Heinz Hartmann, M.D. (1951) 'Technical Implications of Ego Psychology', in Psychoanalytic Quarterly. vol. 20, pp.31-43
  • von Helmholtz, H. (2000) 'Concerning the perceptions in general', in Visual perception: Essential readings, Hove: Psychology Press., pp.24-44
  • Zaretsky, Eli. (2005) Secrets of the soul: a social and cultural history of psychoanalysis, New York: Vintage.

The above list is indicative of the essential reading for the course. The library makes provision for all reading list items, with digital provision where possible, and these resources are shared between students. Further reading can be obtained from this module's reading list.

Assessment items, weightings and deadlines

Coursework / exam Description Deadline Weighting
Coursework   Essay    100% 

Overall assessment

Coursework Exam
100% 0%


Coursework Exam
100% 0%
Module supervisor and teaching staff
Prof Matt Ffytche, email:
Student Administrator 5A.202; Tel: 01206 873745; Email:



External examiner

Dr Noreen Giffney
Ulster University, Jordanstown Campus, Northern Ireland
Lecturer in Counselling
Available via Moodle
Of 468 hours, 18 (3.8%) hours available to students:
450 hours not recorded due to service coverage or fault;
0 hours not recorded due to opt-out by lecturer(s).


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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