Self Against Others
: A Psychoanalytical Reading of Harold Pinter's Work

  • Alex Fox

    Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


    This thesis critically examines some of the plays of the playwright, screenwriter and poet, Harold Pinter, in order to argue, first of all, that he was a writer of psychological realism, and that his oeuvre can, in the main, be defined as a body of psycho-political works. My essential contention is that Pinter’s defining interest in power relations, coupled with his dedication to exploring how psychological ‘realities’ shape these said relations, implies that he is a playwright, who generally wrote psycho-political works.

    In the main body of the thesis, I then offer eight close readings of Pinter’s plays, which are essentially informed, in their respective ways, by theories drawn from the post-Freudian school of thought, most notably Winnicottian object-relations theory (indeed, the common feature of these otherwise disparate theories are that they all explore how the self is constituted and/or influenced by its relationship with the other). Whilst there were a number of themes that could have been selected, my decision to focus on the themes of authoritarianism, territoriality and of patriarchy was not arbitrary. Apart from an appeal to quantitative considerations (i.e., that these themes recur again and again at different stages of Pinter’s career), my main reason for including them is that they are defining features of power relationships in general. For example, if one construes power as ‘power-over’ others, then a psycho-political exploration of power necessitates that the malignant form of authority (i.e., authoritarianism) be examined; likewise, if sexual politics involves, as Pinter, for one, contends, power reified as the possession of a particular sex (i.e., patriarchy), then again this suggests that this theme is of central importance in the psycho-political taxonomy of power.

    The final part of the thesis explains how the three central themes can be considered to be inter-related in general and in Pinter’s work in particular. Furthermore, the thesis conclusion also provides several possible criticisms of Pinter’s psycho-political approach to power (e.g., a social materialist position contends that ‘psychologising’ power relations obscures the central importance of how distal powers construct oppressive political relationships).

    Date of Award2015
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorAndrew Roberts (Supervisor)


    • Pinter
    • Psychoanalysis

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