The Unconscious

(3972 words)

Literary/ Cultural Context Essay

  • The Literary Encyclopedia. Volume 12: Global Voices, Global Histories: World Literatures and Cultures.

The Unconscious before Freud

Plato and early Christian theologians shared an understanding of humanity as divided between the spiritual-divine and the bodily-carnal which in some ways prefigures modern ideas of humanity as divided between the conscious mind and repressed animal drives. However, until the seventeenth century, and indeed with less consistency thereafter, this opposition was bridged by the idea of the divine soul – the intimation of God made flesh, joining mind, spirit and body. It is with Descartes' secularising cogito in 1637 that we first find the pre-condition of an idea of the unconscious, for Descartes theorises man as an isolated self-knowing and reasoning mind, a being for which the body …

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Clark, Robert. "The Unconscious". The Literary Encyclopedia. First published 30 October 2008
[, accessed 01 July 2015.]

Related Groups

  1. Psychoanalysis