Reading List

Psychoanalysis: Verso Student Reading

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Freud and Lacan are two of the towering figures of twentieth century thought. Get to grips with all aspects of their thought with this essential selection of books on psychoanalysis.

See all our student reading here.

The first edition of this classic work from 1905 shows a radically different psychoanalysis. 

The new edition of Three Essays presents us with the fascinating possibility that Freud suppressed his first and best thoughts on this topic, and that only today can they be recognized and understood at a time when societies have begun the serious work of reconceptualizing sexual identities.


A major, comprehensive study of the connection between the work of Lacan and Marx, The Capitalist Unconscious resituates Marx in the broader context of Lacan’s teaching and insists on the capacity of psychoanalysis to reaffirm dialectical and materialist thought. 

Jacques Lacan continues to be subject to the most extravagant interpretations. Angelic to some, he is demonic to others. To recall Lacan's career, now that the heroic age of psychoanalysis is over, is to remember an intellectual and literary adventure that occupies a founding place in our modernity. Lacan went against the current of many of the hopes aroused by 1968, but embraced their paradoxes, and his language games and wordplay resonate today as so many injunctions to replace rampant individualism with a heightened social consciousness. 

Widely recognized as the leading authority on Lacan, Élisabeth Roudinesco revisits his life and work: what it was—and what it remains.

The now legendary Dialectics of Liberation congress, held in London in 1967, was a unique expression of the politics of dissent. Existential psychiatrists, Marxist intellectuals, anarchists, and political leaders met to discuss key social issues. Edited by David Cooper, The Dialectics of Liberation compiles interventions from congress contributors Stokely Carmichael, Herbert Marcuse, R. D. Laing, Paul Sweezy, and others, to explore the roots of social violence.

Freud: The Theory of the Unconscious is a well-crafted and concise introduction to the life, work and theories of psychoanalysis’ founder. Mannoni draws on the perspective provided by his Lacanian work on colonialism to provide a unique intellectual biography of Freud, tracing the genesis and development of various key psychoanalytical concepts. Mannoni provides a critical account of the various shortcomings in Freud’s work, as well as its strengths.

In Read My Desire, Joan Copjec stages a confrontation between the theories of Jacques Lacan and those of Michel Foucault, protagonists of two powerful modern disciplines—psychoanalysis and historicism. Ordinarily, these modes of thinking only cross paths long enough for historicists to charge psychoanalysis with an indifference to history, but here psychoanalysis, via Lacan, goes on the offensive. Refusing to cede history to the historicists, Copjec makes a case for the superiority of Lacan’s explanation of historical processes and generative principles. Her goal is to inspire a new kind of cultural critique, one that is “literate in desire,” and capable of interpreting what is unsaid in the manifold operations of culture.

A Communist, feminist, and analysand asks what the social function of psychoanalysis should be and condemns what it has become.

Banned by the Freud institute in Vienna, this controversial lecture eventually became Edward Said’s final book. Freud and the Non-European builds on Said’s abiding interest in the psychoanalyst’s work to examine Freud’s assumption that Moses was an Egyptian and from there explore the limits of identity. Such an unresolved, nuanced sense of identity, Said argues, might one day form the basis for a new understanding between Israelis and Palestinians.

Eseential early critique of Freud from a Marxist and linguistic perspective.

Philology cross-examines Freud in this sustained critique of psychoanalysis and its foundational notion of the slip. Challenging virtually every account of linguistic error in Freud’s work as arbitrary and constrained, Sebastiano Timpanaro advances an alternative picture keyed to the dynamics of “banalization,” “disimprovement,” and contextual play borrowed from the field of literary criticism. Underscored with a Marxist defense of science against the professed materialism of the psychoanalytic “individual drama,” Timpanaro’s analysis demands a strong reassessment of the Freudian legacy and a renewed debate over its value for the Left.

Combining the energy of the early seventies feminist movement with the perceptive analyses of the trained theorist, Woman’s Estate is one of the most influential socialist feminist statements of its time. Scrutinizing the political background of the movement, its sources and its common ground with other radical manifestations of the sixties, Woman’s Estate describes the organization of women’s liberation in Western Europe and America. 

The contributors bring to bear an unrivaled enthusiasm and theoretical sweep on the entire Hitchcock oeuvre, analyzing movies such as Rear Window and Psycho. Starting from the premise that ‘everything has meaning,’ the authors examine the films’ ostensible narrative content and formal procedures to discover a rich proliferation of hidden ideological and psychic mechanisms. But Hitchcock is also a bait to lure the reader into a serious Marxist and Lacanian exploration of the construction of meaning.

The first comprehensive study of this revolutionary approach to mental health care, The Man Who Closed the Asylums is a gripping account of one of the most influential movements in twentiethcentury psychiatry, which helped to transform the way we see mental illness. Basaglia’s work saved countless people from a miserable existence, and his legacy persists, as an object lesson in the struggle against the brutality and ignorance that the establishment peddles to the public as common sense.

Bringing together three previously unpublished lectures presented to the public by Lacan at the height of his career, and prefaced by Jacques-Alain Miller, My Teaching is a clear, concise introduction to the thought of the influential psychoanalyst after Freud.

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