Psychoanalysis and LOTR

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eruwen
Posts: 1277

Psychoanalysis and LOTR

Post#1 » Tue Oct 25, 2005 1:54 pm

Okay...so I am really starting to research psychoanalysis and apply it to LOTR, but I am having a bit of trouble. I need to divide my thesis into three sections, but I keep returning to two main sections instead of three.

So far, I am dividing it into:
1) The Quest for the Self, which basically discusses how Middle Earth is set up as Freud sees the mind -- divided into Ego, Super-Ego and Id. This could also focus on Gollum as Frodo's double, and how he has appeared out of guilt, which surfaces through repression (as the shadow often does.)

2) The Return to the Beginning, which focuses on man's obsession with beginnings (including history and childhood). This could be related both to the actual text, focusing on the childlike nature of Hobbits, as well as society and our fascination with LOTR in general, since the text relies heavily on the past and mythology.

3) Now, this is where I run into problems. In this section, I am thinking about discussing Freud's death instinct, and how it becomes entwined with our life instinct, or the pleasure principle (basically the symbolism of the Ring itself, Aragorn's journey through the Paths of the Dead, etc.). The problem here is that the death instinct can be seen as a return to the beginning, so perhaps it should be included in the second section of my paper? But then I get stuck. If this does indeed belong in the second part of the paper, then I am struggling with coming up with a third section. Ugh! Help!

Does anyone know much about psychoanalysis and its application to texts? If so, could you please discuss each of these sections with me so that I can work through a few ideas?

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eruwen
Posts: 1277

Psychoanalysis and LOTR

Post#2 » Mon Oct 31, 2005 10:25 am

Well, after thinking about it over the weekend, I have decided to combine sections two and three. I will plan on making section three about the relationship of science and advancement to our denial of the death instinct and our search for immortality, which is specifically represented by Saruman and Sauron, as well as the cities and artifacts in LOTR. ( I will expand on all of this with specific examples later...)

Or maybe I should keep section three and make this a part of it???

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grondmaster
Posts: 25451

Psychoanalysis and LOTR

Post#3 » Tue Nov 01, 2005 4:59 pm

Sorry Eruwen, the academic shrink business lies beyond me ken.
'Share and enjoy'

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Loss
Posts: 3691

Psychoanalysis and LOTR

Post#4 » Mon Nov 07, 2005 5:47 am

Eruwen i completely agree we should defend Tolkien's work although many people would not pay much attention to what you say i will kinda? understand ....as moral support
To me tolkien goes into such depth that i get lost in middle earth, his sentence structure allows you to be pulled in by his wording and i find it good that someone has said it there always something new in the old words that only few can find good luck!!!!

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miruvor
Posts: 849

Psychoanalysis and LOTR

Post#5 » Mon Nov 07, 2005 6:12 am

This work has not been a favorite with literary critics for many reasons, but I believe it is mainly because it appeals to such a wide audience.

The literary critics in Elizabethan times regarded Shakespeare in the same way that
JRRT's works are regarded nowadays. The same is true for Goethe's works in his time.

Few authors which are now counted among the classical writers were acclaimed by the 'critics'
in their time.

About 100 years from now, JRRT's works will regarded the same way that Shakespeare, Goethe, Dostoevsky, etc. are regarded now.

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eruwen
Posts: 1277

Psychoanalysis and LOTR

Post#6 » Mon Nov 07, 2005 10:50 am

That's exactly what I am hoping, Mir. Any writer who appeals to a "mass"
audience usually has to wait decades if not centuries to gain acceptance
with literary critics.

And I appreciate your support, Elessar :).

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miruvor
Posts: 849

Psychoanalysis and LOTR

Post#7 » Mon Nov 07, 2005 1:30 pm

Indeed, the point of any work that is now considered as 'literature' was always to reach and appeal to as much people as possible.

Claiming that a book is not literature because too much people read it, is so hopelessly elitist. Literature was not made for the critic up in his ivory tower, but for everyone.

I think JRRT has certainly managed that as much as Shakespeare, Dante and Goethe in their time.

