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Psychoanalysis and Contemporary Society MA

Subject area: Psychology Apply Full-time Apply Part-time
Mode of study

12 months full-time; 30 months part-time

PG Code


Start date


Psychoanalysis and Contemporary Society MA


Please note the application deadline for this course is Friday 25th August 2017. Any applications after this date will be considered on an individual basis, subject to course vacancies.

Postgraduate Loans: From 1 August 2016, students who live in England will be able to apply for a Postgraduate Loan in academic year 2016/17 of up to £10,000. Find out more

About the course

  • How are our behaviours influenced by unconscious motives?
  • Which conflicts lie at the heart of contemporary individual and social problems?
  • What explains our cultural and ideological obsession with power and violence?

The Psychoanalysis and Contemporary Society MA is designed to provide students with training in classical and contemporary psychoanalytic theory. It observes the relation between theory and practice and establishes a scientific grounding through its emphasis on the clinical writings of Freud, Klein and Lacan.

The course also offers the opportunity to develop a psychoanalytic approach to contemporary socio-cultural issues, in particular questions of political ideology, social conflict and violence. It engages with the relation between the psychoanalytic and social fields by exploring how to conceive of a psychoanalytic social theory. It questions how we can provide a specifically psychoanalytic account of social relations and focuses on issues raised by post-structuralist and feminist accounts of sexuality.


This degree is relevant to a wide range of graduates in the social sciences, humanities and fine art, as well as those with professional interests in psychotherapy and analysis who wish to develop and apply their skills to the issues and areas on which this degree focuses.

Previous and current students have included art and film students, teachers and art historians as well as psychologists and analysts - and recently included a performance artist. Many European and overseas students from Latin America and further afield have also undertaken this degree.

Download the full course programme


Admissions and Course Enquiries
Web: Admissions Enquiries Information
Tel (before application): +44 (0)1895 265599 (Course Enquiries)
Tel (after application): +44 (0)1895 265265 (Admissions Office)
Contact Admissions or Course Enquiries Online

Course director: Professor Dany Nobus

Course Content

The course engages with the issue of the relation between the psychoanalytic and social fields by exploring how to think a psychoanalytic social theory. Unlike many approaches to theorising the social in relation to the psychoanalytic field, it does not approach this question by adding "psychoanalysis" to an already existing theory of the social world, nor by reducing the social to the psychic.

Rather, it questions how we can provide a specifically psychoanalytic account of social relations. In thinking the relation between psyche and sociality, it engages with the issues raised by the psychoanalytic and feminist accounts of sexuality. These issues are taken and further explored in an examination of psychoanalysis as social theory, particularly as developed by Slavoj Zizek.

This work enables us to consider social relations as real, imaginary and symbolic relations between subjects. The social in the psychoanalytic field is rethought as constituted in phantasmatic and symbolic relations between subjects. Rethinking the social relation in this way raises questions about the relation between social change and the clinic, bringing the question of sociality within the field of clinical practice. In this way, the social relation is re-inscribed in the psychoanalytic relation.

The relation between social change and the clinic is also explored through the aesthetic object. If we take seriously the proposition that the world is psychoanalytic, then we can take the aesthetic object and treat it psychoanalytically.

Unlike much work in this area, this course does not begin with the particular disciplinary formulation of the art object as a function of art history, art criticism or a clinical reading. Instead, it questions how we can provide a psychoanalytic account of the aesthetic object and what a psychoanalytic practice in the field of art might be. We can only do this by starting with the knowledge acquired in psychoanalytic clinical practice. Nonetheless the psychoanalytic field of art has its own autonomy. This course and the work of the students on it will contribute to the development of that autonomous field. The knowledge derived from the encounter with the cultural object has implications for the clinic. After all, when Freud could not solve the riddle of sexual difference he told us to go to the poets for enlightenment. Cultural practices can signal social change. A psychoanalytic understanding of these practices can raise questions for clinical practice.

Typical Modules

Foundations of Psychoanalytic Theory*
Main topics of study: the origin and development of psychoanalysis; sexuality and the unconscious; neurosis, perversion, psychosis; the foundations of psychoanalytic technique; Freud's case-studies; the second topography; the work of Melanie Klein, Donald W Winnicott, Jacques Lacan; psychoanalytic theories of psychosis; psychoanalytic views on addiction; the so-called ‘new symptoms' in contemporary society.

Clinical Interventions in Psychoanalysis*
Main topics of study: the case-study of the Rat Man; the case-study of the Wolf Man; paradigmatic cases in the psychoanalytic literature; differential diagnosis; the direction of the psychoanalytic treatment; interpretation, transference and countertransference; the position of the analyst; psychoanalysis and suggestion; professional case presentations and their clinical difficulties; a case of auto-erotic asphyxia; psychoanalytic theory development and clinical practice.

Symptom and Society*
Main topics of study: Freud's cardinal works on culture and society; the Lacanian concept of the object; recent psychoanalytic developments on the issues of groups, social identity and community life; the relationship between contemporary symptoms and the so-called ‘decline of the paternal function' within Western society; sadism; murder; the representation of violence and the question of ethics; psychoanalytic interpretations of representations of violence (Pasolini's ‘Saló; Lars von Trier's ‘Dogville'; Michael Powell's ‘Peeping Tom').

Research Methods in Psychoanalysis
Main topics of study: psychoanalytic epistemologies; knowledge and truth in psychoanalysis; induction, deduction and abduction; the logic of psychoanalytic discovery; the validation of psychoanalytic theory and practice; how to set up a psychoanalytic research project; logical reasoning and the anticipation of certainty; the object and the subject in psychoanalysis; how to access psychoanalytic resources; how to develop a psychoanalytic argument; the interface between theory and practice in psychoanalysis.

