The Turn of the Screw

The Effect of Freud's Theory of Psychoanalysis on Literary Criticism College

Sigmund Freud, as a nineteenth century neurologist, intricately studied the workings of the human mind, leading him to develop a controversial theory termed psychoanalysis. He differentiated between that which we knowingly do and think, and what that which we unconsciously repress, constructing a model of the separate divisions of the human psyche and its processes. In this essay I shall both explain Freud’s theory, as well as outline its implications for literary criticism as the unconscious thoughts of both the characters and the writer come into play.

According to Freud’s process of psychoanalysis, the mind exists not as one single unit, but is rather separated into three distinct divisions: the conscious mind, the preconscious mind, and the unconscious mind. Freud uses an iceberg analogy in order to better explain his ideas about the levels of the mind. Here, the conscious mind is shown as comparable to the tip of an iceberg, the only part which is clearly exposed above sea level. This level encompasses the thoughts and feelings which we are aware of and our rational everyday thought processes. The preconscious exists just below ‘sea level’, and can be accessed when necessary but is not constantly in awareness, much like...

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