Freudian Critical Methods

Freudian critical methods, alternatively, involve deciphering the symbolism of texts according to a theory of the human mind (rather than the human economy). In Interpretation of Dreams, Freud explicated a methodology based upon the assumption that the subconscious hides the desires of the unconscious from consciousness. This falsification occurs because these desires are socially unacceptable, e.g., incest. A critical historian of the Freudian school might interpret a labor union pamphlet (of the example above) as representing sexual struggle between younger and older members of the labor union and not see economic issues as fundamental. Freudian methods have been especially useful in understanding first-person documents, such as Isaac Newton’s copybooks.In the case of the labor union pamphlet, Freudian theory might establish the primary context as one of psychological conflict between generations.


Erik Erikson, Young Man LutherLuther, M.: A Study in Psychoanalysis and History (New York: Norton, 1958);

Lewis Feuer, The Scientific Intellectual: The Psychological and Sociological Origins of Modern Science (New York: Basic Books, Inc., Publishers, 1963);

Sigmund Freud, Moses and Monotheism, Translated by Katherine Jones (New York: Vintage, 1939);

Eric Fromm, Escape from Freedom, First Edition 1941, Reprint Edition (New York: Avon Books, 1965);

Winthrop D. Jordan, White Over Black: American Attitudes Toward the Negro, 1550-1812 (Chapel Hill, North Carolina: Published for the Institute of Early American History and Culture by the University of North Carolina Press, 1968), Chapter 1, “First Impressions: Initial English Confrontation with Africans,” pp. 3-43;

G.E.R. Lloyd, Demystifying Mentalities (Cambridge [England]: Cambridge University Press, 1990);

Frank E. Manuel, A Portrait of Isaac NewtonNewton, I., Belknap Press (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1968);

Herbert Marcuse, One Dimensional Man: Studies in the Ideology of Advanced Industrial Society (Boston: Beacon Press, 1964);

David Stannard, Shrinking History: On Freud and the Failure of Psychoanalysis (New York: Oxford University Press, 1980).