Psychoanalytic Criticism

Task: You will write a paper of interpretive literary criticism on the short story “The B.A.R. Man” by Richard Yates.

Essays of literary criticism should aim to enrich the reading of others by identifying and explaining aspects of the reading that you find significant. This does not necessarily mean you will reduce the story to a simple meaning or message. Instead, you will show how the story creates meaning through its crafting of character, setting, plot, point of view, language, and style.

This essay of literary criticism also requires that you make use of the Tyson chapter on psychoanalytic theory, and this will help you decide which significant aspects of the story to focus on. You need to show how one (or more) psychoanalytic concepts work in the story: repression, the return of the repressed, projection, denial, the libido, oedipal complexes, envy, selective memory, primary and secondary revision, etc.

Sources: Essays that do not directly quote and make specific reference to both the selected story and the Tyson text, using correct MLA citations, will not be considered passing.

Please make use of the sample student essays and checklists for writing about literature that I post as PDFs on the course webpage. These can help guide you through the writing process.
You may make use of scholarly sources such as books or journal articles to provide information about the story’s context: World War II, McCarthyism, etc. The sources must be cited – whether quoted or paraphrased – in the text of your essay and in your works cited list. Non-scholarly sources such as Wikipedia or independent web pages should not be used. Critical sources such as Cliffs Notes, literary criticism texts, or online essays should not be used either. Do your own original analysis. I am grading primarily on your writing skills, not the depth of your analysis, so there is no need to use ideas from professional critics.

Format: Essays for this course must use MLA style formatting and citations. Failure to use MLA or excessive errors can result in a failing grade. The MLA style guide, any good English manual (like the Diana Hacker series), or the OWL at Purdue website ( can give you help on using this style correctly.

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