ABSTRACT

Psychoanalysis is history. This sentence might be taken to encapsulate the methodological shift in early modern studies over the past decade, where "historicism" has become the default mode of critical practice and where histories of religion, education, material culture, and textual production are emerging from literature departments and academic presses in the form of dissertations, books, conferences, and collections. We invoke this sentence, however, to begin to rethink what might seem to be a methodological incompatibility and to challenge the seeming eclipse of one mode of inquiry by another. While psychoanalysis is history in the sense that it has been powerfully challenged over the last several decades of literary study, in another important sense psychoanalysis really is history: a method of interpretation organized around generating narratives of the past. As Meredith Skura puts it, "[T]he past is inseparable from recapturing the past, psyche is inseparable from history," and indeed for many recent critics of early modern literature and culture the practices of psychoanalysis and historicism are deeply entwined.1