Psychoanalysis is the science and clinical practice that was born from Freud's discovery of the unconscious and that began to spread with the publication of his Interpretation of Dreams in 1900. Freud's invention of the 'talking cure' placed language firmly at the centre of its theory and practice. Throughout the twentieth century, in the West, psychoanalysis has had a huge impact on how human beings think of their own mental and psychic life. It has led to new ways of looking at art, new ways of reading texts, literature in particular.
Woolf's relation to psychoanalysis was manifold. Critics have interpreted it essentially in three ways: in terms of her own mental illness; of her involvement in, knowledge of and attitude to Freud and his followers; of the impact of psychoanalytic concepts upon her own writing and of the occurrence, in her writing and relation to language, of concepts and practices similar or alternative to psychoanalytic ones. In addition, psychoanalytic interpretations of her life and work have been offered. This triple - or quadruple - relation is fraught with paradoxes and questions which this essay will attempt to place before the reader.
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