A Freudian Dream: Interpretations of A Midsummer Night’s Dream by Psychoanalysts and Psychoanalytically Informed Literary Critics

Jacobs, Michael (2017). A Freudian Dream: Interpretations of A Midsummer Night’s Dream by Psychoanalysts and Psychoanalytically Informed Literary Critics. PhD thesis The Open University.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.21954/ou.ro.0000bd2f


The thesis analyses interpretations of A Midsummer Night’s Dream by Freudian and post-Freudian clinicians, and by literary critics influenced by psychoanalytic theory. The primary material is principally taken from the Psychoanalytic Electronic Publishing database, and includes 37 papers or chapters by psychoanalysts and some by psychoanalytically informed literary critics, addressing aspects of the Dream. This considerable body of critical analysis of the play has largely been ignored by literary critics. Certain themes in this substantial body of criticism are identified and analysed: how dreams in the play have been variously interpreted psychoanalytically; the clinical interest in dreams within a dream and the relevance of this to the play and to the device of the play within the play; the dark side of the Dream including the function of comedy to disguise the play’s nightmare quality; and the dominance of oedipal interpretations to the neglect of other aspects of Freud’s writing about love. The thesis considers how far psychoanalytic criticism of the play reflects changes in psychoanalytic theory and phases of literary criticism. The thesis highlights the absence of meaningful interaction between Freudian clinicians and literary critics who examine the Dream during the same sixty year period from the 1950s, missing opportunities for productive intellectual dialogue. The thesis observes that literary critics refer more than clinicians to more recent psychoanalytic thinking; and that there are places where the clinicians could have enhanced their interpretations by reference to Freud’s writing on humour, on love and object choices, on illusion and transference-love. The thesis concludes that psychoanalytic critics of the play make a complementary contribution to literary criticism, and that the papers merit greater prominence in the reception history of the play.

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  • Item ORO ID
  • 48431
  • Item Type
  • PhD Thesis
  • Keywords
  • psychoanalytic criticism; Shakespeare; Freud; Gui; Goldstein; Grinstein; Oedipus complex; psychology in literature; psychoanalysis and literature
  • Academic Unit or School
  • Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (FASS)
  • Copyright Holders
  • © 2016 The Author
  • Depositing User
  • Michael David Jacobs