Spring 2021 - HUM 350 J100

Special Topics: Great Figures in the Humanistic Tradition (4)

Sigmund Freud and Jacques Lacan

Class Number: 7109

Delivery Method: Remote


  • Course Times + Location:

    Mo 5:30 PM – 9:00 PM

  • Prerequisites:

    45 units.



An interdisciplinary study of the life and works of an individual who has made a lasting contribution to the humanistic tradition in more than one field of endeavour (e.g. philosophy, politics, literature, economics, religion). This course may be repeated once for credit. Students with credit for this topic under another Humanities course number may not take this course for further credit. Breadth-Humanities.


Who was Sigmund Freud, the “father” of psychoanalysis? How did Freud’s discourse of the unconscious originate and what does it contribute to our modern times?  How does psychoanalysis reconcile the singularity of desire with the need for a social bond? Is Freud’s psychoanalysis useful for socio-cultural critique? What is the legacy of Freud’s thought in the work of Jacques Lacan, his most attentive but also revolutionary and contested reader?

In this course, we will study texts that contributed to the development of Freud’s theory about the unconscious and culture—from Screen Memories and The Interpretation of Dreams to Beyond the Pleasure Principle and Civilization and Its Discontent—alongside the famous (or infamous!) case studies, which will give us an insight into the development of Freud’s practice and into some of the best literary writings of the 20th century (Dora, Little Hans, Wolfman, Ratman).

We will use these writings to better understand Freud’s life world and his examination of the role of the social in the work of the psyche: his criticism of Vienna’s bourgeois culture, his relationship to women (analysands or followers), his relationship to Jewish identity and the response to the traumatic rise of Fascism in Europe. Some of the material we will discuss was indeed written by women—the work of his daughter Anna, Joan Riviere’s essay “Woman as Masquerade” (1929), the notebooks of American poet Hilda Doolittle, the correspondence with the fascinating (and future analyst) Lou Andreas-Salomé—who were in turn to contribute to the future development of Freudian psychoanalysis. But we will also examine the discourse of the “return to Freud,” initiated by French psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan as a challenge to the institutionalization and taming of the radicalism of Freud’s thought at the hand of American Ego Psychology, and the effects of such “return” in the production of Lacanian thought.

In our readings we will proceed both diachronically and synchronically in order to understand how Freud’s and Lacan’s theories developed in time but also how psychoanalysis can be put ‘at work’ in different fields—social thought, literature/film/art, history, geography, cultural critique and political activism—and how some of Freud’s and Lacan’s most celebrated readers—Julia Kristeva, Slavoj Zizek and Joan Copjek—have engaged with their work.

TEACHING MODE: Synchronous lecture – recorded.

This seminar requires a weekly two-hour and a half contact “in class” for lecture and discussion. The remaining hours will be used by students for self-study and assignments on Canvas. The reduced contact hours are meant to lessen the impact of ‘Zoom fatigue’. We will also have breaks for coffee or just to rest eyes and ears. We will all work to build a vibrant online community to make the best of the current circumstances.


At the end of the course, students will be proficient in the following activities:

  1. Read and analyze Humanities Texts creatively and to academic standards
  2. Develop an understanding of the central aspects of Freud’s and Lacan’s thought with respect to subjectivity and the social world.
  3. Develop an understanding of the relationship of Freud and Lacan to continental philosophy.
  4. Develop an understanding of the role of women in the formation and development of Freud’s and Lacan’s thought.
  5. Engage in socio-political and cultural critique through the lens of Freud’s and Lacan’s theories.
  6. Think reflectively about the ethics of psychoanalysis.



  • Attendance & participation (includes Canvas posts) 20%
  • Film Review 10%
  • Short Paper: biographical review of one psychoanalyst 15%
  • Midterm Exam 30%
  • Final Paper (7-8 Pages) 25%



Sigmund Freud, The Freud Reader. Ed. Peter Gay.               Norton, 1995

Sigmund Freud, The Wolfman and Other Cases.                  Penguin, 2003

Paul Verhaeghe, Love in the Time of Loneliness: Three Essays on Drives and Desire.      Karnak, 2012

Additional material available on Canvas or electronically: Jacques Lacan’s Écrits, Joan Riviere, Lou Andreas-Salomé, and Anna Freud.


Jean Laplanche and J-B Pontalis, The Language of Psycho-Analysis, 1973 (available online)


Birth (2004), directed by Jonathan Glazer

Registrar Notes:


SFU’s Academic Integrity web site http://www.sfu.ca/students/academicintegrity.html is filled with information on what is meant by academic dishonesty, where you can find resources to help with your studies and the consequences of cheating.  Check out the site for more information and videos that help explain the issues in plain English.

Each student is responsible for his or her conduct as it affects the University community.  Academic dishonesty, in whatever form, is ultimately destructive of the values of the University. Furthermore, it is unfair and discouraging to the majority of students who pursue their studies honestly. Scholarly integrity is required of all members of the University. http://www.sfu.ca/policies/gazette/student/s10-01.html


Teaching at SFU in spring 2021 will be conducted primarily through remote methods. There will be in-person course components in a few exceptional cases where this is fundamental to the educational goals of the course. Such course components will be clearly identified at registration, as will course components that will be “live” (synchronous) vs. at your own pace (asynchronous). Enrollment acknowledges that remote study may entail different modes of learning, interaction with your instructor, and ways of getting feedback on your work than may be the case for in-person classes. To ensure you can access all course materials, we recommend you have access to a computer with a microphone and camera, and the internet. In some cases your instructor may use Zoom or other means requiring a camera and microphone to invigilate exams. If proctoring software will be used, this will be confirmed in the first week of class.

Students with hidden or visible disabilities who believe they may need class or exam accommodations, including in the current context of remote learning, are encouraged to register with the SFU Centre for Accessible Learning (caladmin@sfu.ca or 778-782-3112).