Both psychoanalysis and autobiography are ways of re-telling a life. Psychoanalysis is often called "the talking cure" because, as patients tell the analyst more and more about their lives (their thoughts, dreams, memories, hopes, fears, relationships, jobs, and fantasies), they start to recognize themselves in new ways, and this can help them overcome conflicts, impasses, bad feelings, and even psychiatric illnesses that have kept them from flourishing. Autobiographers do something similar as they remember, re-examine, and re-tell their lives - though one very important difference is that they do so, not privately in a psychoanalyst's office, but publicly in books that anyone may read.
This seminar is a comparative exploration of these different ways of a re-telling a life. We'll ask: What sorts of narratives do patients and autobiographers construct? What is the "truth" of such narratives? How complete can they be? What are the potential risks and benefits of re-telling one's life, either (aloud) in psychotherapy or (in writing) in an autobiography? What is the role of the analyst/reader in the construction of such narratives? What are the possibilities and limits of self-analysis? Students will come away from the course with a general understanding of 1) psychoanalytic theory and practice from Freud to the present, 2) the literary genre of autobiography, and 3) the meaning and importance of narrative in all of our lives. Seminar readings will include 1) famous psychoanalytic case-histories and other major works of clinical theory and metapsychology by such authors as Christopher Bollas, Muriel Dimen, Erik Erikson, Sigmund Freud, Kay Redfield Jamison, Deborah Luepnitz, Theodor Reik, and Roy Schafer, and 2) major autobiographical works by such authors as St. Augustine, James Baldwin, Alison Bechdel, Vladimir Nabakov, Friedrich Nietzsche, Annie Rogers, Lauren Slater, and Barbara Taylor.
In addition to the required reading and regular participation in seminar discussion, students will write several very short essays, prepare and deliver a brief presentation to the class, and write/produce a hybrid creative-scholarly autobiographical project that will be due at the end of the semester. Like most courses affiliated with the Psychoanalytic Studies Minor, this seminar will be team-taught by a humanities scholar (Prof. Cavitch) and a practicing psychoanalyst (Dr. Moore), who designed the course together. Feel free to contact them if you have any questions about this seminar: email@example.com / firstname.lastname@example.org.