First Meeting of the UoB Psy Lit Network: Friday 19 July 2013

freud“The poets and philosophers before me discovered the unconscious.  What I discovered was the scientific method by which the unconscious can be studied.” – Sigmund Freud 1928

The University of Birmingham Psy Lit Network is a new subject network started by doctoral researchers in the English department for people interested in psychoanalysis, literature, and the relationship between these two fields of study.

We will be holding our first meeting in the Constance Naden Room (Room 103) on the first floor of the Arts Building, from 2-3pm on Friday 19th July. We welcome staff and students either working on, or interested in, literature and psychoanalysis.

The meeting will consist of an informal discussion of a short text exert (circulated by email before the meeting) but most importantly will be a chance to informally discuss current research in this area going on at the University and to look forward to a series of events which will be running in the next academic session, designed around feedback we receive in this first meeting about what would be useful to support research in the field.

Phillips_Adam_body cinderella-medievalFor our first meeting we will be discussing  Cinderella by the Brothers Grimm alongside Adam Phillips’ ‘Mothers and Fairytales’ – taken from his book On Balance.

If you would like to attend or would like more information, please email Matt Geary and Rosie Reynolds at

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2 Responses to First Meeting of the UoB Psy Lit Network: Friday 19 July 2013

  1. Gemma King says:

    Hi guys, the text choices for the first meeting seemed a great starting point to me (I’m really gutted I couldn’t make it!). Phillips’ discussion of the good, helpful mother and the rival mother is obviously intended to correlate with the fairy godmother and stepmother respectively, but did anyone else notice that the stepmother could be seen to embody both if you consider her assistive relationship with her own biological daughters as well as her treatment of Cinderella?

    Also, couldn’t help but agree with Phillips’ description of C. as ‘a pleasure seeker masquerading as a very helpful and cooperative person’ (p. 299), certainly in this version of the tale, but wonder how much this varies across other versions?

  2. Hi Gemma, its very true that the stepmother could be perceived as embodying both the good and bad mother (depending on whose perspective you are reading the story from). A Kleinian splitting of the good (fairy godmother) and bad mothers (stepmother) is most evident in the story. Bruno Bettelheim has written quite a lot on this being a feature of fairy tales in general. For Bettelheim, such splitting enables children to deal with ambivalence towards the mother. In effect, fairy tales could be read as – essentially – weaning stories.

    I felt that it was interesting that the male figures (the father, the prince) were mainly passive in the story. There is no injunction by any paternal figures (Lacan’s Name-of-the-Father) against the bad behaviour of the stepmother and the sisters. Funnily enough, in the Phillip Pullman version it is Cinderella’s father who finally recognises her and gives her the opportunity to try on the slipper left at the ball. Without the father’s active involvement Cinderella’s story would have ended rather differently. Bound to a life of toil and housework and a bed in the cinders!!

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