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Radford, J. (1986). Psychoanalytic Criticism: Theory in Practice (1984), by Elizabeth Wright. Methuen, xii + 208 pages, hb £8.95, pb £3.95. Free Associations, 1(5):144-146.

(1986). Free Associations, 1(5):144-146

Psychoanalytic Criticism: Theory in Practice (1984), by Elizabeth Wright. Methuen, xii + 208 pages, hb £8.95, pb £3.95

Review by:
Jean Radford

The last ten years have seen a radical transformation in the study of literature both within the institution and without. The Methuen New Accents series has perhaps done more than any other single publisher to lead literary studies out of the splendid isolation to which it had become confined. Having published volumes on the new critical theories — structuralism, semiotics, deconstruction — which draw, in some cases heavily, on psychoanalytic theories, they have now issued a very welcome, full-length volume on the subject.

Elizabeth Wright's Psychoanalytic Criticism is an ambitious attempt to discuss what is by now a very wide field. Starting from Freud's initial pronouncements, she examines classical psychoanalysis, object-relations theory, and structural and post-structural psychoanalytic thinking on literature and art. In her own metaphor, the reader is led from ‘the enclosed space of applied psychoanalytic criticism to wider pastures’, to the complex interaction between literacy and psychoanalytic discourses which faces the student of literature and cultural studies today. Her account is immensely knowledgeable, densely argued, with good cross referencing and much suggestive detail.

The major difficulty of this book is its compression, which I fear will send many students reeling backwards in despair and disbelief. To sketch Freudian, Jungian, Kleinian and Lacanian positions (to name just a few), then to discuss their different applications to cultural production, is an enormous project.

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