Psychoanalytic Literary Criticism: Using Holland’s DEFT Model as a Reader Response Tool in the Language Classroom

  • Lubie Grujicic-Alatriste City University of New York


Language students tend to struggle with literature because they find psychological and socio-cultural implications embedded in literary texts difficult to understand and discuss (Kramsch, 1996). This paper suggests that psychoanalytic literary criticism may offer a reading framework that could mitigate the struggle and allow for a deeper level of personal and social exploration of literary works. The DEFT model (Defense, Expectations, Fantasy and Transformation), as one type of reader-response approach to reading that draws on the psychoanalytic framework, might make the reading of literature easier because of its potential to offer to students strategies for finding a point of entry into the text. According to DEFT, the inability to find a point of entry into a new reading may be one of the reasons for finding a literary piece difficult, for ‘disliking’ or outright rejecting it. This qualitative study shows how the DEFT approach, originally created for native speakers but thus far little researched in relationship to non-native speakers, can be used to facilitate the reading of literary works in a language course. 


Carter, R. & Burton, D. (1982). Literary text and language study. London, UK: Edward Arnold.

Carter, R. & Long, M. (1991). Teaching literature. Harlow, UK: Longman.

Chopin, K. “The Story of an Hour”.

Collie, J. & Slater, S. (2002). Literature in the language classroom. Cambridge: UK: CUP.

Dias, P. (1995). Reading and responding to poetry: Patterns in the process. Portsmouth, NH: Boyton/Cook.

Ellis, R. (1985). Understanding second language acquisition. Oxford, UK: OUP.

Grabe, W. (2004). Research on teaching reading. Annual Review of Applied Linguistics, 24, 44-69.

Hill, J. (1986). Using literature in language teaching. London, UK: Macmillan.

Holland, N. N. (1968). The dynamics of literary response. New York: OUP.

Holland, N. N. (1975). 5 readers reading. New Haven: Yale University Press.

Holland, N. N. (1980). Unity. Identity. Text. Self. In J. Tompkins (Ed.), Reader-response criticism (pp. 118-134). Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP.

Holland, N. N. (1985). Reading readers reading. In C. R. Cooper (Ed.), Researching response to literature and the teaching of literature: Points of departure (pp. 3-12).
Norwood, NJ: Ablex Publishing Corporation.

Holland, N. N. (1986). Re-covering 'The Purloined Letter': Reading as a personal transaction. In R. C. Davis (Ed.), Contemporary literary criticism (pp. 363-376). NY: Longman.

Holland, N. N. (1990). Holland’s guide to psychoanalytic psychology and literature-and-psychology. New York, NY:OUP.

Holland, N. N. (1993). A portrait as rebellion. In R.B. Kreshner (Ed.), A portrait of an artist as a young man: Case studies in literary criticism (pp. 279-294). New York, NY: Bedford Books.

Kramsch, C. (1996). Literary texts in the classroom: A discourse. In L. A. Jacobus (Ed.), Teaching literature (pp. 121-136). Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Lazar, G. (2000). Literature and language teaching. Cambridge, UK: CUP.

Meisel, P. (1981). Freud: A collection of critical essays. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Oates, J. C. (1986). “Happy.” In Raven’s wing. New York, NY: E. P. Dutton.

Povey, J. F. (1967). Literature in TESOL programs: The Language and the culture. TESOL Quarterly, 1(2), 40-46.

Redmann, J. (2005). An interactive reading journal for all levels of foreign language curricula. Foreign Language Annals, 38(4), 484-493.

Rosenblatt, L. (1968). Literature as exploration. New York, NY: Noble.

Sadoski, M., et al. (1988). Imagination in story response: Relationships between imagery, affect, and structural importance. Reading Research Quarterly, 23(3), 320-336.

Spack, R. (1985). Literature, reading, writing and ESL: Bridging the gaps. TESOL Quarterly, 19(4), 703-725.

Topping, D.M. (1968). Linguistics or literature: An approach to language. TESOL Quarterly, 2(2), 95-100.

Vinz, R. (1999). “Horrorscapes”. In Forming adolescent identity and desire. Manuscript.

Widdowson, H.G. (1983). Talking shop: On literature and ELT. English Language Teaching Journal, 37(1), 30-35.

Wright, E. (1984). Psychoanalytic criticism: Theory and practice. New York, NY: Methuen.
How to Cite
Grujicic-Alatriste, L. (2013). Psychoanalytic Literary Criticism: Using Holland’s DEFT Model as a Reader Response Tool in the Language Classroom. Language and Psychoanalysis, 2(1), 20-49.
Original Articles