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Session 5: psychoanalysis and mythology

Arts, Myth &Imagination

Aims & Objectives:

Aims: To understand the relationship between Psychoanalysis and mythObjectives:

  • Identify the role and function of psychoanalysis
  • Explore the relationship between psychoanalysis and mythological symbolism
  • Evaluate the relationship between patrarchy, myth and sex.
  • Apply psychoanalytic concepts to analyse mythical symbolism within culture

Androcentrism means 'male-centered'. Androcentrism perpetuates a patriarchal worldview that is persistently male.Phallocentrism is the ideology that the phallus, or male sexual organ, is the central element in the organization of the social world.Can you think of examples of phallocentrism in your culture (the privileging of the male)?

Phallocentrism (Androcentrism)

Phallocentrism is the privileging of the masculine in understanding meaning or social relations. It privileges the "logocentrism" of Western literature and thought, i.e. the belief in the centrality of logos, understood as cosmic reason (affirmed in ancient Greek philosophy as the source of world order and intelligibility) or, in the Christian version, the self-revealing thought and will of God. The term is also associated with Lacanian psychoanalysis, which understands the entrance of subjects into language as a negotiation of the phallus and the Name of the Father.

Phallocentrism (Androcentrism)

Feminists illustrate how all Western languages are male-engendered, male-constituted, and male-dominated. Discourse is "phallogocentric" because it is centred and organized throughout by implicit recourse to the phallus both as its supposed ground (or logos) and as its prime signifier and power source; and not only in its vocabulary and syntax, but also in its rigorous rules of logic, its proclivity for fixed classifications and oppositions, and its criteria for what we take to be valid evidence and objective knowledge.

Phallocentrism (Androcentrism)

Language and Discourse: Phallocentrism can also be observed in language, where masculine terms are often used as the default or universal, while feminine terms are considered secondary; for example, words like "mankind" or "chairman" imply a male-centered perspective.Film and Television: Historically, the film industry has been dominated by male directors, producers, and writers, resulting in a prevalence of male-centered narratives. Female characters are often portrayed through the male gaze, objectified, or reduced to supporting roles. Action movies, for instance, frequently feature male heroes saving damsels in distress.

Phallocentrism - examples

Art and Visual Culture: Art history has traditionally celebrated the works of male artists, with female artists often overlooked or underrepresented. Additionally, many iconic works of art depict women as passive objects of desire or as muses for male creativity, reinforcing traditional gender roles and power dynamics.

Phallocentrism - examples

Psychoanalysis investigates the interaction of conscious and unconscious elements in the mind. It aims to bring about repressed fears and conflicts into the conscious mind by techniques such as dream interpretation and free association - it is often referred to as 'the talking cure'.Freud, the father of psychoanalysis, believed myths reflect strong fears and desires that are taboo and usually unable to be expressed in society.


According to Freud, both boys and girls are subject to the Oedipus complex, with different results: boys experience castration anxiety, and girls experience penis (phallocentric) envy. Freud considered that the child's identification with the same-sex parent is the successful outcome of the complex.Watch the videos here for an overview.

The Oedipus Complex

According to Jacques Lacan, the Symbolic Order is the social world of linguistic communication, intersubjective relations, knowledge of ideological conventions, and the acceptance of the law (also called the "big Other"). Once a child enters into language and accepts the rules and dictates of society, it is able to deal with others. The acceptance of language's rules is aligned with the Oedipus complex, according to Lacan. The symbolic is made possible because of your acceptance of the Name-of-the-Father, those laws and restrictions that control both your desire and the rules of communication.

Lacan and the Symbolic Order

Vagina dentata (Latin for toothed vagina) describes myths in which a woman's vagina is said to contain teeth, with the associated implication that relationships with women might result in injury, emasculation, or castration.Woman therefore pose a threat to a phallocentric society. Watch the video and click on the icon to see examples from popular culture.

The Monstrous-Feminine

Irigaray’s work aims to expose the phallic logic within patriarchy and metaphysical thought, in which men and women are reduced to a repetition of the same: phallic presence or phallic lack. ForIrigaray, ‘sexual difference is not a topic to be introduced into metaphysics, but determines metaphysics as such’.She suggests that women's sexuality cannot be fully understood or represented within the framework of male-dominated discourse. Rather than seeking to assimilate women into existing patriarchal structures, Irigaray calls for the recognition of women's unique subjectivity and the creation of new modes of expression that honor female desire and agency.

Irigaray: The sex which is not one

Alternative Modes of Knowledge: Irigaray suggests that the cave allegory overlooks alternative modes of knowledge that are associated with the feminine, such as intuition, empathy, and embodied experience. She argues for the inclusion of these alternative perspectives, challenging male-centred philosophy. Embodied Subjectivity: Irigaray emphasizes the importance of embodied subjectivity in her feminist critique of Plato's Cave. Women's experiences of embodiment offer valuable insights into the nature of reality and truth, challenging the abstract and disembodied approach to knowledge favoured by traditional Western philosophy.

Irigaray: The sex which is not one

What are the differences in Freud and Jung's psychoanalytic views?Watch the video here.

Freud vs Jung


During this session, we have:

  • Identified the role and function of psychoanalysis
  • Explored the relationship between psychoanalysis and mythological symbolism
  • Evaluated the relationship between patrarchy, myth and sex.
  • Applied psychoanalytic concepts to analyse mythical symbolism within culture

Directed Task:

Your presentation deadline is:15/4/2023. You were asked to develop and initial plan for your your presentation - peer review this with your peers and tutor (see the next slide). Complete your presentation plan for next week.Identify an example from popular culture that incorporates any of today's psychoanalytic themes - be prepared to justify your choice.

Presentation: Checklist

  • Have you selected a chosen topic?
  • Are you able to justify the ways in which you chosen topic relates to notions and theories of myth and imagination?
  • Have you chosen the form of your creative myth and imagination intervention (writing, poetry, artwork, music, dance, theatre, ritual or multimedia)?
  • Are there opportunities for audience participation?
  • How does your intervention approach relate to arts education and human wellbeing in general?
  • Have you identified relevant literature to support your intervention?.
  • What might be the conclusion to your presentation?