Spring 2023 - ENGL 418W D100

Seminar in Critical Theory (4)

Satanic Unconscious

Class Number: 4304

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Th 4:30 PM – 8:20 PM
    AQ 6106, Burnaby

  • Prerequisites:

    ENGL 364. Reserved for English honours, major, joint major and minor students.



Advanced seminar in literary, critical, and/or cultural theory. May be repeated if a different topic is taught, though students who obtained credit for English 465W prior to Summer 2015 may not take this course for further credit. Students with credit for ENGL 465 may not take this course for further credit. Writing.


COURSE TITLE: The Satanic Unconscious

This course takes a deep dive into psychoanalytic theory, primarily engaging with the work of Sigmund Freud and Jacques Lacan as an inquiry into ideas of the unconscious, desire, the libido and anxiety. By way of grounding our work in the literary, we will also read Salman Rushdie's 1988 novel The Satanic Verses. We begin with Freud, reading key texts on an outline of psychoanalysis, negation, fetishism, mourning and melancholia, and hysteria. What we know, and why we do things, Freud tells us, is always a mystery: a mystery we can begin to understand precisely with the tools of literary criticism: reading and interpretation. Freud is in turn revised by Lacan, who argued that the unconscious is not individual but social, "the discourse of the other": we will read Lacan's écrits on time, on Edger Allen Poe, on metaphor and metonymy, and on the structures of desire. These concepts we will then "apply" in a reading of Rushdie's amazing, satirical, and troubling novel which was the subject of a fatwa, or death sentence in 1989, a "letter that arrived at its destination," if belatedly, with the stabbing attack on the author this past summer. What is it about literature that so troubles us, that gives rise to anxieties and murderous impulses? These are questions we will seek to answer and, along the way, learn about our own desires, wishes, aggressions and dreams.


To better understand the relevancy of psychoanalysis to literary studies.


  • presentation on Freud or Lacan 20%
  • presentation on Rushdie 20%
  • paper proposal and annotated bibliography 20%
  • term paper 40%



The Penguin Freud Reader, ed. Adam Phillips

Écrits, The First Complete Edition in English, Jacques Lacan

The Satanic Verses, by Salman Rushdie


Your personalized Course Material list, including digital and physical textbooks, are available through the SFU Bookstore website by simply entering your Computing ID at: shop.sfu.ca/course-materials/my-personalized-course-materials.

Department Undergraduate Notes:

IMPORTANT NOTE Re 300 and 400 level courses: 75% of spaces in 300 level English courses, and 100% of spaces in 400 level English courses, are reserved for declared English Major, Minor, Extended Minor, Joint Major, and Honours students only, until open enrollment begins.

For all On-Campus Courses, please note the following:
- To receive credit for the course, students must complete all requirements.
- Tutorials/Seminars WILL be held the first week of classes.
- When choosing your schedule, remember to check "Show lab/tutorial sections" to see all Lecture/Seminar/Tutorial times required.

Registrar Notes:


SFU’s Academic Integrity website 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