It is interesting that while Freud is rapidly disappearing in medical /
psychiatric thinking, he continues to be worshipped by so many in the
humanities and social studies.
His concept of "The Unconscious" was, in the first instance, an effort
to explain memory, grounded in the assumption that memories were
"stored" in the brain, and then retrieved as one retrieves a card from
an index file. The qustion, then, is where are those memories when we
are not actively retrieving them? Answer: In the Unconscious.
But the brain is not a computer, memories are not "stored," and there is
no need to posit any such mystical entity as "The Unconscious" to
explain memory. Memories are being continually recreated in the brain
(which is one of the reason so many of our most vivid memories are
memories of things that never happened).You can find a good introduction
to this in _The Invention of Memory_ by Israel Rosenfield.
Sebastiano Timpanaro did a fine job of demolishing the mythology of the
freudian slip in a book of that title, _The Freudian Slip_.
Some 20th century writers _did_ make direct use of Freud, and it is
useful to know Freud to understand those writers just as it is useful to
know something about astrology to understand writers who believed in
that. But Freud is about as far from human reality as astrology is. He
can only get in the way of understanding earlier writers -- even those
writers who were, in fact, his predecessors and developed similar ideas
on their own. Another useful perspective on Freud is to be found in
Thomas Laqueur, _Making Sex: Body and Gender from the Greeks to Freud_.
No one before Freud had ever dreamt of such an oddity as the vaginal
orgasm: he invented it out of whole cloth, as he did so many of his