UC Berkeley Department of Film and Media

Department of Film & Media UC Berkeley

Courses / Graduate

Spring 2018

240-001 | CCN: 32584

Graduate Topics in Film - Freud and Lacan

Mary Ann Doane,

Readings of major texts by Freud and Lacan will stress the relations between language, subjectivity, sexuality and the feminist use and/or critique of psychoanalytic concepts.  This course will analyze psychoanalysis from three perspectives: 1. as a theory of subjectivity; 2. as a mode of reading/interpretation; and 3. as a text.  We will stress Freud’s metapsychological texts and later writings by Lacan that attempt to construct a theory of the psychical apparatus.  This theory raises questions about subjects and their relations to language, issues of intersubjectivity, memory, history and subjectivity, sexuality and sexual difference, race and the limits of psychoanalysis.  We will also look at the continuing attempts to articulate a relation between psychoanalysis and Marxism.  To address psychoanalysis as a theory means to explore its coherencies and incoherencies, contradictions, relations to other theoretical discourses and the way in which the concept of the unconscious fractures knowledge.  Secondly, Freudian and Lacanian psychoanalysis will be attended to as modes of reading, as providing a hermeneutics or methodology for analyzing film, literature or other forms of representation.  This means interrogating the idea of a psychoanalytic reading, how one might produce such a thing.  What are the assumptions psychoanalysis makes about the existence of a depth (the latent text vs. the manifest text) or about a form of textual unconscious that is accessible only through the reading of symptoms of a text (its excesses or contradictions which reveal unacknowledged tensions about sexuality, power, racial difference or modernity)?  Finally, we will approach the works of Freud and Lacan as themselves texts, subjecting their writing to close analysis in order to isolate avatars, impasses and contradictions that point to the unconscious of psychoanalysis.  Throughout, we will circle back to some pivotal questions:  What is a subject? What is a symptom?  What is the relation between language and the unconscious?  What is the difference between memory and history?


Although the course will focus primarily on works by Freud and Lacan, we will also read other relevant texts by Jean Laplanche, Jaqueline Rose, Judith Butler, Jacques Derrida and Jean-Paul Sartre.  This is not a film or literature course per se but an attempt to grapple with psychoanalysis on its own terms.  Familiarity with semiotic, structuralist and post-structuralist theory is required.  Students should read or review Saussure’s Course in General Linguistics before the course begins.