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eruwen
Posts: 1277

Psychoanalysis and LOTR

Post#8 » Thu Nov 10, 2005 10:07 am

Ah well, at least you are honest, Grondy :). I am going to keep posting here though, even
if it is a discussion with myself. If anyone feels like commenting on anything,
at anytime though, please feel free to do so. The dialogue will do me good.

[u]Introduction[/u] (to my thesis). This is for my professors. I need to turn in my
prospectus next week. I have an oral thesis defense that I need to take part
in the week after next, and this is what I plan on covering. Please, please,
tell me if you think something doesn't make sense, or if something could be added
or changed:

As many Tolkien fans, I feel an overwhelming need to defend the importance of The Lord of the Rings, which has not been a favorite with literary critics. One reason could be the fact that it appeals to the non-rational side of humanity, that it touches our emotions, and many critics analyze literature and write for the rational side of humanity, attempting to lend scientific insight to the field of literature; so when a work appeals to the non-rational side of humans, such as The Lord of the Rings, it does not acquire the proper literary kudos. Another reason could simply be that it appeals to a very wide audience, which, of course, is the doom for many popular authors during their lifetimes. However, rather than just being a piece of literature that appeals to a mass audience, this work is actually one that appeals to both children and adults alike, which really is no easy feat. Also, a work that the author spent the better part of fifteen years creating, choosing, as he states, every single word of the novels with great care, should not be seen as something trivial. Yet, many critics see this mass appeal as a sign of simplicity, a sign that the writing and the message must be so obvious that anyone can understand it. If one reads Tolkien though, it is not difficult to determine that he is a very talented writer, and as a philologist, he should be. His sentence structure is not simple, his vocabulary is not for the unwise, and his plot has a complexity that can be mind boggling at times. He artfully combines mythic tradition with fairy-story elements, creating a complex text in which almost anyone can find a message of significance that pertains to his or her own life.

In this paper, I plan to demonstrate that the importance of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings lies in the very fact that it appeals to such a mass audience, for it reflects the crisis of the self that takes place within us all, both on an individual level as well as a macro level that reflects the structure of society. Using Freud's theories of psychoanalysis, I will explore the identities of the characters in the novel and how they relate to one another, their communities, the world of Middle Earth, and in turn, the modern world in which we live today. I plan on exploring the following three topics in this paper: 1) The Quest for the Self, 2) The Return to the Beginning (The Pleasure Principle vs. The Reality Principle), and 3) Eros and Thanatos (The Life Instinct vs. the Death Drive.) I will use Norman O. Brown’s Life against Death to illuminate a great deal of the text, and specifically expand on Hugh T. Keenan’s essay, “The Appeal of The Lord of the Rings: A Struggle for Life,” which I believe insufficiently explores the conflict of the life and death instincts in The Lord of the Rings, and especially how these books, by utilizing the struggle of these instincts, in turn relate to society.

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eruwen
Posts: 1277

Psychoanalysis and LOTR

Post#9 » Tue Nov 15, 2005 1:08 pm

I agree, Mir.

[u]Section I. The Quest for the Self[/u]
During our lives, a division takes place within us all that can be termed as the search for the self, or a search for identity. We constantly struggle to establish our ego while being pulled in different directions by our id and superego. Throughout this struggle, we strive for peace, either by establishing a strong ego that can quiet the noise created by the id and superego, or by returning to more peaceful times in the history of our self, such as childhood or our inorganic self. Freud long believed that only certain individuals developed neuroses due to the repression that takes place during this division within the self; however, later in his career, especially while writing Civilization and Its Discontents, he started to establish that the entire human race is actually neurotic due to these repressions, and society and culture are the macro representations of the neuroses that we as individuals suffer.

