Freud: Psychoanalysis and Its Legacies

« Return to Course Catalog

One Section Available to Choose From:

Course DatesLengthMeeting TimesStatusFormatInstructor(s)CRN
June 21, 2021 - July 21, 20216/21 - 7/214 WeeksOnlineOpenOnlineMirjam Paninski

Course Description

What does it mean to know yourself? Why is love so painful? What is the source of man’s belief in God? How does history repeat itself? Why do our dreams haunt us? Is there a difference between men and women? What is an Oedipus complex, and do you have one? Sigmund Freud devoted his life to answering these questions.

In this course, we will dive deep into the theories of psychoanalysis to explore how Freud’s work shapes our modern understanding of dreams, desires, love, sexuality, neurosis, religion, and society. We will read Freud’s most influential texts, including The Interpretation of Dreams, Studies on Hysteria, and Civilization and Its Discontents, as well as the classic essays “On Narcissism,” and “The Uncanny.” Focusing on Freud’s conception of the unconscious, we will ask what it means to have part of our own psyches unknown to us and consider whether “who we are” is ever as stable as we might like to believe. What does it mean to study something "the unconscious" that is inherently unknowable? Though Dr. Freud considered himself a man of science, his work has found a home in the humanities, particularly in literature and film. This course will explore the boundary between science and the arts, considering what kind of knowledge each discipline produces and how psychoanalysis complicates this divide. We will read contemporary texts from cognitive science and neuroscience to see how psychoanalysis holds up today. We will also read selections of novels by Vladmir Nabokov and Philip Roth and watch films by Alfred Hitchcock, Woody Allen, and Ingmar Bergman to round out our literary understanding of Freud.

Modeled after an undergraduate seminar, this course will offer students the opportunity to prepare themselves for college-level courses of all disciplines. Most importantly, this course will ask students to think critically. Reading a text, especially Freud’s, means reading between the lines, looking below the surface. These critical reading skills will benefit students in whichever major they choose, from literature to economics to physics. Class will be organized around discussion and debate to encourage students to speak their mind persuasively and articulately. Students will keep a dream journal, not only to build a personal connection with the course material, but also to foster creativity and intuition. Writing is a key part of the class, and essays and short responses will strengthen students’ command of the written word, from structure to style.

Prerequisites: None

Course Information

  • Course Code: CEPY0928

Program Information


Brown’s Pre-College Program in the liberal arts and sciences for students completing grades 9-12 by June 2021.

Visit Program Page View Course Pricing Information Sessions Learn How to Apply