The Unconscious

Literary/ Cultural Context Essay

Download PDF Save to Bookshelf Tweet Report an Error

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 …

3972 words

Citation: Clark, Robert. "The Unconscious". The Literary Encyclopedia. First published 30 October 2008 [, accessed 02 February 2023.]

1228 The Unconscious 2 Historical context notes are intended to give basic and preliminary information on a topic. In some cases they will be expanded into longer entries as the Literary Encyclopedia evolves.

Save this article

If you need to create a new bookshelf to save this article in, please make sure that you are logged in, then go to your 'Account' here

Leave Feedback

The Literary Encyclopedia is a living community of scholars. We welcome comments which will help us improve.