The Poetry Society and the Freud Museum present an all-day event examining the creative unconscious, with leading speakers from the worlds of poetry, academia and psychoanalysis.
The unconscious, in so far as it refers to the processes of the mind that are not conscious, has always been a central concept in the arts. In science, however, the unconscious only found brief legitimacy in models of the unconscious/subconscious developed by Freud and William James before being relegated to the margins by the ascendency of positivist models of knowledge. Behaviorism dismissed ideas about the unconscious because they could not be empirically verified; logical positivist orthodoxy rendered what is not testable and falsifiable as ‘meaningless’. In this vein, Karl Popper famously claimed that psychoanalysis was a pseudo-science. However, new and ongoing discoveries in cognitive neuroscience during the last twenty years demonstrate that very little of what goes on in the brain is actually conscious, making it possible not only to re-examine earlier models of the unconscious but to witness the role of the unconscious in the human mind as the new frontier of knowledge. This paper will chart the relations between the unconscious and memory as they have been configured in psychoanalytic criticism and cognitive neuroscience to consider the innovations that might emerge from the correlation.