The quest has long been a part of the oral as well as the literary tradition, for it mirrors this journey to find our own identities and, as established by Bruno Bettelheim in his book The Uses of Enchantment, is a very important part of our psychological development. I believe that this is one of the reasons many of us are so strongly affected by The Lord of the Rings, for it mirrors our own journey of the self as well as our neurotic society. In order to establish a self, we must see ourselves in an other, and a text, such as The Lord of the Rings, may serve as this other. We are able to find our own individual struggles in many of the same battles that each of the characters face, and by looking at the maps of Middle Earth, we can see that Middle Earth itself is a reflection of both the self and society. The books lack a center or an ego, set in an age that is shifting from the age of elves to the age of man, and Aragorn, the man caught in the midst of it all is trying to determine what role he wants to take on in society, shifting between the elvish world and the world of man. Most people even have trouble establishing who the “true” hero of the novels is.

I plan to demonstrate how the individual struggles of each of the characters all entwine to lead to the establishment of man by the end of the novel, the establishment of the ego and the self. Keenan mentions that “Frodo is the Child who fathers the Age of Men” (68), but he does not elaborate on how he does this, why this occurs or what the significance of this is to the reader. I will especially focus on the journeys of Frodo and Aragorn as representations of the ego; Gandalf as a representation of the superego; and Saruman and Sauron as representations of the id. By reviewing the maps of Middle Earth, I will continue my exploration of the self and society, especially focusing on the waxing and waning boundaries of each of the lands, as well as the representation of the ocean and the part it plays in the lives of the elves of Middle Earth; their constant longing for the sea reflects the “oceanic” feeling that plagues us all, that feeling of a time when we lacked the boundaries we created within our selves.

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eruwen
Posts: 1277

Psychoanalysis and LOTR

Post#10 » Tue Nov 15, 2005 1:09 pm

[u]II. The Return to the Beginning[/u]
As briefly mentioned before, we all long for a time when we lacked boundaries, when all the pieces of the self existed in harmony with one another without being repressed by the powerful superego or urged into duress by the id; this time for many of us is childhood, when our ego is very weak, the superego has not established itself, and we indulge in pleasuring the self without feeling the need to repress our desires. This is the time before the reality principle establishes itself in our lives. Keenan is correct in stating that “Tolkien’s thematic presentation explores in its course the psychological meaning of childhood” (62). This depiction of The Shire and the hobbits in The Lord of the Rings as a representation of a happy and indulgent childhood is a large part of the appeal for both children and adults alike; even Tolkien longed to be a hobbit living in The Shire, for it reflected his own childhood memories. I plan to elaborate on why society feels compelled to explore childhood, especially through The Lord of the Rings, and why we long to return to these beginnings. I also will address, on a macro level, why we as a society feel attached to the past, and have urges to repeat history, just as many of the characters and societies in The Lord of the Rings.

As the reality principle begins to assert itself, we must try harder and harder to repress our self-indulgent desires, we must grow up and never experience the same satisfaction that we experience in youth. By externalizing the self love and satisfaction we have in childhood, "the fundamental quest of man is to find a satisfactory object for his love" (Brown 7), also known as a substitute-gratification. As we continue to repress our desires, we find that we experience more guilt each time a desires surfaces that we must lay to rest. We can find this struggle explicitly in the journey of the childlike hobbit, Frodo Baggins. I will focus on his own particular struggle with the obsession of an object - The One Ring, and how this struggle causes such a great amount of guilt in Frodo that it results in a split within himself, represented by Gollum as Frodo's double.

We as humans long for not only our own childhoods but also the less developed civilizations of the past. The memory-traces of the experiences of our ancestors make us prisoners to the past, for we repeat and repress many of their experiences that surface in our conscience. As we repeat these past experiences, we long for these beginnings when there was less to repress, yet we feel if we keep moving forward, if we find the perfect object or objects that will satisfy us, then we will be able to appease the resurfacing pleasure principle. As a reflection of this neurotic longing for our past, the books contain a great amount of imagery devoted to roots, which I plan on exploring. Also, the books by incorporating such a large amount of Norse mythology further feed into our fascination with history. According to William Blake, we divide not only within ourselves, but society keeps dividing more and more, breaking away from the union we all once had with one another. As society grows, these divisions become greater, and we long for a core, a way to pull ourselves back together, and history allows us a small way in which to do this. Of course, Blake also believed that our move forward was like a spiral, moving forward and yet backward, but always up to a more perfect wholeness.

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