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The New Romantic Unconscious: Thomas De Quincey and Cognitive Science

Author Markus ISELI
Director of thesis Professor Patrick Vincent
Co-director of thesis Professor Robert Morrison
Summary of thesis My thesis investigates Thomas De Quincey’s notion of the mind and, in particular, the unconscious. De Quincey’s life and work are seemingly ideal for psychoanalytic readings. His interest in dreams, the changes opium caused in his dreaming and waking states, and the profuse interest in his own childhood chime with psychoanalytic themes. Accordingly this approach is widely spread (explicitly and implicitly) in the secondary literature on De Quincey. My thesis challenges the necessity to refer to Freudian theories in order to understand De Quincey’s writings. Cognitive psychology provides an alternative approach to the unconscious, which has been under investigation for the last twenty-five years but has attracted little attention by literary scholars. Modern psychology investigates the unconscious faculty of the mind with a very different set of premises than psychoanalysis. Whereas the latter considers the unconscious to be driven by sexual and instinctive impulses that act according to the pleasure principle or defence mechanisms, cognitive and social psychologists consider the unconscious as a complex, rational, and in many ways beneficial mental operator, which is therefore also called productive unconscious. Via the theoretical framework provided by cognitive psychology, my thesis attempts to delineate the cognitive unconscious in Thomas De Quincey’s writings and how this notion of the mind reflects the historical advances in science.
Status finished
Administrative delay for the defence 2014