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ARTH301: Art Historical Methodologies

Unit 5: Psychoanalysis   This unit explores the use of psychoanalytic concepts in art historical scholarship. It begins by examining Freud and how some of his concepts—including his ideas of consciousness, the unconsciousness, and Object Relations Theory—be used to analyze artworks.  It then turns to the Lacanian concepts of “the gaze” and “object petit a,” which art historians have used in their analyses.  After completing this unit, you will be able to explain the major elements of psychoanalysis and how this methodology can be used to analyze a work of art. 

Unit 5 Time Advisory
This unit will take you approximately 20 hours to complete.

☐    Subunit 5.1: 10 hours

☐    Subunit 5.2: 10 hours

Unit5 Learning Outcomes
Upon successful completion of this unit, the student will be able to:

  • Identify and explain the major elements of Freudian psychoanalytic theory and how it can be used to analyze artwork.
  • Identify and explain Object Relations Theory and how it can be used to analyze artwork.
  • Explain Lacan’s theories of “the gaze” and “object petit a” and how they can be used to analyze artwork.

  • Reading: Lardbucket: Writing about Literature “3.2 Psychoanalytic Literary Criticism: An Overview”  Link: Lardbucket: Writing about Literature “3.2 Psychoanalytic Literary Criticism: An Overview” (HTML)
     
    Instructions: Read this article to review some of the basic approaches to psychoanalysis in literary criticism.
     
    Terms of Use: This resource is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 United States license without attributed as requested by the original publisher.

5.1 Freud and the Unconsciousness and Object Relations Theory   - Reading: Sweet Briar College: Amanda Switzenberg’s “The Methodologies of Art History” Link: Sweet Briar College: Amanda Switzenberg’s “The Methodologies of Art History” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Please read the text from “Psychoanalysis is a complex methodology…” to “Introductory Chapter of ‘After the End of Art.’”
 
Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • Reading: The University of Chicago: Theories of Media: Keyword Glossary: Kaitlin Pomerantz’s “Unconscious, Conscious” Link: The University of Chicago: Theories of Media: Keyword Glossary: Kaitlin Pomerantz’s “Unconscious, Conscious” (HTML)
     
    Instructions: Please read this page as an introduction Freud’s concept of the unconscious and its relationship with the art world and art history.
     
    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • Reading: The Psychology Department at Sonoma State University: Victor Daniel’s “Object Relations Theory” Link: The Psychology Department at Sonoma State University: Victor Daniel’s “Object Relations Theory” (HTML)
     
    Instructions: Please read the sections: “Overview,” “Central Concepts,” Melanie Klein,”  “Ronald Dodge Fairbairn,” and “D.W. Winnicott” for an overview of the main theoretical developments in Objects Relations Theory.  Aspects of this theory have been used to analyze art.
     
    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • Web Media: YouTube: NGATION’s “Psychoanalysis and Art” Link: NGATION’s “Psychoanalysis and Art” (YouTube)
     
    Instructions: Please watch this short video (1:30 minutes).  It explains D. W. Winicott’s theory of Transitional Objects and how it relates to art.
     
    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • Reading: Academy for the Study of the Psychoanalytic Arts: James Elkins’s “The Failed and the Inadvertent: Art History and the Concept of the Unconscious” Link: Academy for the Study of the Psychoanalytic Arts: James Elkins’s “The Failed and the Inadvertent: Art History and the Concept of the Unconscious” (HTML)
     
    Instructions: Please read this text in its entirety for an in-depth analysis of Freudian concept of the unconscious, Freud’s readings of various artworks, and a critique of how the unconscious has been and can be used by art historians.
     
    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • Lecture: Yale University: Paul Fry’s ENGL 300: Introduction to Theory of Literature “Lecture 12 - Freud and Fiction”  Link: Yale University: Paul Fry’s ENGL 300: Introduction to Theory of Literature “Lecture 12 - Freud and Fiction”(HTML)
     
    Instructions: View this lecture. It examines the relationship between authorship and the human psyche through a discussion of Sigmund Freud’s notion of the “pleasure principle.” You may also read a transcript of this lecture here.
     
    Terms of Use: These resources are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 license. They are attributed to Yale University and the original versions can be found here.

5.2 Lacan and “the Gaze”   - Reading: The University of Chicago: Theories of Media: Keyword Glossary: Phil Lee’s “Eye and Gaze” and Kristi McGuire’s “Object petit a” Links: The University of Chicago: Theories of Media: Keyword Glossary: Phil Lee’s “Eye and Gaze” (HTML) and Kristi McGuire’s “Object petit a” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Please read these pages as an introduction to the concept of the “the gaze,” a psychoanalytical tool popularized by Jacques Lacan and his conception of “object petit a.”  Many scholars have adopted and adapted this concept in art history and other disciplines, particularly Feminist art historians.
 
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  • Reading: Dr. Allen Faber’s “The Changing Concepts of the Gaze” Link: Dr. Allen Faber’s “The Changing Concepts of the Gaze” (HTML)

    Instructions: Please read the above page that includes excerpts from Marita Sturken and Lisa Cartwright,Practices of Looking: An Introduction to Visual Culture (Oxford, 2001), to get an idea of how Lacan’s ideas have been used to interpret films, art, and contemporary visual culture.

    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.