Psychoanalysis and Empire ENGLIT5131

  • Academic Session: 2023-24
  • School: School of Critical Studies
  • Credits: 20
  • Level: Level 5 (SCQF level 11)
  • Typically Offered: Semester 2
  • Available to Visiting Students: Yes

Short Description

This course explores how psychoanalytic writing can lend itself to the examination of the psychic and political legacies of empire, and the ways in which empire itself is inscribed in the history and theorisation of psychoanalysis. Drawing upon psychoanalytic theory, anti-colonial writing, and literary and cultural production, this course will first explore theorisations of sexuality, civilisation, and violence in psychoanalysis, and how these can be read in opposition to contemporary colonial discourses.


1 x 2hr lecture and workshop, and 9 x 2hr seminars over ten weeks as scheduled on MyCampus.

Requirements of Entry

Standard entry to Masters at College level

Excluded Courses





Film/Music review + peer feedback exercise (1000 words/5 minutes each): 20% + 10%

Essay question presentation and peer feedback: 10%

Essay (3000 words) 60%

Course Aims

This course aims to:

■ explore legacies of empire with particular emphasis on articulating a language for the effects of empire on the psyche and interiority.

■ map the development of key psychoanalytic concepts, especially in their re-framing in anti-colonial writing.

■ investigate how psychoanalytic discourse is historically and theoretically implicated in legacies of empire, while at the same time questioning and undermining some of the ideological justifications for empire.

■ reflect, via discussion, independent study, and written exercises on the ways in which the imbrication of psychic and political life is navigated in psychoanalytic and literary writing.

Intended Learning Outcomes of Course

By the end of this course students will be able to:

■ identify and use key concepts in psychoanalytic writing that lend themselves to discussions of the effects of empire.

■ traverse complex discussions about decolonisation and imperial histories in a nuanced and informed manner, especially while discussing literary and cultural production.

■ extend course discussions to consider contemporary debates around colonial history and responsibility.

■ construct a bibliography of relevant sources and advanced research questions to independently research and write pieces for both academic and general audiences.

■ demonstrate a considered and historically informed language for discussing the life of the mind.

■ build an inclusive and supportive environment in which to offer and receive peer feedback and criticism and engage respectfully with the work of their cohort.

Minimum Requirement for Award of Credits

Students must submit at least 75% by weight of the components (including examinations) of the course's summative assessment.