Freud, Psychoanalysis and Culture: Lockdown Lecture Series

Oedipus_and_the_Sphinx Gustave Moreau 1864

I will be giving a presentation for the Freud, Psychoanalysis and Culture Lockdown Lecture Series, organised by Dr Luke Devine at the University of Worcester, on Monday 13th July at 5 pm. The lectures will take place online and details can be found in the link.

My talk Beware the Boa Constructor! Freud, Modern Art and the Riddle of Interpretation takes its title from the art historian Erwin Panofsky, who would warn his students against ignoring historical facts for the convenience of a compelling theory. Ernst Gombrich made reference to the ‘boa constructor’ in his 1984 lecture on Freud’s aesthetic theory ‘Verbal Wit as a Paradigm of Art’, where he used it as an example of a play on words that reveals a ‘trapdoor’ to the unconscious. Most of Freud’s references to the Fine Arts were classical and he was famously unmoved by modern movements like Expressionism and Surrealism which purportedly brought the artists unconscious into aesthetic form. For Freud an artist’s unconscious should be mediated by the technical traditions and cultural conventions of established art forms rather than trying to subvert or transgress them. The riddle of interpretation for modern art is exemplified by Freud’s pre-occupation with Michelangelo’s sculpture of Moses, which had a formative role in his own auto-analysis, exemplifying his struggle against academic discipline and ‘the law of the father’. The riddle Freudian psychoanalysis poses for both the making and appreciation of works of art since Modernism, I argue, is whether meaning resides primarily in the intentions of the maker or the unconscious of the interpreter?

The lectures take place in a virtual classroom, so to attend click the link in the title of the lecture (on the page linked above) on the appropriate day/ time.

The program begins on Wednesday 8th July at 5 pm with Luke’s lecture on ‘Freud and Political Psychology’.




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