Freud’s Couch, Scott’s Buttocks, Brontë’s Grave
|Publication Date: November 15, 2011 ||$22.50 • £14.50 |
|International publication date: December 5, 2011 ||978-0-226-47049-8 (cloth) |
E. B. White once wrote to his publisher, “My feeling about the world of books is fairly simple: I will engage to write a book but I will not engage to promote one—no matter who the author is. I know that the reading public has an unhealthy curiosity about authors-in-the-flesh, and I think that nothing really sensible ever comes of it.”
These days, however, it seems no author can escape the demands of readers who want more than what’s between the covers—they’re expected to blog, tweet, sign, shake hands, and more. But, White’s Bartleby act aside, that’s always been the case, as Simon Goldhill shows us in Freud’s Couch, Scott’s Buttocks, Brontë’s Grave, a quirky, winsome travel book that takes on the long history of literary pilgrimage, asking serious (yet frequently funny) questions about why we’re so obsessed with the lives of our literary heroes.
Traveling as much as possible by methods available to Victorians, the unchallenged champions of literary pilgrimage, Goldhill visits Wordsworth’s cottage in the Lake District, the Brontë parsonage, Shakespeare’s birthplace, and Freud’s office in Hampstead. At each, he tries to discern what our forebears were hoping to find at these sites (to say nothing of his fellow contemporary pilgrims, wielding their cell phone cameras and guidebooks). If creativity is personal, ineffable, then what do we hope to discover in these dressed-up, carefully preserved rooms? Traces of the Brontës’ passions? Wordsworth’s inspiration? Freud’s subconscious? What are we looking for when we go beyond the page and peer into the lives of our favorite writers?
Firmly in a long tradition of reflective, wry English travel writing that includes such figures as Evelyn Waugh and Paul Theroux, Freud’s Couch, Scott’s Buttocks, Brontë’s Grave will delight, provoke, and amuse lovers of literature.
Simon Goldhill is professor of Greek literature and culture and fellow and director of studies in classics at King's College, Cambridge, as well as director of the Cambridge Victorian studies group. He is the author of many books, including Love, Sex, and Tragedy: How the Ancient World Shapes Our Lives.