*These modules are also available as CPPD (Continuing Personal and Professional Development) courses. To find out more information and to apply, please click here.

Dissertation in Psychoanalysis and Contemporary Society
The specific topics and/or research problems discussed in the dissertation are a function of the learner’s particular research interests in the domain of psychoanalysis, and the data generated by the learner’s own research.

Main aims of the module:

  • To bring perspectives derived from the taught modules to bear upon an issue of research interest to the learner within the domain of psychoanalysis and contemporary society
  • The dissertation should reflect a specifically psychoanalytical approach to research and analysis. Original research data may be derived from empirical study in a field chosen by the learner, or may be collected from published resources
  • The object of the dissertation is twofold: (i) to explore a theoretical and/or clinical issue employing psychoanalytic concepts, and (ii) to show how this psychoanalytic exploration contributes to an enhanced understanding of this issue, relative to the existing literature in the area of study.

Recent examples of dissertations by students taking this course include:

  • Psychoanalysis and racial identity: exploring the impasse
  • The perverse prostitute, the neurotic woman, the stereotyped female
  • Psychosis and the image
  • On nightmares.

Read more about the structure of postgraduate degrees at Brunel and what you will learn on the course.

Special Features

  • We have an international research reputation, with particular expertise in areas such as neuropsychology, psychoanalysis, developmental psychology and social psychology.
  • The Centre for Cognition and Neuroimaging jointly owns a 3-Tesla fMRI scanner dedicated to research, as part of the ‘CU BIC ’ collaboration with Royal Holloway, Roehampton and Surrey Universities.
  • Academics have published high-impact journal articles and books on a broad range of subjects and have received research funding from a variety of bodies, including the EU, the Commission for Racial Equality, the Nuffield Foundation, the Economic and Social Research Council, the Home Office, the Department of Health, The Wellcome Trust, The Leverhulme Trust and the Arts and Humanities Research Council.

Professor Dany Nobus (degree convenor) specialises in the study of development and disorders of sexuality; history of psychology, psychiatry and psychoanalysis; psychology of transgression and eccentricity. Current research projects involve an exploration of the impact of individual choice on the development of sexual identity, and an investigation into the effect of changing representation of fatherhood in western society on parenting practices and socialisation strategies.

Dr Antonios Vadolas' research explores the relationship between fascism, power and the category of perversion. His current research interests include the death drive in politics and art; the link between language and the body; psychopathology and psychoanalysis.

Teaching and Assessment


Individual modules are assessed by course work. There is also a final 15,000 word dissertation.



After undertaking this degree you will be equipped to understand and further develop your interests in psychoanalytic practice and the psychoanalytic study of contemporary social issues. Some students have gone on to teach and lecture in this area; others have become (Lacanian) analysts, or taken other intensive analytic training courses. Several students have subsequently undertaken PhD degrees not only directly in psychoanalytic studies but also in Art History; others have used their degrees in different kinds of ways through careers in business and the commercial sector, or in youth work and management. The diversity of career paths taken by graduates from the degree emphasises its enriching role in a wide variety of ways in developing both personal and professional opportunities.

At Brunel we provide many opportunities and experiences within your degree programme and beyond – work-based learning, professional support services, volunteering, mentoring, sports, arts, clubs, societies, and much, much more – and we encourage you to make the most of them, so that you can make the most of yourself.

» More about Employability

Fees for 2017/18 entry

UK/EU students: £7,500 full-time; £3,750 part-time

International students: £15,750 full-time; £7,875 part-time

Additional course related costs

Read about funding opportunities available to postgraduate students

UK/EU students can opt to pay in six equal monthly instalments: the first instalment is payable on enrolment and the remaining five by Direct Debit or credit/debit card.

Overseas students can opt to pay in two instalments: 60% on enrolment, and 40% in January for students who commence their course in September (or the remaining 40% in March for selected courses that start in January).

Entry Criteria 2017/18

  • A UK first or 2:2 Honours degree or equivalent internationally recognised qualification in a social sciences, humanities or arts discipline. Applicants from a non-related discipline will be considered on an individual basis.
  • Applicants with other degrees in a related discipline with relevant work experience will be considered on an individual basis.

Entry criteria are subject to review and change each academic year.

International and EU Entry Requirements

If your country or institution is not listed or if you are not sure whether your institution is eligible, please contact Admissions

This information is for guidance only by Brunel University London and by meeting the academic requirements does not guarantee entry for our courses as applications are assessed on case-by-case basis.

English Language Requirements

  • IELTS: 6.5 (min 6 in all areas)
  • Pearson: 58 (51 in all subscores)
  • BrunELT: 65% (min 60% in all areas)

Brunel University London strongly recommends that if you will require a Tier 4 visa, you sit your IELTS test at a test centre that has been approved by UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) as being a provider of a Secure English Language Test (SELT). Not all test centres have this status. The University can accept IELTS (with the required scores) taken at any official test centre or other English Language qualifications we accept as meeting our main award entry requirements.

However, if you wish to undertake a Pre-sessional English course to further improve your English prior to the start of your degree course, you must sit the test at an approved SELT provider. This is because you will only be able to apply for a Tier 4 student visa to undertake a Pre-sessional English course if you hold a SELT from a UKVI approved test centre. Find out more information about it.

Brunel also offers our own BrunELT English Test and accepts a range of other language courses. We also have Pre-sessional English language courses for students who do not meet these requirements, or who wish to improve their English. Find out more information about English course and test options.