Analysing the Cultural Unconscious: Science of the Signifier

Published by Bloomsbury Academic in 2020

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What are we doing when taking psychoanalysis from the couch to the analysis of society, culture, and arts? How is it possible to do so? How is it possible to move from singular experiences to universal structures detected in culture and society? Could psychoanalysis applied to art works become more sensitive to their aesthetics form?

Psychoanalysis is often disclaimed as non-scientific, since its main object – the unconscious – has no positive existence. This book, however, proposes psychoanalysis to be a “science of the signifier”. It takes as its object the signifier – the signifying part of the sign – insisting that it always says more (or less) than intended, because its very materiality carries unintended messages. By defining the object of psychoanalysis as the signifier, this volume argues that we can speak of psychoanalysis as a science, even if it is closer to semiotics than biology.

Analysing the Cultural Unconscious builds on this idea by arguing that the analysis of the signifier is the way to understand not only the individual unconscious, but also the cultural one. Replacing a person’s monologue on the couch with ideology criticism or a piece of art, applied psychoanalysis allows us to analyse culture and the arts in a new way, uncovering the cultural unconscious.

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