The unconscious war: literature, psychoanalysis, and citizenship, 1939-45

Hallahan, Charlotte (2021) The unconscious war: literature, psychoanalysis, and citizenship, 1939-45. Doctoral thesis, University of East Anglia.

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The Unconscious War examines the role of psychoanalysis in the cultural and literary history of the Second World War. This thesis suggests that psychoanalysis stretched its disciplinary boundaries in wartime, when analysts began to examine the psychology of the social-democratic citizen, the origins of morality, co-operation and empathy, and (conversely) aggression, delinquency, and disobedience. War also saw the increasing institutionalisation of psychoanalysis, with analysts offering childcare advice on the BBC, opening nurseries, and addressing specific problems posed by the tumultuous war environment. As the practice became more and more involved in social and political life, literary discussions about war-citizenry and social responsibility also began to adopt psychoanalytic language and tropes. Just as analysts examined the theoretical distinction between the ‘private’ and ‘public’ self, writers explored war citizenry through the language of the unconscious—of desire, emotion, and fantasy. Drawing from a range of writers and intellectuals, including Melanie Klein, Elizabeth Bowen, Donald W. Winnicott, Naomi Mitchison, and the organisers of Mass-Observation, I suggest that psychoanalysis became useful for exploring, celebrating, and interrogating contemporary notions of statehood and national identity. For instance, Bowen explores the uncanny and discomforting nature of social-democratic citizenship, the Mass-Observation organisers attempt to find evidence of a unifying social unconscious, Winnicott casts complex psychoanalytic knowledge in an everyday sound on the BBC, and Klein’s phantasy-oriented theories collapse the distinction between ‘self’ and ‘society’ altogether. This thesis thus works to deepen our understanding of the social history of psychoanalysis and its influence on works of late modernist literature.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Faculty \ School: Faculty of Arts and Humanities > School of Literature and Creative Writing (former - to 2011)
Depositing User: Chris White
Date Deposited: 11 Jul 2022 13:41
Last Modified: 11 Jul 2022 13:41


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